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November 1, 2013
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine

SRU students contemporize Shakespeare's 'Richard III'

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Shakespeare's "Richard III" may be more than 500 years old, but Slippery Rock University's Nov. 15-21 adaption provides a modern twist at a time when the historical monarch continues to make news.

"Richard III," directed by David Skeele, SRU professor of theatre, provides a 90-minute adaptation that accelerates through a montage of murder and materialism. The play opens Nov. 15 and will be presented seven additional times in SRU's University Union.

Skeele's version critiques the American obsession with beauty and the power associated with status. Characters appear in ostentatious costumes symbolizing the cult of celebrity and what Skeele calls the "aristocracy of physical attractiveness."

The modern twist includes a historical interpretation of Richard III and his times. SRU art, music, dance and history majors are collaborating with theatre majors to provide a historical sketch of the monarch through display, music, video and dance.

"We're not just presenting a Richard III production. We're presenting a Richard III theme park," Skeele said.

The character of Richard III appears as a hunchback with withered face, symbolizing the polar opposite of the cultural ideal of beauty. In contrast, student actors will wear high-fashion costumes such as those that appear in magazines, with men donning visible makeup, swept back hair and artful facial hair, Skeele said.

"In this technologically driven adaptation, the departments of theatre, history, art and music unite to explore society's infatuation with appearance and status through an outcast whose physical appearance has made him equally twisted inside," Skeele said. "Deceit, betrayal and murder advance Richard toward his goal. Nothing but death can stop him."

The real-life "Richard III" (1452-1485) was king of England from 1483 until his death and is regarded by some as England's meanest ruler. In 2012, scientists announced they had unearthed a skeleton they postulated was the monarch's bones, leading to worldwide media coverage. Debate continues as to the identity of the human remains.

"The possible discovery of the bones gives the story modern intrigue," Skeele said.

History students' display will reference the bones.

"Richard III" depicts the Machiavellian rise to power and subsequent short reign of Richard III. Richard's elder brother Edward is king but Richard, power hungry and bitter about his deformity, aspires to the throne and decides to kill anyone in his path.

Those who attend SRU's production will experience live music in the lobby, video animation created by art students and an exhibit set up by history majors. Skeele said the set is post-modern with lots of asymmetrical cubes.

The cast includes:

• Malic Williams, a theatre major from Aliquippa, as Richard of Gloucester;

• Sarah Tapparo, a Spanish major from Beaver, as Queen Elizabeth;

• Ethan Rochow a senior theatre major from West Middlesex, as Buckingham;

• Cindy Brennan, a dance major from Duncansville as Lady Anne;

• Carina Iannarelli, a communication major from Bridgeville, as Queen Margaret;

• Joe Karl, theatre major from Moon Township, as Richmond;

• Karter Schachner, a music major from Pittsburgh, as Lord Hastings;

• Anthony Plumberg, a theater- major from Denver, Pa., Becca McGann, a theatre major from Berwick, as Duchess of York;

• Jack Libengood, a theatre major from Apollo, as King Edward IV;

• Randy Kerr, a theatre major from Carlisle, as Catesby;

• Kaitlin Cliber, a an art education major from Plum, as Tyrell/Nurse;

• Daniel Strait, a music major from Huntingdon, as Ratcliffe/murderer #2;

• Julian Schooley, a philosophy major from Pittsburgh, as Rivers;

• Casey Reiland a safety management major from Harrisville, as Brakenbury;

• Mike Cannistraci; a history major from Ellwood City, as archbishop;

• Cole Vecchio, a theatre major from Bradford, as Lord Stanley;

• Sara Davis, a theatre major from Pittsburgh, as Murder #1;

• Dominic Skeele, an eighth grade student at Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School as Young Prince Edward; and

• Madison Morrice, an eighth-grade student at Slippery Rock Middle School as young Prince of York.

Gordon Phetteplace, SRU associate professor of theatre and department chair, is the production's scenic designer; Rebecca Morrice, associate professor of theatre, is the costume designer and Michael Boone is the technical director and lighting designer.

Opening night is 7:30 p.m., Nov. 15. There are no Saturday performances. Other performances are at 2 and 7:30 p.m., Nov. 17, and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 18-21.

Tickets are $7 for students and $12, general admission. Tickets can be purchased in advance at the Smith Student Center Information Desk, or at the door.

For more information, call 724.738.2645.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.