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Charles Newell Returns to the Guthrie for the History Plays

Two people grab at a crown.
Photo of William Sturdivant and Tyler Michaels King by Dan Norman.

On Saturday, April 13, Marilyn F. Vitale Artistic Director Charles Newell found himself with royalty: Richard II, Henry IV, and Henry V. 

Video courtesy of the Guthrie Theater; watch to the end for a surprise!

From March 23 to May 25, the acclaimed Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota is staging the History Plays – Shakespeare’s Richard II, Henry IV, and Henry V – directed by Guthrie Artistic Director Joseph Haj. While these three works are most commonly staged individually, when viewed together, they create a marathon theatre experience; an epic, sprawling tale of ambition, deceit, familial conflict, and bloodshed that often lasts twelve hours or more. Staging – and sitting through – all three productions consecutively is incredibly ambitious, also making it incredibly rare. So rare, in fact, that Haj refers to this as “a once-in-a-generation endeavor.”

Haj is right; the last time these three plays were performed in rotating repertory at the Guthrie was over thirty years ago. Enter Charlie Newell. The Guthrie previously staged the History Plays in 1990, with Charlie and the late Artistic Director of the Guthrie, Garland Wright, co-directing. As in this Shakespearean family epic, history has a funny way of repeating itself: Haj was an actor in the original production co-directed by Wright and Newell, now Haj is directing. Therefore, it was only fitting that Charlie witnessed this most recent iteration last month. 

A group of people standing in a line and smiling.
Photo of Oskar Eustis, Joe Haj, Laura Penn, Charles Newell, and Evan Yionoulis courtesy of the Guthrie Theater.

“I am overjoyed to be back at the Guthrie for the History Plays,” shared Charlie. “It is remarkable that I worked on this project over thirty years ago, and seeing it again as an audience member is equally remarkable. Experiencing these three productions in conversation is a rich theatrical experience unlike any other; you see patterns and themes emerge, you experience nuanced character arcs, and the relevance of these plays shines through. It is undeniable. I am honored to have played a role in the history of the History Plays.”

Charlie was in good company during his recent visit, joined by his wife, actress Kate Collins (Oedipus Rex), Oskar Eustis (Artistic Director of the Public Theater in New York), Laura Penn (Executive Director of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society), and Evan Yionoulis (Dean and Director of Juilliard’s Drama Division). 

We offer our heartfelt congratulations to our friends at the Guthrie for executing such a tremendous feat; surely, a theatrical experience fit for royalty.

Learn more about the Guthrie’s History Plays here

Posted on May 13, 2024 in Theatre News

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