Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival tackles King John in ‘Extreme Shakespeare’ Style

Contact: Lisa Higgins, 610.282.9455, ext. 4

Center Valley, PA – The final play of the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival’s 21st season, King John, previews July 25 and opens July 26 in the Schubert Theatre.

Rehearsed the way Shakespeare’s company likely would have, King John is opening before an audience after only four days of rehearsal. The actors arrived with their lines memorized and work without a director – the position didn’t exist in Shakespeare’s time – costume themselves, and use design elements from other productions.

PSF first employed this “extreme Shakespeare” approach with last season’s production of The Two Noble Kinsmen. Actors in Shakespeare’s time were believed to have had to perform plays on short notice and present dozens of plays in the span of a few weeks.

King John emulates aspects of Elizabethan rehearsal methods and creates a theatrical experience for patrons similar to that of Shakespeare’s time.

King John follows the life and death of John, the King of England in the early 13th Century. Rising to his position after the death of his brother King Richard the Lion-hearted, the legitimacy of his reign is questioned by Constance, who asserts her son Arthur is the true heir to the throne. As King John navigates a landscape of murder and intrigue, he is challenged from all sides. With boundless ambition, corruption and greed plaguing the kingdom, England struggles to unite under a single, legitimate ruler.

Appearing in his 19th season with the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, Greg Wood takes the stage as King John. Wood has starred in many productions throughout his PSF career, most recently as Prospero in The Tempest, earlier this season.

Sally Mercer plays Queen Eleanor, the mother of King John, after making appearances in past PSF productions as the Duenna in Cyrano, Maria in Twelfth Night and Amanda in The Glass MenagerieIan Bedford, previously seen in PSF productions of Henry VA Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, and others, takes the stage as Philip the Bastard, the illegitimate son of King Richard who becomes a staunch supporter of King John.
Eric Hissom plays the role of King Philip, the champion of Arthur and challenger to King John. Susan Riley Stevens plays Constance, who urges her son Arthur, Brendan Moser, to rise up and assert his claim to the throne. Richard B. Watson takes the stage as Cardinal Pandulph, the voice for the Pope who questions King John’s lack of servitude to Rome. John Ahlin plays Hubert, who allies himself with King John.

Erin Hurley and Patrick Mulcahy have worked on the script cutting and cast doubling schemes. Stacy Renee Norwood serves as the Production Stage Manager.

Performance summary:

  • Opens: July 26
  • Previews: July 25
  • Closes: August 5
  • Performances: Tuesday July 31 at 7pm; Wednesday July 25 & August 1 at 8pm; Thursday July 26 & August 2 at 8pm; Friday July 27 & August 3 at 8pm; Saturday July 28 & August 4 at 2pm and 8pm; Sunday July 29 & August 5 at 2pm and 7:30pm
  • Tickets: $32-$34; Limited $25 section B seats; Student rush, 30 minutes prior to curtain, $10 with I.D.

Tickets to King John are available at and by contacting the Box Office at 610.282.WILL [9455].

The 2012 season also includes Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing (through August 5) and Tennessee William’s Pulitzer Prize winning play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (through August 5). The Festival also features the children’s shows Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (through August 4) and Shakespeare for Kids (July 25-August 4).

The production sponsors for King John are Dr. & Mrs. Frank J. Szarko. The shows’ co-sponsors are Air Products and Keenan-Nagle Advertising, Inc. The Season Sponsor is The Rider-Pool Foundation. The Associate Season Sponsors are Linda Lapos and Paul Wirth, Lutron Electronics Company, Inc., and the Harry C. Trexler Trust. Season Media sponsors are The Morning Call and Service Electric Cable TV & Communications.

The Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival is the Official Shakespeare Festival of the Commonwealth and a professional, not-for-profit, theatre company. An independent 501 c 3 organization, PSF receives support from DeSales University and relies on contributions from individuals, government agencies, corporations and foundations. PSF is a constituent of the Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national organization for the American theatre, and a member of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, Lehigh Valley Arts Council and the Shakespeare Theatre Association.


JOHN AHLIN, Hubert. John has appeared in PSF’s productions of Henry IVTwelfth NightCyrano de BergeracPlayboy of the Western World and The Merry Wives of Windsor. Broadway credits: Waiting for GodotJourney’s End (2007 Tony Award for Best Revival), The Lieutenant of InishmoreVoices in the DarkOne Mo’ TimeWhoopee! and Macbeth. Off-Broadway:Orson Welles in Orson’s Shadow. Regional: Two River Theatre, PittsburghPublic, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Old Globe Theatre, and Goodman Theatre and TheShakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. John will appear in the latest Coen Brothers movie, Inside Llewyn Davis.

IAN BEDFORD, Phillip the Bastard. PSF credits: Henry VA Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, Othello, As You Like It and Henry IV, Part 1. Recent regional: Of Mice and Men (People’s Light), Taming of the Shrew (Chicago Shakespeare), Superior Donuts (Arden Theater), School of Night (Mark Taper Forum), The Beaux Stratagem and Richard III (Shakespeare Theatre), the title roles in Richard III (Lake Tahoe Shakespeare) and Macbeth (Orlando Shakespeare).  TV: recurring on Law & Order: SVU and Nurse Jackie.

