“I know of no other example of a college repertory company mounting a production with both current students and 40 years of alumni,” said Mitch Rothstein ’77, who plays King John and was one of the ensemble’s first actors. The cast and crew includes four current students and 19 alumni that have graduated as far back as 1974.
The play explores King John’s somewhat questionable claims to the crown and his difficulty ruling in the midst of war, family drama, and challenges from court nobility. “That there might be relevance to today’s political climate was serendipitous,” said Rothstein.
King John is directed by Murray Biggs, who founded the Shakespeare Ensemble back in 1974 while serving as an MIT professor in humanities. “It’s hard to overstate the excitement of discovering Shakespeare through the work with Murray,” said Rothstein. “He knows Shakespeare very well, and he comes from a performance perspective.”
Unlike other directors, Biggs typically rehearses plays in parts, with the full play assembled only in the last couple weeks before the performance. As a result, the actors often experience the play as it happens.
For King John, Biggs is conducting nearly 30 one-hour rehearsals over the phone because the cast resides around the country. The actors will meet in person for the first time in early June to put everything together.
“At age eighteen I thought I knew everything about acting,” recalls Rothstein of his very first performance with Biggs. “It turned out I didn’t know as much as I thought. I learned a tremendous amount under him at MIT."
Under Biggs’ direction at the MIT Shakespeare Ensemble, Rothstein performed in five Shakespeare plays. Rothstein graduated with a degree in mathematics and went on to act with several Shakespearian theater companies and then in graduate school.
By day, Rothstein is a math professor at the University of Georgia. “On the surface, they are quite separate,” he says of the connections between his mathematical research and theater work. “Yet they have a common creative source, and the process of inquiry is much the same for both.”
Reserve your tickets for King John at MIT’s Little Kresge Theater. Performances are on Saturday, June 10 at 3:00 p.m. or Sunday, June 11, at 3:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.