Tony, Emmy and Grammy winner André De Shields will star in one of the greatest plays ever written when the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival presents “King Lear” this summer in Forest Park.
The theater company will return to live outdoor performance with the production, which will run June 2-27 to limited-capacity crowds. With an official opening June 4, “King Lear” will be directed by Carl Cofield, associate artistic director of the Classical Theatre of Harlem.
De Shields won the 2019 Tony Award for best performance by an actor in a featured role for the musical “Hadestown.” In a long and distinguished career, he has also appeared in musicals including “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “The Full Monty” and “The Wiz” (as the title character).
In a statement, Shakespeare Festival producing artistic director Tom Ridgely said that De Shields is “a national treasure and one of the most extraordinary theatrical artists alive. And Lear is the Everest of Shakespeare’s tragic roles. To see it played by an actor of his caliber … after the year we’ve all been through, will be the thrill of a lifetime.”
De Shields received a Grammy Award for his work on the “Hadestown” cast recording, which won for best musical theater album. His Emmy win was for his performance in the 1982 NBC broadcast of “Ain’t Misbehavin’.”
Considered one of Shakespeare’s greatest works, “King Lear” is the tale of an aging king who decides to divide his kingdom among daughters Cordelia, Goneril and Regan, with disastrous results. The cast will include Nicole King as Cordelia, Rayme Cornell as Goneril and Jacqueline Thompson as Regan, along with Brian Anthony Williams as Gloucester, Allen Gilmore as the Fool and J. Samuel Davis as Kent.
The pandemic in 2020 forced St. Louis Shakespeare Festival to postpone its 20th anniversary Forest Park show, “Much Ado About Nothing,” until 2022. In its place was “A Late Summer Night’s Stroll,” a socially distant walking experience with music, dance and visual art.
Additional outdoor performances in the 21st Shakespeare Festival season will include a touring production of “Othello” (Aug. 3-29) to be presented in 24 public parks across the bistate metropolitan area, and “Shakespeare in the Streets: The Ville” (Sept. 9-11), an adaptation of “Hamlet” in partnership with the historic African American neighborhood in north St. Louis.
The festival has also announced its second Confluence New Play Festival and is accepting applications for a six-month fellowship in directing. More information about the organization is available at stlshakes.org.