Booth’s Richard III


The Hidden Room Theatre
the Harry Ransom Center
& Austin Scottish Rite Theater Presents:
Booth’s Richard III

– a 1699 re-working of William Shakespeare’s Richard III by Colley Cibber, presented in 1860’s Original Practices based on John Wilkes Booth’s original promptbook, currently housed at the Harry Ransom Center. It is unlike any other Richard III you have ever seen…

“Ready trumpet. Boy ready with armor. Take time. More piano. Long flourish continued till discovery, next Sc. – and do not W Till Mr Booth is on stage.”

For The Hidden Room, a company that specializes in historically significant theatre, these and other handwritten notes inside an 1861 promptbook for Richard III are DNA hidden in the book’s rich amber. But the actor/director who wrote most of them, the man who is assisting this work from the beyond, is one of the most detested villains of American history: John Wilkes Booth.

Join us as we explore lost theatre practices of the Civil-War era, glimpse into the mixing of 1860’s theatre and politics, and consider how rhetoric and fear turned a country against itself. The promptbook, darkly fascinating, is an unintentional gift – a magic mirror back into to a theatre in 1861, that a radicalized madman left behind.

Dubbed the “Blood and Thunder Richard” by its critics, this version of Richard III was adapted by Colley Cibber in 1699, and only retains about 800 lines from Shakespeare. It was written to be fast-paced, more audience friendly, and fueled by melodrama. The play was later further cut for the stage by celebrated actor Edmund Kean, and then again by John Wilkes Booth from whom we take notes on blocking, timing, music, costumes, and character. Despite being the Richard III that America grew up with Cibber’s version fell out of favor and memory by the late 1800’s, and this particular cut will not have been seen on the stage since the original in 1861.

Running time: 130 minutes