Antony and Cleopatra Director's Notes

We are delighted to have the opportunity to share this story of two great historical figures and to bring another epic Roman drama to the Folger. In the case of this production, the conversion of the theater allows the central playing space to become almost like a gladiatorial arena, where you can experience the temperature of the room rise as the relationships heat. It allows us to see clearly these larger-than-life personalities and become a part of the action.

Perhaps Antony and Cleopatra is best known as a love story. Shakespeare begins the play in the tail-spin of the title characters’ relationship, allowing us a glimpse of the good times that must have come before. There is a distinct emotional connection between the two central characters that sets them apart. They seem to need each other to survive, and they eat, sleep, and breathe their love for each other in way which in modern times might be viewed as headed for destruction. It is a love where their personal feelings for each other, and the public perception of their love, cloud their ability to identify and take the best course of action as world leaders.

Our approach to this story has been to discover the humanity written within the scope of Antony and Cleopatra. A chance to display the hidden intimacies and vulnerabilities available in the text. We have chosen to make the public stories private and private scenes public. This production sets out to gain an understanding of how enigmatic leaders making rash decisions can change the course of history, and how human drama can shape the world.

The conclusion of Antony and Cleopatra is, without doubt, a tragic end to these magnificent people. In their last moments together, they realize the depth of their love, and they take comfort in meeting once again in a life after death. Shakespeare seems to leave us with redemption—that it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. We are also witness to personal sacrifice that true leadership requires.

We hope you enjoy being at the center of it all.

–Robert Richmond

Hear more from the Stage Director Talk with Robert Richmond.


Photo from Antony and Cleopatra by Teresa Wood.
Cody Nickell and Mark Antony and Shirine Babb as Cleopatra.