Shakespeare in the Parks

Regarding Henrys

Original Practice Shakespeare, known for its rowdy, audience-friendly live performances, dives into the "Henry" trio for three straight nights – online.

“It’s not your granddaddy’s Shakespeare.”

That’s how Jennifer Lanier, Original Practice Shakespeare co-artistic director, describes the company’s approach to producing the Bard. With limited rehearsal, onstage prompters and a rowdy audience, OPS is a throwback to how plays were put on in Shakespeare’s lifetime, while also offering modern, gender-fluid casting that not only allows the actor to pick which gender they want to perform in but sometimes gives the audience a say in it too.

“We’re an incredibly contemporary company that does things in a 16th century manner,” said Lanier.

High passion and sharp blades: Hotspurre & Company in Henry IV, Part 1. From left: Alec Lugo (Vernon), Jesse Waddell (Messenger), Amy Driesler (Worcester), Lauren Saville Allard (Hotspurre), Chris Murphy (Douglas). Photo: Tiffany Gilly-Forrer

OPS has been around since 2009, but this year, it’s mounting a new challenge: Not only will it perform the Henry trilogy on consecutive nights this coming weekend (without its usual live audience), but it’ll livestream the whole shebang on Facebook and YouTube. Henry IV, Part One will air on Friday, June 4; Henry IV, Part Two on Saturday, June 5; and Henry V on Sunday, June 6.


When sports & Shakespeare collide

Original Practice Shakespeare’s ambitious summer tour brings the Bard (and a referee's whistle) into Portland and surrounding parks


When our loved ones ask us, “Why, dear – why do you want to spend three hours of our evening watching, perhaps for the fifteenth time, yet another Shakespeare production?” we ought not to suggest that we go simply because … it’s good for us. Original Practice Shakespeare Festival provides us with a fresh and infallible argument: “Well, honey dearest, this is our chance to see Shakespeare the way he would’ve seen it.”


Stan Brown as Capulet in OPS’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Photo: Tiffany Gilly (Rousseau)

It’s odd to think that Portland’s Original Practice Shakespeare is one of only two companies this side of the Mississippi performing Shakespeare as it was originally performed — at least, in certain ways. That is to say, without the convention of rehearsals, directors, memorized lines, and most strikingly, without pretense. (In other ways, performances are decidedly not Elizabethan. Many of the actors are women, for instance. In Shakespeare’s time women were not allowed on the stage; boys played the women’s roles.)