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St. Louis Shakespeare will produce 'Merry Wives'

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 16, 2008 - Falstaff will be on tap in the spring of 2009 in Forest Park.

Not the historic St. Louis brew, but the Shakespeare's humorous Sir John Falstaff the main character in Shakespeare's rollicking comedy "The Merry Wives of Windsor."

Sunday night was the final night of "Richard III" at the Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis' eighth season. As the audience lolled on blankets and quilts, and in comfortable folding chairs in the natural amphitheatre just east of the St. Louis Art Museum, artistic director Dawn McAndrews took center stage to thank the supporters of the free festival.

Then, she announced that "Merry Wives" would be next year's selection for a three-week run.

"You're the very first to know," she told the audience as they applauded her news.

The play is about Falstaff who first appears in Shakespeare's "Henry IV" as the heir's pal and who ultimately is rejected as best companion. Most historians believe the long-held story that Queen Elizabeth I challenged the bard to write another play about Falstaff but that he have the jolly soldier be in love. The result is one of Shakespeare's most delightful comedies and his only play that focuses on middle-class life.

The free festival's season, plagued by threatening weather many nights since its opening May 21, closed on perfect St. Louis summer night, with a cool breeze wafting and dry grass underfoot. Many in the audience were multi-generation family groups who celebrated Father's Day with their dads and granddads with picnics and great theater.

Laura De Voto literally took her dad, Bob, to the play. On her second outing behind the wheel since getting her driving permit, the St. Elizabeth junior successfully drove him to Forest Park.

At the end of the play, the audience rose to their feet give Andrew Borba their thanks for his tour de force in the title role as the evil Richard III. Now there's a villain that makes every father look great in comparison.

Patricia Rice, a free-lance writer, has written on the St. Louis arts scene for years.

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