On December 30th, several members of Ekphrasis gathered to read Shakespeare’s Richard II out loud together. This dramatic event came about because Nadine Kulberg participated in a theatre workshop in NYC all summer, during which she learned one of Richard’s speeches — and then proceed to MEMORIZE the entire role of Richard II. The Ekphrasians came together to read the play under Nadine’s direction, while she recited her part from memory. Casting was as follows:
Richard II — Nadine Kulberg
Bolingbroke/Henry IV — Jim Femister
Mowbray — Eve Kulberg
John of Gaunt — Carl Hoffmeyer
Northumberland — Andrew MacDonald
Duchess of Gloucester — Marian Barshinger
Queen — Marian Barshinger
Percy — Jeff Harvey
Green — Betsy Gahman
Abbot — Amanda Langan
York — Andrew MacDonald
Willoughby — Robbie Gerdes
Exton — Matthew Diem
Ross — Elaine Stone
[let me know if I’ve left anyone out or mixed anyone up, please].
Here are some reflections from the participants (sometimes slightly edited).
Jim: “I had never before participated in a performance where the entire cast was also the audience. Nadine practically had me weeping in the fourth act with her cathartic portrayal of the deposed Richard’s mental anguish. It was a privilege to be part of the whole experience.”
Amanda: “It was excellent, and knowing I was a part of it in a small way was the best. Everyone took their part seriously; however, the element of fun was not forgotten.”
Sharon: “The reading was great. It was a bit boring at times for those of us who didn’t have much involvement in the script, but all in all it was a really positive experience. I enjoyed watching Nadine perform, and especially appreciated all her memorization and her ability to seem perfectly at ease on stage.”
Betsy: “The reading of Richard II was a great experience both as an actor and an English student. The atmosphere was serious but low pressure; some people created their own blocking, while others remained seated. It was great fun to have the freedom to explore different aspects of Shakespeare and even more fun to do it with such a diverse group of people.”
Marian: “For the dramatic reading of Richard II, I got to read for the Queen, the Duchess of Gloucester, and Salisbury. All three parts were very enjoyable to read, but I enjoyed the Queen best. The scene between her and Richard was beautifully tragic, and it was loads of fun to play across from Nadine. I followed along with the script most of the night, and was very impressed by Nadine’s memorization. Very rarely did she mix up any lines. Her performance was committed and stirring to watch. I was grateful to be a part of the experience. I love cold reads, as you can just pick a characterization without letting your head get in the way and run with it. Let’s do another!”
Elaine: “I am familiar with Shakespeare, yet I do not consider myself anywhere near a literary scholar, yet I decided to embark on the journey of attending a Richard II reading. I soon realized I was inducted to be a participant. I settled in, listening and trying to make some sense of what was going on as I had arrived late. I found myself intrigued as the play unfolded and the drama drew me in. I felt amazingly comfortable during the cold reading of my character, and before I knew it, the drama had ended, yet the fire inside me was still smoldering! The excellent acting of the prepared participants had drawn me in to the story of Richard II.
Jeff: “I was quite impressed by Nadine’s royally brilliant performance as Richard himself. Not only her skill at memorizing the lines (which I heard her say she did ‘just for fun’), but also the control she took over the characterization, bringing out the more feminine aspects of the character, while still able to play it convincingly masculine when the need arose.”
Carl: “First, thank you to all of the wonderful people whom I met and worked with on this reading of Richard II. I have been on-the-boards, first as a child playing Jesus at age six, and more recently in Greek tragedy and Victorian comedy.
Nadine’s lightning presence as the title character was a a most arresting display of serious, dramatic dedication.
Her effort to commit her performance to memory was an inspiration to all of us who followed faithfully behind.
In a word: WOW!!
For those of us who have memorized our short parts in various plays, her hard work was a tour-de-force to compel our own efforts. And those efforts were substantial – our ensemble participation was the glue that bound together a wonderful evening of enlightenment and fellowship for us all.
Thank you for letting me participate with you. I hope that we shall get to do this again.”
So somebody memorize another complete Shakespeare role, and we’ll do it again!