Shakespeare Festival St. Louis will mark its 15th anniversary next summer with the story of the original power couple, “Antony and Cleopatra.”
“We wanted a big show for the anniversary season, and this one fits the bill,” said Bruce Longworth, the festival’s interim artistic director. Rick Dildine, who became the festival’s artistic and executive director in 2009, has left for a new position, executive director and president of Shakespeare & Co. in Lenox, Mass.
“Antony and Cleopatra” will run May 22-June 14 in Forest Park’s Shakespeare Glen.
“Antony and Cleopatra” focuses on the empire-rocking love affair between the queen of Egypt and Rome’s top general. They “were titans in their time,” Longworth said, noting that in its way their tragedy echoes the first of the free outdoor shows that the festival staged, “Romeo and Juliet.”
Mike Donahue, who grew up in St. Louis, will come home to direct the production. A graduate of John Burroughs High School and Harvard who holds an MFA from the Yale School of Drama, Donahue is based in New York and has worked in classics, new plays, musical theater and opera. He is the recipient of a number of awards, including Harvard’s Louis Sudler Prize for Artistic Excellence.
“Returning to St. Louis to take this on is really an honor,” he said.
All the members of the creative team are St. Louis artists who have worked on previous festival productions, including last season’s repertory performances of “Henry IV” and “Henry V.” They are Dorothy Marshall Englis (costumes), Scott C. Neale (set), John Wylie (lighting), Rusty Wandall (sound), Paul Dennhardt (fight choreography) and Suzanne Mills (voice and text).
Some of the 40,000 people who saw the Henrys may have thought the double bill pointed a new direction for the festival, but “it was not intended to be the new normal,” explained Longworth, who directed “Henry V.” Tim Ocel directed “Henry IV.” “It was simply a project that appealed to us and that we were able to mount. And we are very happy with the results.”
Auditions for actors will be held in St. Louis in December and in New York in January.