In the Spotlight: Richard III
| 2:28PM.July 5th, 2012
APT chats with director Jim Devita and actor James Ridge about Richard III.
APT: Can you describe Richard III in a couple sentences?
Jim DeVita: That is probably one of the hardest questions we get. It’s a huge play, it’s complicated. The gist is, it’s about one man at the end of 30 years of civil war in England, and they’re just about on the verge of a lasting peace, when there’s one man in the Kingdom – Richard Gloucester – who wants to be king. The story is this man’s journey and attempt for the crown and the means that he’ll go through to get it.
APT: And he’s not a very nice fellow. Or is he? Jim Ridge, could you tell us a little about Richard?
James Ridge: He is not somebody you would have to dinner, or bring home to mom. He’s, I was just thinking recently, who is he like? He’s really all over the news right now. Look at politics, and look at Wall Street. It’s the person who just keeps going for what they want…and nobody stops them. So they just keep going after it, and never mind the consequences. In Richard's case, the crown is something he wants and he’ll go through any lengths to get it. And nobody stops him, so he just keeps pushing the boundaries. And in retrospect that seems, I don’t know, evil. If not evil, certainly wrong. But nobody stops him, so whose fault is it really?
DeVita: I don’t think so-called evil characters wake up in the morning and say, “oh, I think I’ll be evil today.” No, they just keep pursuing the thing that they want. And the reason Richard rises to power is that people around him have a chance to say, “stop, this is wrong.” And some do…but most don’t.
APT: How do the design choices in the show play serve the play?
DeVita: one of the first things is deciding on a period, and we’ve been working with our designers on that over the past year. And Shakespeare himself used contemporary costume when he was doing his plays, so there’s a little leeway there with choosing a period, but I didn’t want to get too contemporary. You can put this play in any type of totalitarian regime in history, but I didn’t want to make it too easy, or make the metaphor too clear. We started hovering around the early 1900s, so what we’re kind of calling it is “an imaginary England” around the early 1900s. This gave us a sense of war - because it is set during a time of war - but not quite WWI. And the costumes are very much influenced by that period.
APT: How’s that working for you so far?
Ridge: Well, the costumes especially are wonderful. Any military uniform is specifically designed to make the body look great (laughs). They make you have broad shoulders, and a small waist and part of it is just projecting this image of power. And that’s certainly what happens, whether you’re conscious of it or not there’s a police presence in the play. And Rachel Healy is doing the costumes, and they’re just gorgeous. Everybody wants to wear Rachel Healy’s costumes. So that’s a pleasure any time.
DeVita: Much of the way this production is staged is beautiful – the gowns and the people. But underneath, it’s crumbling. And that’s where Richard really thrives. He can see beyond the beauty and understands that the base of this family and this country are weak. And he’s able to take advantage of that. He’s able to topple that house quite easily in part because of the fear embedded in a country that’s just finished civil war.
Ridge: We, as a society, crave and respond to order. And one of the things that Richard does is create chaos, because it gets people off their pins. And if you know that that chaos is there for a reason, you have power to manipulate people within that, so that’s one of the things that he does really, really well.
Comments on "In the Spotlight: Richard III"
12:56PM.July 6th, 2012
My wife and I though Ridge's Richard was very powerful. I am intrigued by his comment, "He’s really all over the news right now. Look at politics, and look at Wall Street. It’s the person who just keeps going for what they want…and nobody stops them." But I am not sure whether I want him to elaborate, having watched once positive relationships wither in the last couple years. I personally don't find any modern parallels to Richard, either among those I support OR oppose in politics (and business).
6:31AM.July 8th, 2012
I resent James Ridge comparing Richard the Third to presumably Scott Walker. I have already cut out one day of play going this year because of the far left political leanings of your theater company and many patrons. We have been attending for over 20 years. There are some conservatives in your audience.
Frankly, the description of Richard sounds much more like Barak Obama who is out to destroy our country with his Saul Alinsky radicalism and socialism. He also sounds like the greedy, power hungry PUBLIC UNION leaders who torn our state apart with violent protests, foul language, and death threats for 18 months. These selfish unions wasted 20 million dollars on a senseless recall election. It is time for the anti Walker liberals to "give it a rest" until 2014 when we will have a normal election for governor.
If it wasn't for my wife, I would stopped coming to APT. You produce excellent theater, but I am tired of the political liberlism.
2:55PM.July 8th, 2012
The last time I saw Richard III, Nixon was president. It was very easy to see the similarities.
2:18AM.July 9th, 2012
Bob, it's theatre. It's make believe, and the people aren't real. Relax, get over it and go and enjoy some wonderful theatre and leave your political views at the bottom of the hill.
Jim Ridge is a very talented actor that draws inspiration and character choices from many places, Whether he's liberal or not..why turn this wonderful comment board into a place for political bickering. Perhaps the audience is better off without you..and that's coming from someone that considers himself a conservative.
3:26PM.July 10th, 2012
To Mr. Heck, How does someone who obviously spends his entire waking moments watching Fox *news*, even have the capacity to equate the play with Walker? Really ,Get a life, Mitt Romney would be more appropriate. someone who spent his entire life gutting businesses for personal profit then hides his money overseas and pays less than 15% on the small amount of taxes he is willing to show us. Cmon Mitt, Watcha hiding? See ya in the funny papers *Bob*
7:04PM.July 13th, 2012
Dude, I am SERIOUSLY impressed! I sure hope you're on the United States' Olympic track & field team, because if you can make a leap like that, you'll unquestionably medal in the long jump.
Where did you see the words "governor" or "Walker" in that interview?
Mr. Ridge could very well have been alluding to the President. He could equally well have been referring to Rupert Murdoch. Or to Bernie Madoff. Or quite possibly to the whole boiling lot of them - goodness knows that there are plenty to choose from.
If you want to forgo the enjoyment of a superbly performed play at APT, by all means, feel free to do so. There are plenty of other eager patrons who will be delighted to take the seats you aren't in.
On the other hand, you could come and see if you can figure out which world leader(s) Mr. Ridge really was referring to in his comments. Who knows? You might surprise yourself and actually enjoy the experience.
9:28AM.July 16th, 2012
Can I talk about something besides Wisconsin politics? This is the 3rd time I have seen "Richard III". The first time was as a movie, I believe in 1996, set in the 1930s; parallels with Hitler were many and obvious. It worked, of course, but I had hoped to see 15th Century England. The second time was about 10 years later, at the Bartell Theater in Madison. It may have been done by Strollers; I don't remember for sure. It was a futuristic nightmare with many deliberate and obvious references to the G W Bush administration. Good for laughs, but I still didn't get to see 15th Century England. I was hoping that this time, I could see "Richard III" as the real Richard III, but it was not to be. Why do you people keep doing this? Some years back, you did a production of "A Comedy of Errors" set in late-19th Century America instead of 16th Century Italy. There was one nobleman who reminded me of Mark Twain every time he appeared on stage, and there was a constable who looked just like Kit Carson; it was very distracting, and the plot didn't make sense at all in that setting. Maybe Shakespeare DID use "contemporary" costumes in his plays, but they also didn't have furniture or props on the stage, and all the female parts were played by men. Richard III was a real person, who lived in a real time and place. If you want a new play, write a new play. Shifting time and place has become so common in theater and opera that it is no longer cool; it's just stupid.
10:52PM.July 16th, 2012
The play was brilliant Shakespeare, played by brilliant actors, and directed by another Richard, brilliant Jim DeVita. We are so fortunate to have this troupe, this amazing venue. Thank you, Jim — and Jim — and the rest of this wonderful group. It was a memorable night!