Marcus Antonius and Cleopatra VII are considered by many to be one of history’s most fascinating couples. The pair certainly resonated with William Shakespeare, who made them the subject of one his greatest tragedies.
Their love affair, their war together, their defeat and, finally, their suicides have been told and retold for centuries. Now it’s Hofstra’s turn to tell the tale, as the featured production of this year’s Shakespeare Festival, which runs March 14-24.
The festival enters its 64th season, with an ambitious staging of the Bard’s captivating masterpiece, directed by Dr. James J. Kolb, a longtime faculty member in the Department of Drama and Dance. It features a cast of 23 Hofstra students, who have enthusiastically taken on the task of mastering the demands of this play.
“It’s a tricky piece,” said Dr. Kolb, “because it takes place over 10 years and there are 42 scenes in 10 different places. It has to be approached cinematically and can be considered a challenge for undergraduate students to perform. But part of our goal is to stretch them, and that is what we have done over our 64 years.”
Antony and Cleopatras is one of Shakespeare’s plays that seems to fall out favor periodically and then is ‘reborn’, according to Dr. Kolb. It is now being ‘rediscovered’ once again.
“The play seems to be on its way back again,” he said. “Shakespeare is reinvented for every age and we are seeing that with Antony and Cleopatra now. Especially in this period of East/West tensions, it seems to fit our age.”
Love and war shape the course of history in this passionate tale that crosses cultural boundaries. Love versus civic responsibility creates a dilemma for Antony that neither he nor Cleopatra can resolve or survive. One of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies is grounded in the historical facts of one of history’s most famous romantic couples.