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Tug of War Brings a Fresh Take on Shakespeare to the Windy City

The Bard's histories are infused with music and inventive storytelling at Chicago Shakespeare Theater starting tonight.

Freddie Stevenson stars in Tug of War: Foreign Fire, adapted and directed by Barbara Gaines, at Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
(© Jeff Sciortino)

Tug of War: Foreign Fire begins performances tonight at Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

The first of two six-hour marathon productions, Foreign Fire fuses three Shakespeare histories to create one narrative arc. It begins with Edward III, only recently attributed to Shakespeare. The play follows King Edward III in his struggle to establish dominance over the French. His actions spark not only the Hundred Years War, but also the War of the Roses, fought between the houses of his progeny, York and Lancaster. The show continues with Henry V, the story of a young king, who disavows his wild youth to become a revered king and powerful enemy of the French. The compilation ends with Henry VI, Part I, in which the French territories are lost and the naive King Henry VI launches head first into battle against France, whose king and country have fallen under the spell of Joan of Arc.

Artistic director Barbara Gaines adapted the six Shakespeare histories and directs the new production. The cast includes Karen Aldridge, David Darlow, Matt Deitchman, Jed Feder, Neil Friedman, Kevin Gudahl, Heidi Kettenring, Michael Aaron Lindner, James Newcomb, Barbara Robertson, Steven Sutcliffe, Alex Weisman, Larry Yando, Shanna Jones, Daniel Kyri, Freddie Stevenson, John Tufts, Tahirah Whittington, and Dominque Worsley.

"Celebrating Shakespeare's legacy, 400 years since his death in 1616, I set out to honor his history plays," said director Barbara Gaines, "to honor the men and women in his plays, in his world and in our world who serve their country. The history of mankind and its relationship to war is, at its core, cyclical — and in that larger picture sits our Tug of War."

The creative team includes Scott Davis (set design), Susan Mickey (costume design), Anthony Pearson (lighting design), Lindsay Jones (sound design), Melissa Veal (wig and make-up design), Matt Deitchman (music director), and Matt Hawkins (fight choreographer).

Performances will run through June 12.

For tickets and more information, click here.