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March 23, 2009

RSU Theatre to Recast ‘Richard III' as Ruthless Female Banker

King Richard III will be recast as Rachel – a ruthless banker seeking to gain control of the nation's largest financial institutions in a present-day America stymied by economic turmoil – in "R3," an adaptation of William Shakespeare's "Richard III" in April at Rogers State University.

The adaptation, developed by Dr. Gregory J. Thompson, RSU English and humanities professor, will be presented by RSU Theatre on April 16, 17, 18, 23, 24 and 25 in the historic Will Rogers Auditorium on the RSU campus in Claremore. All shows will begin at 7:07 p.m.

"R3" begins in 2009 in America's southeastern financial capital, Charlotte, N.C., according to Thompson. Two ruthless families battle for control of the nation's largest financial institutions, Lancaster Bank and the York Financial Group.

Through conniving and killing, the York family takes control, but one family member, Rachel, is not satisfied. Her quest to be the head of the financial empire will require plots to "remove" all of those who stand in her way. As an additional measure of shoring up her claim, she'll marry the spouses of those she leaves widowed. By the end of the play, Rachel and her minions have left several bodies in their wake.

Shakespeare's "The Tragedy of King Richard III" was written and first produced in the early 1590s. The play centers on the historic King Richard III and his quest for the throne. It is part of Shakespeare's series of eight history plays that present his version of England's nearly century-long Wars of the Roses (1399-1487).

In Shakespeare's eye, Richard was a deformed, disabled and decadent power-hungry monster, Thompson says. "The character is a remnant of the medieval theatre character-type Vice and the embodiment of Machiavelli's ‘Prince'," Thompson said. "It's clear that Shakespeare intended Richard to be seen as a force of evil preying on a country torn apart by civil war. One of the greatest tools that Shakespeare's Richard had at his disposal was the gullibility and passivity of those around him. Largely through his use of language in the play, Richard is able to force outcomes and alliances that would not have come to pass in the course of a more rational and critically thinking society."

In addition to taking the play out of its historical context, RSU Theatre also will take it out of the realm of political power and place it in the realm of economic power, Thompson said. "In our play we see the inner workings of powerful families controlling the financial health of a nation," he said.

Rachel will be portrayed by Katie Hendrickson of Claremore. Hendrickson has been working on the part since March 2008. "Katie is doing a great job with all of the multiple layers of the character," Thompson said. "I'm very pleased at the leadership role she has taken among the other cast members. She's raising everyone's game, including mine.

"When the audience comes to the play, I think they'll be enthralled with the character of Rachel and will thoroughly enjoy being brought along with her conniving and sensuous ways," he said. "Rachel is deceitful, disturbing and delicious!"

A preview performance of the production will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday, April 15, in the Will Rogers Auditorium.

A discussion session with the cast and production team will be held immediately following the performance on Friday, April 17. The public is invited to participate in the discussion.

The cast also will commemorate Shakespeare's birthday at 6:15 on Thursday, April 23, in the auditorium. The celebration will include a pre-show discussion with the director and design team, and free birthday cake for the Bard, Thompson said.

Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for senior citizens. The play is free for faculty, staff, and students with ID regardless of school affiliation. This production contains adult themes and is not appropriate for children under 15.

For more information, call Thompson (918) 343-7659 or David Blakely at (918) 343-7521.