War Games: Staging the Histories in an American Presidential Year

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This paper examines the ways in which the seldom performed collaborative play, Edward III, was re-contextualised by Barbara Gaines, Artistic Director of the Shakespeare Theater of Chicago, in order to create a specifically presentist piece of theatre making a forceful political statement during the 2016 US presidential election. Edward III formed the opening section of a trilogy entitled Tug of War: Foreign Fire, which continued with Henry V, and Henry VI Part I. The second trilogy, Tug of War: Civil Strife, comprised the remaining two parts of Henry VI and Richard III. The paper will address the rationale behind the selection of these specific plays, and why it was felt unnecessary to fill the historical lacuna created by the exclusion of Richard II and Henry IV Parts I and II. In addition, it will also examine the limitations inherent in the available archival material when researching an ephemeral theatrical event, particularly one which has been edited and directed in order to address issues of immediate political concern. Selected extracts from my own review of the first of these two trilogies will seek to offer a more detailed response than is possible for journalistic reviewers and to provide sufficient background to prove of benefit for future researchers.

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