David Ivers as Richard II
David Ivers, Co-Artistic Director at the Festival, is playing the title role in Richard II for the Fall Season. He shared his thoughts about the role and the play.
Have you played this role before?
No. It’s my favorite Shakespeare play in the canon. I’ve always wanted to play it. There’s something that strikes a chord in me about someone who is thrust into a position because of divine right and recognizes that he doesn’t necessarily have all the faculties to do the job. That speaks to me. It’s an interesting journey - you start to see a greater kind of leader when things are stripped away from him. The more that gets stripped away, the more eloquent, the more vision oriented he becomes.
It is such an interesting dissection of leadership. I just think he’s wildly misunderstood in that - people sometimes think he can be petulant and that he has a side of him that is impetuous and makes bad decisions and all those things are true. But what else is true - how can you blame him? He was 10 years old when the throne was given to him. Advisors made decisions for him his entire life up to adulthood and finally he’s cut loose “ok you make decisions now”. There’s no training in that. He makes some horrible mistakes. He’s a politician and has to cover his tracks a bit.
But I love this notion that underneath it all, he’s remarkably human and remarkably tragic. He’s not a fighting king. He’s political, he’s intellectual, an intensely human king to me. I often say it’s the only king of Shakespeare that David could play because I’m not a Henry V kind of guy. I’m pretty excited.
Why was this play important in Elizabeth’s time?
The thing that’s so important about it for English history is that it’s the fervent, indelible reminder that there is one way you become king and it’s through divine right. Richard recognizes that what’s about to happen with Bolingbrook is the disintegration of divine right. There’s so much irony when he says “here cousin, seize the crown...” - because that’s what you have to do - you have to seize and completely disrupt, remove divine right from our understanding of the world. He doesn’t have to give up the crown. One could say he’s forced, pushed into it, whatever...he could stand his ground. And that’s part of the tragedy...he gives up the crown and then is murdered. He gives this incredible speech about the way the world is ordered and then he’s killed.
I love the political part and I love that it’s a human struggle.
Are you looking forward to working with director, Henry Woronicz?
I’ve known Henry since I was 19 years old. I’ve never worked with him. I’m really excited to work with him. I’m all the things I should be - nervous, anticipatory...really excited.
Why isn’t it produced more often?
Because it’s hard. The narrative and the action is political and based on behavior. There’s not a ton of comedy, there aren’t any sword fights, there’s no active conquering that reveals a hero. It’s the path to the characters who become heroic and non-heroic. There’s so much about it that’s sad and yet there is some heroism. Bolingbrook stands as a man that will give birth to one of the great leaders - restores England’s place. You can’t have that story without having the beginning of it.
Richard II opens on September 21 and plays through October 19. You can purchase tickets online at www.bard.org or by calling 800-PLAYTIX. You can learn more about the play at http://www.bard.org/plays/richardII2013.html.