Shakespeare Festival St. Louis returns to Forest Park with the rarely performed “Antony and Cleopatra. Members of the company joined “Cityscape” guest host Don Marsh to discuss the production.
“Antony and Cleopatra” chronicles the love life of Mark Antony, one of three rulers of the Roman Empire, and Cleopatra, the Queen of Egypt, following the assassination of Julius Caesar.
Shirine Babb, an actor who plays the role of Cleopatra, said that in order to prepare for the role, she watched documentaries and read books about Cleopatra.
“I played [Cleopatra] ten years ago, and at that time I didn’t have the life experience that I think I have now, to bring the truth and the honesty that I hope to bring [to the character],” Babb explained. “It is complicated to think as fast as she does and also to be as truthful and as honest in every switch that happens with her as I go through this journey of who she is.”
“I think if I can bring the human side of who she is and make that as real as possible, everything else will fall into place,” Babb added.
To make that happen, Mike Donahue, director of "Antony and Cleopatra", said that all characters work to make sure they are interacting with each other well enough to make the play realistic.
“We’re doing our own version of the uncut play that Shakespeare did and we all as a company have to be on the same page about what story we’re telling, who the characters are and what the events are moment by moment,” Donahue said.
Rick Dildine, artistic and executive director of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, said that one of the challenges of recreating Shakespeare’s performances is creating them in a way that people will understand.
“I think there is a fear that exists [that] people would instantly say they aren’t going to understand that,” he said. “But what we have is an incredibly accessible event every single year.”
Since the start of the Shakespeare Festival in 2001, 640,000 people have convened at Forest Park to watch the event. During its off-season, the organization provides arts programs and literature on Shakespeare to over 100 different schools.
“At our core, we believe that art is a powerful tool to social change,” Dildine said. “And that is why we’re doing this.”
Shakespeare Festival St. Louis Presents "Antony and Cleopatra"
- When: May 22 - June 14 8 p.m. nightly, except Tuesdays; Green Show at 6:30 p.m.
- Where: Shakespeare Glen in Forest Park (north side of Fine Arts Drive, east of the Art Museum)
- More information