Houston Shakespeare Fest Brings Bard's Works to Bayou City

'Antony and Cleopatra,' 'As You Like It' Performed Aug. 2 - 11 at Miller Outdoor Theatre

The Bayou City loves the Bard. Each summer, thousands of Houstonians flock to Miller Outdoor Theatre to experience the Houston Shakespeare Festival. This year marks the 38th anniversary of the popular event, which delivers free performances featuring noted guest artists.

Produced by the University of Houston’s School of Theatre & Dance, HSF is presented annually at Miller Outdoor Theatre. The 2013 event will include “Anthony and Cleopatra” directed by guest artist Leah C. Gardiner and “As You Like It” directed by guest artist Marc Masterson. Visiting actors include Seth Gilliam, Chris Hutchison, Crystal Dickinson and Brandon Dirden.

This year’s event is dedicated to the memory of one of its founders, former UH School of Theatre & Dance director Sidney Berger. Berger passed away in February.

All performances begin at 8:30 p.m. at Miller Outdoor Theatre. Admission is free, but tickets are required for seats. For details on tickets or the box office, visit the Miller Outdoor Theatre’s website. Performance dates are as follows:

  • “Antony and Cleopatra” – Aug. 2, 4, 6, 8, 10
  • “As You Like It” – Aug. 3, 7, 9, 11

Gardiner is an in-demand director across the country. In 2011, she directed HSF’s “Othello, the Moor of Venice.” This year, she directed “Sucker Punch” at the Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C. Other credits include “Fences” at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, “Topdog/Underdog” at Philadelphia Players Company, “Earthquake Chica” at New York’s Summer Play Festival, “Bulrusher” at New York’s Urban Stages Theater and “Blue Door” at South Coast Repertory.

Masterson is the new artistic director of the Tony award-winning South Coast Repertory (SCR), one of America’s leading regional theatres located in Costa Mesa, Calif.  Masterson’s earliest theater experience included acting in a HSF production. Masterson served as artistic director of Actors Theatre of Louisville and the internationally acclaimed HUMANA FESTIVAL, where he produced more than 200 new plays. Masterson is an award-winning director who enjoys working on new plays as well as innovative productions of the classics.

Gilliam performs the roles of Antony in “Antony and Cleopatra” and Jaques in “As You Like It.” In 2011, he performed the title role in HSF’s “Othello, the Moor of Venice.” He has performed a range of stage and screen roles including recurring characters on HBO’s “The Wire” and “Oz.” Gilliam recently starred in an episode of Showtime’s “Homeland.” He has appeared on the silver screen in films such as 1996’s “Courage Under Fire,” 1997’s “Starship Troopers” and 2009’s “Did You Hear About the Morgans?” In 2013, he will be seen in the film “Police State.”

Hutchison stars as Enobarus in “Antony and Cleopatra” and Touchstone in “As You Like It”.” He is a member of the Alley Theatre’s acting company and has performed in productions of “A Behanding in Spokane,” “The Lieutenant of Inishmore,” “Death on the Nile,” “Subject to Fits,” “Proof” and “A Christmas Carol.” He has performed with the Alley for six years. He’s appeared on stages across the country with companies such as Pasadena Playhouse, Milwaukee Rep, Pittsburgh Public and Baltimore Center Stage. Hutchison has been on several television shows including “Kill the Poor,” “Ed,” “Chappelle’s Show,” “Guiding Light” and “All My Children.”

Dickinson plays Cleopatra in “Anthony and Cleopatra” and Celia in “As You Like It.” She has appeared as Melissa on the television series “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne” and earned a Theater World Award for Outstanding Broadway Debut for her portrayal of Francine/Lena in “Clybourne Park.” She appeared in “Enron” on Broadway. Her Off-Broadway appearances include “Born Bad,” “Sundown Names and Night Gone Things,” “Bottom of the World,” “Ruined” and “The First Breeze of Summer.” Dickinson has appeared with several regional companies including Contemporary American Theater Festival, Baltimore Center Stage, Shakespeare festivals in Georgia and Illinois and Theatre-in-the-Square in Georgia

Dirden will play Caesar in “Antony and Cleopatra” and Duke Frederick/Corin in “As You Like It.” He has starred in “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne” (as Marcus) and appeared on Showtime’s “The Big C.” Recently, he earned an Obie award for his performance as Boy Willie in “The Piano Lesson.” Another recent performance included “Detroit ’67,” a co-production between the Public Theater, Classical Theater of Harlem and the National Black Theatre. Broadway appearances include “Prelude to a Kiss” and “Enron.” Dirden has appeared in several off-Broadway productions including “Peter and the Star Catcher,” “Edgewise,” “Bottom of the World” and “The First Breeze of Summer.” Dirden is a mainstay on the regional circuit appearing in productions with Two River Theater Company in New Jersey, South Coast Repertory, Shakespeare festivals in Georgia and North Carolina and Theatre-in-the-Square.

Since 1975, the Houston Shakespeare Festival has attracted thousands of Houstonians to Miller Outdoor Theatre for free performances of the Bard's timeless classics. HSF productions have featured rising talents and esteemed stage veterans. Among the visiting artists who have participated in HSF was Oscar-nominated actor Dan O'Herlihy, who played the title role in the festival's production of "King Lear." Regional star Ken Ruta also contributed his talents to HSF, starring as Prospero in "The Tempest." In 2012, the festival showcased the stage talents of Mark Metcalf (“Animal House”) and UH alum Cindy Pickett (“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”

The UH School of Theatre and Dance produces pre-professional plays, dance concerts, studio productions, a new play festival and school shows through the Theatre for Young Audiences program. The school performs in the Wortham Theatre and the Quintero Theatre. The Houston Shakespeare Festival is a professional project of the school, which is produced each summer at Miller Outdoor Theatre. The UH School of Theatre & Dance offers bachelor’s and master's degrees in theater and teacher certifications in dance and theatre. Its graduate program consists of a master of arts in theatre and master of fine arts in theatre with specializations in acting, directing and design.  Alumni include actors Dennis Quad, Brett Cullen and Robert Wuhl. Faculty includes Tony Award-winning producer Stuart Ostrow and Tony-nominated designer Kevin Rigdon. Among the greats who have taught at the school in previous years are Lanford Wilson, Sir Peter Hall and Jose Quintero. In 2012, the school was named “Best College Theater” in the Houston Press Theater Awards. For details on UH's School of Theatre & Dance, visit www.theatredance.uh.edu.