Undiscovered Shakespeare: The Wars of the Roses

Undiscovered Shakespeare: The Wars of the Roses

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and in lieu of its traditional summer offerings, Santa Cruz Shakespeare is very proud to announce a new virtual reading series to keep audiences engaged with the high-quality, professional Shakespeare they have come to expect! Starting one week from today, on July 1st, 2020, we are proud to present Undiscovered Shakespeare: The Wars of the Roses. Join a team of professional actors as we read our way through this epic historical drama that spans four plays: King Henry VI, pts 1-3, and King Richard III. Every Wednesday throughout the summer at 6:30pm, we will host 45-50 minutes of staged reading on Zoom, followed by 45 minutes of discussion led by a Shakespeare scholar and a dramaturg. From July 1st – Sept 2, you will hear the story of these rarely produced plays performed episodically. Each session is free to the public, but advance registration is required. REGISTER HERE.

Undiscovered Shakespeare: The Wars of the Roses is a public arts and humanities series co-produced by Santa Cruz Shakespeare, UCSC’s Shakespeare Workshop, and The Humanities Institute that brings professional actors and scholars together with the public for live readings and discussion of the works that made Shakespeare famous in the London theater. As a young writer at the start of his career, Shakespeare explored ambitions, rivalries, and passions that swept away the dynasty that had reigned in England for more than four centuries. Over the course of ten sessions, we will immerse ourselves in these rarely performed plays and reflect on them both as points of departure for Shakespeare’s career and as a mirror for the times in which we live.

This project is made possible through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the generous support of Santa Cruz Shakespeare’s 2020 Members.


The first nine sessions will last approximately ninety minutes (including an intermission) and will begin at 6:30pm PST. The final session of Richard III will last approximately two and a half hours. Sessions are free to the public, and participants are not obligated to attend every meeting of the program.*

*Participants reading along should expect for the first meeting about each play to cover acts one and two; the second meeting to cover acts three and four; and the third meeting to cover act five. The session focussing on Richard III will be a live reading of the entire play.

July 1, 8, and 15: Henry VI, Part I
With scholars Adam Zucker (UMass, Amherst) and Ariane Helou (UCLA)

July 22, 29 and Aug 5: Henry VI, Part 2
With scholars Sean Keilen (UCSC) and Maria Frangos (SCS)

August 12, 19, 26: Henry VI, Part 3
With scholars Claire McEachern (UCLA) and Ashley Herum (UCSC)

September 2: Richard III — live reading of the full play
With scholar Amani Liggett (UCSC)

Texts available at: https://shakespeare.folger.edu/shakespeares-works/

Henry VI, Full Play Synopsis: In the wake of King Henry V’s death, the French rebel against English rule. Joan la Pucelle (Joan of Arc) is made general of the French forces. Meanwhile, in England, a quarrel between two powerful lords, the Duke of Somerset and Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, consumes the court when they demand that fellow nobles pick a side by wearing either a red rose (Somerset and the house of Lancaster) or a white rose (the Duke and the house of York). The mounting tensions in the court distract the English from their goals in France, and young King Henry VI concludes an uneasy peace. He is persuaded to marry a captured French princess, Margaret of Anjou, whom he has never met.

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