ERIC HISSOM, King Phillip. PSF: The Complete Works of William ShakespeareA Man for All SeasonsAround the World in Eighty Days, and The Tempest. Recent: the world premiere of Ken Ludwig’s The Game’s Afoot at Cleveland Playhouse, Cyrano at the Arden Theatre, the national tour of The 39 Steps, and directing a production of The 39 Steps at Florida Studio Theatre. He has an MFA from Florida State University’s Asolo Conservatory.

SALLY MERCER, Queen Eleanor. Sally has lived and worked in the Philadelphia area for the past thirty years.  Her roles at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival include the Duenna in Cyrano, Maria in Twelfth Night and Amanda in The Glass Menagerie.

PATRICK MULCAHY, PSF Producing Artistic Director. Since assuming leadership in 2003, Mr. Mulcahy has led PSF’s return to artistic excellence and financial stability, rebuilt the professional company of artists, and achieved increasing national recognition for the Festival. Further accomplishments include PSF’s first-ever award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and attracting a company of artists including winners and nominees of the Tony, Obie, Emmy, Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, Jefferson, and Barrymore awards to the Festival, growth in all income areas, a 50% increase in annual attendance, and the expansion of the number of Actors’ Equity contracts per season.

As a professional director, actor and fight director, credits include Broadway, Off-Broadway, regional theatre, television, and radio. Mr. Mulcahy has acted with Angela Basset, Peter MacNicol, Hal Holbrook, Joan Cusack, Don Cheadle, Anne Meara, Milo O’Shea, Cynthia Nixon, Tony Shaloub, Bradley Whitford, and others at the New York Shakespeare Festival, Hartford Stage, Roundabout Theatre Company, Great Lakes Theatre Festival, Syracuse Stage, and the Walnut Street Theatre. He served as a fight director for Tom Hulse and Timothy Busfield in A Few Good Men on Broadway and for Off-Broadway productions starring John Savage, John Mahoney, Marcia Gay Harden, and Patrick Dempsey. He directed Oscar nominee Vera Farmiga in The Real Thing, and, for PSF, directed Hamlet (2011), Antony and Cleopatra (2009), The Winter’s Tale (2007), Henry IV, Part I (2005), The Tempest (1999), and acted in and served as fight director for The Taming of the Shrew (1998) and Julius Caesar (1997). As Head of Acting at DeSales, Patrick directed ten productions for Act 1, including I Hate HamletThe Grapes of WrathThe Foreigner, and The Diary of Anne Frank. He holds an M.F.A. from Syracuse University.

BRENDAN MOSER, Arthur. A recent graduate of DeSales University. Past credits include Rodolpho in Act 1’s A View From the Bridge and the Mad Hatter in Act 3’s Alice in Wonderland.

STACY RENEE NORWOOD, Production Stage Manager. PSF: production stage manager for The Tempest, The Comedy of Errors, and The Two Noble Kinsmen.  Graduated in May 2006 from Rollins College and stage managed multiple seasons at the Depot Theatre and Orlando Shakespeare Theatre with a few reps under her belt. She is excited to work with an amazing cast crew and staff this summer. Stacy is a proud member of Actors Equity Association and cherishes the support of her folks and Mike

SUSAN RILEY STEVENS, Constance. Last summer at PSF, Hamlet and Pride & Prejudice; previous seasons include Romeo and JulietKing Lear and Othello. Other recent: God Of CarnageFallen AngelsA Streetcar Named Desire, Walnut Street Theatre; This Is The Week That Is, 1812 Productions; Bad Dates, Act 2 Playhouse, (Barrymore Award). Regional: Actors Theatre of Louisville, Arden Theatre, Peterborough Players, Bristol Riverside, Dallas Theatre Center, People’s Light, Portland Stage Co, Asolo Rep. MFA, Yale School of Drama.

RICHARD B. WATSON, Cardinal Pandulph. Also this season at PSF: Caliban in The Tempest. Other recent: Mark Brown’s Around the World in 80 Days at Pittsburgh Public directed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge; Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady with Kate Baldwin at Sacramento Music Circus; Sherlock in Sherlock Holmes & the West End Horror at the Asolo and Pioneer theaters.  NYC:  Devils Disciple at Irish Rep, Serendib at Ensemble Studio Theater, and Venus Flytrap at Active TheaterFilm/TV: PS, I Love YouLaw & Order CIDelocatedOnion Sports NetworkArt=(Love)²; and a pilot, Powerless, for FX.  Richard played George in Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? and is an inaugural company member at American Stage Theater In St. Petersburg, FL, winning the first ever Jeff Norton Award for “Best Actor in a Leading Role.” He was awarded his MFA from the Academy for Classical Acting at the George Washington University / Shakespeare Theatre Company.

GREG WOOD, King John. Greg is appearing in his 19th season at PSF. Memorable roles include: Hamlet and Claudius in Hamlet, Richard in Richard III, Jamie Tyrone in Moon for the Misbegotten, Elyot in Private Lives, Bluntschlii in Arms and the Man, both Taming of the Shrews, Leontes in Winter’s Tale, Cyrano in Cyrano de Bergerac, Antony in Antony & Cleopatra, and so many more. Other recent credits include: Slippery as Sin with Passage Theatre and God of Carnage for the Walnut St. and Fulton Theatres. Film and TV: The HappeningThe Lovely BonesSignsThe Sixth SenseKilling Emmett YoungLaw & OrderEd, and Homicide.