The Performance: Preparing and Reflecting


20. Shedding a New Light on Shakespeare

In his review of King Charles III, theater critic Jesse Green of Vulture Magazine outlines the various ways in which characters from Shakespeare are echoed in Bartlett’s play. “Harry is obviously patterned on the wastrel Prince Hal; William, when forced to decide whether to support or betray his father, waffles like Hamlet. Kate, the future queen, audaciously channels Lady Macbeth, as Charles himself, double-crossed both by family and retainers, crumples like King Lear.” Green goes on to explain that the effect of this “re-casting” of Shakespeare’s characters has is that it “refreshes our idea of what is Shakespearean. It reminds us that all those Lears and Macbeths and Hals and Hamlets were addressing the same issues that face us today; the meaning of leadership, the trade-offs of service, the glamour of ambition, the tragedy of doubt. By reembodying these themes in people we know, or think we do, Bartlett reorganizes our understanding of the originals. Not only is his imagined Kate a latter-day Lady Macbeth, but Lady Macbeth is a Kate precursor.”

If you’ve studied one of the Shakespeare character referenced by Green, choose one of the pairings he’s set forth, and watch the play through a comparative lens:

  • Prince Hal (Henry V): Harry
  • Hamlet: William
  • Lady Macbeth: Kate
  • King Lear: Charles

In which ways does Bartlett’s character remind you of Shakespeare’s? How does your understanding of Shakespeare’s character change as you follow the trajectory of Bartlett’s? Write an essay to share your findings.



21. The Tools of Theater

Consider all the different tools of theater that can help bring a story to life, including:

  • Acting (vocal, physical and character choices made by the actors)
  • Blocking (the actors’ movement and positioning on stage)
  • Set design
  • Costume design
  • Lighting Design
  • Music and sound design
  • Props
  • Special effects

In each of these areas, there are countless choices made by the director, designers and actors, contributing to their unique interpretation of the story. Before you see Chicago Shakespeare’s production, choose one of the above tools of theater to focus on. As you watch the performance, note the specific ways that tool is used throughout and how those choices help to support the storytelling. After you see the production, write an analysis of how your chosen tool was utilized to create a unique interpretation of King Charles III.  Outline the choices made using that tool, and how those choices either supported or didn’t effectively support the storytelling.



22. Writing a Theater Review

A scaffold for this activity: Before you write your review, read three different theater reviews of current plays at Theatre in Chicago’s Critics Review Round-Up:

Analyze the structure of a review, identifying key elements. Based on these key elements, describe the style you found most helpful (or least helpful) in communicating a play’s appeal for potential theater-goers. Now, write your own critical review of CST’s King Charles III. Briefly recount the plot. Discuss the parts of the production—including the casting, acting, setting, music, dance, costumes, cuts—you thought worked particularly well, or did not work well and explain why you thought so. Consider publishing your piece in a school newspaper. Use some of the questions below to generate ideas for your review:

  • What aspect of the play captivated your attention?
  • How did the production’s interpretation compare with your own interpretation of the play? Do you believe it stayed true to Shakespeare’s intention?
  • Were there particular performances that you believed were powerful? Why?
  • Would you recommend this play to others? Who would most enjoy it?
  • Based on your answers to the above questions, how many stars (out of a possible five) would you give this production?


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