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Friday, January 27, 2023

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Houston Shakespeare Festival celebrates 41 years


Patrons visited Miller Outdoor Theater Friday for the first night of the annual Houston Shakespeare Festival, running through Aug. 9.

Back for its 41st anniversary, the nine-day celebration was kicked off with a performance of “Macbeth.” Fans flocked to the hill overseeing the theater, laying out their blankets, propping up their lawn chairs and enjoying their favorite concessions as they got cozy with some Shakespearean tragedy.

“I was told that only eight or nine people would show up,” said Jack Young, artistic director of the festival, as he looked at the huge turnout.

But the celebration was welcomed back in an extra special way this year. In honor of the citywide tradition that has had theatergoers lining up since its inception in 1975, Mayor Annise Parker declared July 31 as Houston Shakespeare Day.

Robert Price, a playwriting major who graduated this past spring, was one of the many alumni in attendance. He commended Young’s adaptation for its aesthetic simplicity while still embracing the play’s complex, macabre nature.

“The set is bare of extravagance but creates a dynamic physical space for the action to unfold,” Price said.

Onlookers roared with laughter as Porter, portrayed by Greg Cote, compared himself to the gatekeeper of hell when he hears someone knocking on the door offstage.

Spectators shrieked as Lady Macbeth, played by Tracie Thomason, tried to clean the “damned spot” from her dress after helping her murderous husband claim the throne of Scotland.

“Tracie Thomason’s Lady Macbeth is calculated and precise, scoring a symphony of tempos and pitches to feast upon,” Price said. “Adam Noble’s (portrayal of) Macbeth tears forward like a runaway train, an urgency that sweeps us up in a labored breath.”

Attendees can expect more over the course of the coming week from UH theater students who are a part of the HSF conservatory. With alternating performances of “Macbeth” and “The Merchant of Venice,” there will be plenty of opportunities to see actors hit the stage.

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