The Houston Shakespeare Festival (HSF) has traditionally attracted the best actors and actresses in the country. This year’s occasion is no exception, with a slew of notable regional figures en route to the Bayou City for Bard’s yearly celebration.
The festival, put on by the University of Houston’s School of Theatre & Dance, offers free midsummer performances of Shakespeare’s classics at Miller Outdoor Theatre. From July 31 to August 9, HSF will offer “Macbeth” (directed by Jack Young, director of UH’s Graduate Acting Program) and “The Merchant of Venice” (directed by guest artist Tiger Reel).
Mirron Willis, a well-known Texas actor, will reprise his roles as Antonio in “The Merchant of Venice” and Banquo in “Macbeth” at HSF. Willis played the title character in “Henry IV, 1” and the Duke in “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” in HSF in 2014. Willis has starred in several television shows and films. He spent three years with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and performed extensively with Ensemble Theatre. He’s also a seasoned book narrator, having completed over 100 projects.
Tracie Thomason is a writer.
Tracie Thomason, a fellow Lone Star State performer (and a UH alumna), returns to the festival as Lady Macbeth in “Macbeth” and Nerissa in “The Merchant of Venice.” In 2011, Thomason played Kate in “The Taming of the Shrew” and Desdemona in “Othello” with HSF. Thomason has also performed at the American Shakespeare Center in Virginia, the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, and the Utah Shakespeare Festival. She’s worked with Stages and Classical Theatre Company in Houston.
Adam Noble and Young, both professional actors and teachers at the University of Houston’s School of Theatre and Dance, will play essential parts. In “Macbeth,” Noble will play the title character, while in “The Merchant of Venice,” he will play the Constable. In “The Merchant of Venice,” Young reprises his role as Shylock. He played this character in a Shakespeare Walla Walla production of this play (also directed by Reel) in 2013.
Young explained, “Shylock sneaked up on me.” “I’ve performed some major Shakespearean characters before, but I hadn’t given Shylock much thought. Some combination of his outsider status and being a father to a daughter ignited a core connection that I feel strongly about.”
Geraldo Anzaldua, who played MacDuff in “Macbeth” and Gratiano in “Merchant of Venice,” and David Matranga, who played Ross in “Macbeth” and Salanio in “The Merchant of Venice,” are among the returning HSF company members.
HSF has attracted a who’s who of prominent actors since its inception in 1975. Seth Gilliam, Brandon Dirden, Crystal Dickinson, Mark Metcalf, Cindy Pickett, Ken Ruta, and Dan O’Herlihy are previous HSF performers. Leading regional directors such as Leah C. Gardiner, Marc Masterson, Steve Pickering, and Paul Steger have recently directed HSF productions.