Prentice Leads in ‘Much Ado’ and ‘Elizabeth Rex’ at Illinois Shakes

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Christopher Prentice as Beatrice.
A masked Beatrice (self-shot). Christopher Prentice

Christopher Prentice returns to the Illinois Shakespeare Festival to star in Much Ado About Nothing and Elizabeth Rex.

Chris, who made his professional debut at the Festival in 1998, will play Beatrice in Much Ado and Ned Lowenscroft, Shakespeare’s fictional master interpreter of female characters, in Elizabeth Rex by Timothy Findley. He will also play Cleopatra’s right-hand man, Alexas, in Antony and Cleopatra.

Much Ado, in a production based on “Original Practices,” including an all-male company, is directed by Jonathan West and also stars Matt Daniels as Benedick.

Elizabeth Rex, the award-winning examination of gender in Elizabethan England which premiered at the Stratford Festival in 2000, pits Queen Elizabeth, who thought of herself as a “prince,” against Ned, “the greatest actor of women” in Shakespeare’s company, who is dying of the “pox.” Meanwhile, Will is fashioning his new play, Antony and Cleopatra, after the reigning monarch. Paula Suozzi, former artistic director of Milwaukee Shakespeare Company, directs Deborah Staples as Elizabeth and Thomas Anthony Quinn as Will.

Rounding out the season is Shakespeare’s late tragedy, Antony and Cleopatra, directed by ISF artistic director Kevin Rich, and starring Staples as Cleopatra and Todd Denning as Antony.

The festival begins performances July 8 and runs in rotating repertory through August 9. For the complete schedule, visit thefestival.org.

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