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Experience a Once-in-a-Lifetime Season of Shakespeare with the Montford Park Players

Beginning May 10, the Montford Park Players (MPP) embarks upon an impressive schedule of performances for its 2024 season. The company will perform all nine of Shakespeare’s history plays depicting a tumultuous time in England’s history. Muse of Fire: Shakespeare’s Wars of the Roses begins on Friday, May 10, with Edward III, and runs through October 27. All performances are free and will be held Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. in the Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre.

Presenting the plays as history lessons is not the aim, says this season’s artistic director Jason Williams, a UNC-Asheville graduate who has directed MPP productions since 2004. “We want to dispel the assumptions that Shakespeare’s plays are hard to understand, dusty, boring and irrelevant to modern society,” he says. “His histories are action-packed, with everything from comedy, to romance, to drama, to tragedy. They are stories that provide universal truths on how to be great leaders, and dire warnings about consequences of political infighting and abuse of power.” Performing them in canonical order, he adds, will allow audiences to see how the plays relate to one another and lay out the history of the Wars, which began in 1455 and ended in 1487.

Each of the plays requires at least 15 to 20 actors to perform the 40-plus characters, with some characters appearing across multiple plays. “We wanted to keep a continuity from play to play, so those roles that cross over were cast with the same actor sometimes appearing in as many as three separate plays,” Williams says. More than 50 actors are involved for the whole season as well as nine directors; five stage managers; season set designer, props designer and costumer; choreographers; and a team of painters, builders, sewers and staff.

Discussions for such an ambitious undertaking had been underway for some time. After the pandemic and with a donor’s offer to fund most of the season, the MPP decided that this was the time.

The MPP presented its inaugural production in Montford Park in 1973, and last year celebrated its 51st season. “Asheville and Western North Carolina can take pride in the fact that we operate what is considered the oldest community-based Shakespeare theatre in North America,” says executive director John Russell. “As one of only 15 theatre companies in the world to have performed all of Shakespeare’s plays, we have an enviable reputation in the worldwide Shakespeare community, and have twice co-hosted the National Conference on Outdoor Theatre.”

The MPP has done research and concludes that, though the Royal Shakespeare Company and the English Shakespeare Company performed the eight-play cycle, The War of the Roses, no company has performed the nine-play cycle (with the newly attributed Edward III) in a single season. The other plays, in order of performance, are Richard II; Henry IV, Part 1 and Part 2; Henry V; Henry VI, Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3; and Richard III.

“We maintain that the best way to experience Shakespeare is to see a live performance of it in conditions approximating how his plays were originally performed,” Williams says, “and that’s what we try to do. So much of Shakespeare’s work is embedded into our cultural lexicon, that there is a great sense of duty to keep his work alive and accessible to modern audiences. This stuff is not just for stuffy academics, but for everybody.”

The Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre is located at 92 Gay Street in Asheville. For more information and a complete schedule of performances, visit

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