André De Shields, Brian Anthony Wilson, Allen Gilmore, J. Samuel Davis, Nicole King, Rayme Cornell, Jacqueline Thompson, Daniel José Molina, Leland Fowler and More Set for Carl Cofield Helmed KING LEAR at The St. Louis Shakespeare Festival in Forest Park, June 2-27

André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

Tony, Emmy and Grammy award-winner André De Shields (Broadway: Hadestown, The Wiz, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Play On!, The Full Monty) will star in King Lear as part of The St. Louis Shakespeare Festival’s 21st summer of free Shakespeare in Forest Park. The production marks the theater’s return to live outdoor performance, one of the first scheduled in the country. King Lear will be directed by Carl Cofield (Associate Artistic Director of the Classical Theatre of Harlem) and begins previews on Wednesday, June 2, with an opening night set for Friday, June 4 at 8:00 pm, and play through June 27 to strictly limited capacity crowds.

“André is a national treasure and one of the most extraordinary theatrical artists alive,” said producing artistic director Tom Ridgely in a statement. “And Lear is the Everest of Shakespeare’s tragic roles. To see it played by an actor of his caliber in a setting as stunning as Forest Park after the year we’ve all been through, will be the thrill of a lifetime. And Carl Cofield’s vision for how the play speaks to a 21st century America is both bracing and brilliant. We couldn’t be more proud to welcome them and the incredible company they’ve assembled to St. Louis.” King Lear is considered by many to be Shakespeare’s greatest – and most modern – masterpiece. A richly imaginative story of love, loyalty and unfathomable loss, it depicts a family and a nation torn apart and turned against itself by disastrous leadership. After the aging king’s plan to divide his kingdom equally among his daughters goes horribly awry, he’s cast out into the most famous storm in all of drama. By turns shocking and profound, Lear paints an unforgettable picture of human endurance pushed to the absolute limit by nature, violence and its own vanity.

André De Shields heads an all-BIPOC company featuring some of the finest actors out of New York, Chicago and St. Louis. He is joined by Brian Anthony Wilson (“The Wire,” “The Sopranos”) as Gloucester, acclaimed Chicago and Shakespearean actor Allen Gilmore as the Fool and St. Louis legend J. Samuel Davis as Kent. The three daughters will be played by Nicole King (Cordelia) and Festival favorites Rayme Cornell (Goneril) and Jacqueline Thompson (Regan). Daniel José Molina (Oregon Shakespeare Festival) and Leland Fowler (TFANA) will play Gloucester’s sons Edgar and Edmund, respectively. The company also includes Jason J. Little (Albany), Carl Overly, Jr. (Cornwall) and Michael Tran (Oswald), as well as an ensemble of actors from The Black Rep’s Professional Internship Program: Kentrell Jamison, Theorri London, Brian McKinley, Tyler White and Christina Yancy. Click here for bios.

Click here for bios.

Carl Cofield

“We are in a global reckoning with where we want to go and who we want to be,” said director Carl Cofield in a statement. “‘We See You White American Theater’ is the current zeitgeist. For me, this chance to do King Lear with André in a bold, vibrant reimagining speaks directly to 13-year-old Carl and seeing Brown and Black people at the forefront. To bring this story in this way to St. Louis audiences is something I’m tremendously excited by.”

The creative team for King Lear includes first-time Festival designers Wilson Chin (Scenic Design), Mika Eubanks (Costume Design) and David R. Molina (Music and Sound Design). John Wylie (Lighting Design) will return for his fourteenth season.

Performances in Shakespeare Glen are free and open to the public but for the first time will be limited in size to ensure the safety of staff, artists and audience. More details, including how to make a reservation, will be announced soon and will adhere strictly to City of St. Louis official health guidelines. Visit for up-to-date information.

The St. Louis Shakespeare Festival’s 2021 season is funded in part by the Missouri Foundation for Health, Bayer Fund, Regional Arts Commission, Arts Midwest, The Trio Foundation of St. Louis, the Missouri Arts Council and The Gertrude and William A. Bernoudy Foundation.

André De Shields to Star in The St. Louis Shakespeare Festival’s KING LEAR, Jun. 2- Jun. 27 

American Theatre: St. Louis Shakespeare Festival Announces Summer Season

Playbill: Hadestown Tony Winner André De Shields to Play King Lear for St. Louis Shakespeare Festival 

TheaterMania: André Robin De Shields to Play King Lear for St. Louis Shakespeare FestivalThis Summer 

Broadwayworld: André De Shields to Star in The St. Louis Shakespeare Festival’s KING LEAR as Part of its 2021 Summer Season Tony winner André De Shields will lead Shakespeare Festival’s ‘King Lear’ in Forest Park

St. Louis Business Journal: St. Louis Shakespeare Festival returns with new production in Forest Park

Lia Chang
Lia Chang

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman. She stars in and served as Executive Producer for the short independent films Hide and Seek, Balancing Act, Rom-Com Gone Wrong, Belongingness and When the World was Young. She is also the Executive Producer for The Cactus, The Language Lesson, The Writer and Cream and 2 Shugahs.

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