Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

June 21, 2023

Preview: Shakespeare & Company, "The Contention"

Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, MA
through July 15, 2023

Through considered to be the inspiration for "Game of Thrones," this Shakespearean tale of "Henry VI, Part II" is commonly regarded as the strongest of the "Henry VI" trilogy, telling the story of the contention and power struggles between the two ancient families of Lancaster and York who wrestled for the fate of England.

Now, four centuries on and in tandem with the current King Charles III’s coronation, Shakespeare & Company presents "The Contention" – an exploration of themes that remain timeless: strategic marriages, political treachery, religious unrest, and a measure of comic sport. However, many Shakespeare aficionados are unfamiliar with this play.

"The Contention" is directed by the Company's Artistic Founder, Tina Packer. Born in England, Packer was trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, performed in regional theatre, was an Associate Artist at the Royal Shakespeare Company, and played in television series for the BBC. She has directed all of Shakespeare’s plays (some of them several times), acted in eight and taught the whole canon at more than 30 colleges.  At Columbia University, she taught in the MBA program for four years, resulting in the publication of "Power Plays: Shakespeare’s Lessons in Leadership and Management". Packer's scholastic writing includes "Tales from Shakespeare," a children’s book, recipient of the Parent’s Gold Medal Award. Her book "Women of Will" was published by Knopf, which has been performed in the U.S., Mexico, England, China and she has performed "Women of Will" with Nigel Gore in New York, Mexico, England, and China.

David Bertoldi
David Bertoldi, a relative newcomer to Shakespeare & Company who has appeared in some secondary roles, takes the lead as Henry VI. Those featured in the cast of "The Contention" include some of "the regulars" at Shakespeare; i.e. Allyn Burrows, Jonathan Epstein, and Nigel Gore. Some newcomers to the troupe are Lawrence James, Kenneth Ransom, and Jacob Ming-Trent.

How can theatre troupes like Shakespeare & Company mount the Bard's plays with their casts of thousands? Well, not quite, but every story does have a long list of characters. The answer: most of the actors appear in two or three roles. With a change of garb, use of set, or vocal affectation, these are without a doubt among the best actors in MA and probably New England.