'Lear,' 'Fly-Bottle' to be part of extended season

SOUTHBURY, Conn. — Shakespeare & Co. in Lenox, Mass., has announced an extended 2003 season, its 26th, to run May 16-Dec. 21. It will include full-scale mainstage productions of “King Lear” and “Much Ado About Nothing” plus the premiere of David Egan’s comedy “The Fly-Bottle” in S&Co.’s intimate Spring Lawn Theater.

The new play originally was titled “Wittgenstein vs. Popper: The Main Event,” and its three characters are philosophers Ludwig Wittgenstein, Karl Popper and Bertrand Russell.

Lives of the mind

Directed by S&Co. artistic director Tina Packer, “Fly-Bottle” will open the season, running May 16-Aug. 24. The cast will be Michael Hammond (Wittgenstein), Dave Demke (Popper) and Dennis Krausnick (Russell). In his play, Egan examines the legendary poker incident between Wittgenstein and Popper in their only meeting, at England’s Moral Science Club in 1946. According to S&Co., their “fiery, though humorous, debate continues to this day.”

“Much Ado,” directed by Daniela Varon, will play May 30-Aug. 31 in the Founders’ Theater. And “Lear,” in its first full S&Co. production, will be staged by Packer with Jonathan Epstein, an S&Co. artistic associate, in the title role. It will play the Founders’ Theater July 18-Aug. 30.

Other S&Co. productions for the 2003 season include “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged),” “Vita & Virginia,” “The Two Gentlemen of Verona,” “Ethan Frome,” “Lettice and Lovage” (with Packer in the cast) and a series of Chekhov one-act plays.

Reading festival

Also on offer will be the 11th annual Studio Festival of Plays (readings and staged readings of new plays); three nights of oft-programmed DibbleDance, this year with “The Fools’ and Lover’s Dances,” a new work by choreographer Susan Dibble; “Shakespeare and the Language That Shaped a World,” scenes from the Bard’s plays; and S&Co.’s annual reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 4. Some of the above are free, as is S&Co.’s new Bankside Festival, June 7-Aug. 31 on the banks and terraces surrounding the Founder’s Theater and the Rose Footprint, the latter the site of S&Co.’s projected replica of Shakespeare’s Rose Playhouse.

The season will be the third on S&Co.’s large new Lenox campus, the company having completely severed its longtime ties with the late Edith Wharton’s nearby Lenox estate, the Mount.

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