The Guthrie Theater has announced a return of rotating repertory with Shakespeare’s History Cycle (Richard II, Henry IV [Parts I and II as one play] and Henry V), which will play on the Wurtele Thrust Stage during the 2020–2021 Season. The Henriad plays of Shakespeare’s canon will be produced with one company of actors under Joseph Haj’s direction in spring 2021. This rarely produced theatrical experience will mark the 30th anniversary of the season that featured the Guthrie’s first historic production of Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V in rotating repertory. At that time, former artistic director Garland Wright and resident director Charles Newell helmed the productions with Haj — then a member of the Guthrie acting company — performing in all three productions.
Due to the sizable scope of these plays, they are infrequently produced at this scale, making the Guthrie’s run a rare and exciting theatrical experience. Although the Guthrie’s early work was built in rotating repertory, this hasn’t been the practice for more than 20 years. The History Cycle gives Guthrie audiences the opportunity to witness a single company of actors tell a sweeping story of epic proportions through three theatrical events, either over the course of the run or in a single weekend.
The Guthrie was founded on a commitment to examine the classical canon of plays in order to reveal contemporary relevance to today’s audiences and the greater community. Producing the Henriad at this moment in time offers meaningful opportunities for a national symposium among industry professionals, Shakespeare scholars and our local community. This grouping of plays also allows the Guthrie to engage the community in a conversation about leadership, politics and the cost of war, which are timely topics given the complicated sociopolitical climate in the U.S. — a country that has been in ongoing, active warfare for the longest period in its history.
“It is a thrill to announce that we will mount a theatrical undertaking as demanding as the cycle of Shakespeare’s history plays, in rotating repertory, in our next season,” Haj said. “This epic cycle can be produced by so few theaters, the Guthrie being one of them, and we are both humbled and proud of the role the Guthrie plays in the national theater landscape to bring these massive works, rarely seen together, forth to modern audiences.” Haj said, “As a member of the acting company when the Guthrie last produced the Henriad, I witnessed how the event proved to be incredibly galvanizing for the institution, the artists and the community. We expect that the power of these events in our next season will be no less impactful.”
The Guthrie’s complete 2020–2021 season will be announced in March.