King's Crown Shakespeare Troupe

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King's Crown Shakespeare Troupe
Founded: 1995
Recognition: ABC
Membership: ~30
Executive Board: 4, all positions inherited, shows chosen by all members who participated in 2 or more plays in any capacity
Category: Performance
Contact: usually at 1020 on Wednesdays

The King's Crown Shakespeare Troupe (or KCST for short) is a performing arts group dedicated primarily to performing free Shakespeare plays on Columbia's campus. The group produces four shows a year (two in the fall, two in the spring). Its primary claim to fame is its outdoor show in the spring of every school year. Other notable shows include the fall one-acts organized every other year and the Egg And Peacock festival of plays written, cast, directed and performed in a 24-hour time span.


KCST was founded in 1995 as a friendlier alternative to the Varsity Show, which was then notorious for its insularity and elitism. The founding members laid down the central tenets of the troupe as follows:

  • All shows shall be free of charge (donations are accepted after the show).
  • Everyone who auditions for the spring show will be cast. As a result, the spring outdoor show often features an ensemble, similar to the the Varsity Show's chorus, albeit one with no limits on membership.

Although, at the time, KCST set itself up in direct opposition to the Varsity Show, with a smaller budget and bigger heart, relations between the two groups have since become amicable, due to actor crossover and a general breakdown in the cliquishness of Columbia theater, e.g. 2009's Julius Caesar featured Tobin Mitnick and Will Snider, actors from the previous year's Varsity Show, while the 115th Varsity Show was directed by Thomas Anawalt and co-written by Sam Reisman, both of whom have performed in KCST productions.

KCST's alums have gone on to varied careers, and many of them are very successful members of the theater scene downtown, Julliard/Yale Drama grads, high-powered lawyers, etc (although, perhaps ironically, their most famous members were bit players in 2003's "Romeo & Juliet": Ezra and Rostam of Vampire Weekend).

While KCST has been criticized for its commitment to producing Shakespeare, in recent years, they have produced works by such diverse playwrights as Charles Mee, Steve Martin, and Tom Stoppard. However, CU Players was established following frustration with the lack of a non-specialized straight drama group on campus, citing KCST as the prime example, since their budget is always primarily devoted to the spring outdoor show and it often balks at straight drama, preferring experimental works such as bobrauchenbergamerica or the black comedy WASP to pair off with the major shows.


King's Crown's shows are famous for their wild and often innovative directorial choices, such as setting "Hamlet" in a nightmarish post-apocalyptic world (including a climactic chain-and-pipe fight in the pouring rain), casting a woman as the title character in "Richard III," or decking out the actors in "Troilus and Cressida" as football players.

As a group dedicated to non-elitist work, their casts often include first-years in starring roles alongside seniors and several grad students. "Pulling rank" is frowned upon, and attempts are made to avoid performers falling into "stock roles" (i.e., actors like Peter Mende-Siedlecki, known best for their comedy work, get cast as things like Horatio in "Hamlet," to great effect).

No group is without regulars. The KCST crowd can often be seen at 1020 or La Negrita on Wednesday nights for their famous "office hours," often commiserating with the various burnt-out Varsity Show participants.

Traditional Rules & Spin-Offs

King's Crown's "official" and "unofficial" rules are nebulous, often resulting in "traditions" that are enforced to varying degrees. KCST almost always categorically rejects plays performed on-campus within the last five years. Despite criticism of "amateurism," KCST's board traditionally requests its directors and producers aim to be open to the entire community, voting down proposals it sees as "closed" in nature. Rancorous arguments have erupted at proposal meetings over issues of projects with ostensibly "clearer visions" being tagged as "designed for only a small circle of theater kids to have a shot at participating." The trade-off, resulting in well-known student actors, technicians, producers and directors frequently making their "starts" in KCST and often remaining "loyal" despite later offers from the Varsity Show or other teams, while groups such as CU Players permit their project leaders to exert nearly-autonomous control over their productions, causes no end of hand-wringing amongst the board during proposals season.

As KCST grew more established, attempts at building continuity gradually became traditions: the Fall One-Act Extravaganza, held every other year, is entering its seventh season, while the Egg And Peacock Festival, brainchild of Abigail Broberg and Rosalind Grush, occurred nearly every spring the pair were present at Columbia, with followers and admirers pushing for a lift on SDA's moratorium on new performing arts groups to permit Egg and Peacock's independent continuation in 2008 without surrendering KCST's invaluable slot in the Lerner Black Box for the Spring semester.

List of productions

As its name suggests, KCST is devoted primarily to producing plays written by William Shakespeare. To date, KCST has performed eleven tragedies, nine comedies, two romances, and one history. Despite the breadth of the Shakespearean cannon, some of the better known plays have seen multiple productions. "Hamlet," "Much Ado About Nothing," "King Lear," "Romeo & Juliet," "As You Like It," and "Macbeth" have all been performed twice.

In all fifteen years of its existence, KCST has only performed one full history: "Richard III" in 2006. (An abridgment of "King John" was part of the One-Act Extravaganza in the Fall of that year.) Its drought of romances, or "late-era" Shakespeare where distinctions between comedy and tragedy become blurred, ended in the Fall of 2008 when "The Winter's Tale" joined "The Tempest"; this continued into 2010, when KCST produced "Measure for Measure" for the first time, and it can be said now that such late-era plays have become a normal part of KCST's rotation. (The famously vexing "Pericles" has never been proposed according to extant records; "Cymbeline" was considered and rejected several times.)

Academic year Spring production(s) Fall production(s)
2011-2012 A Midsummer Night's Dream; Egg and Peacock 24-Hour Play Festival VII Hamlet; Alice in Wonderland
2010-2011 The Taming of the Shrew; Egg and Peacock 24-Hour Play Festival VI Coriolanus; Macbeth
2009-2010 Measure for Measure; Egg and Peacock 24-Hour Play Festival V Othello; Family and Other Strangers: Edward Albee's "The American Dream" and "The Zoo Story"
2008-2009 Julius Caesar; Egg and Peacock 24-Hour Play Festival IV The Winter's Tale; Fall One-Act Play Extravaganza, Vol. VII
2007-2008 As You Like It; Egg and Peacock 24-Hour Play Festival III King Lear; The Real Inspector Hound (w/ Aporia)
2006-2007 Much Ado About Nothing; Egg and Peacock 24-Hour Play Festival II Fall One-Act Play Extravaganza, Vol. VI; bobrauschenbergamerica
2005-2006 Richard III; Egg And Peacock 24-Hour Play Festival I The Merchant of Venice; WASP
2004-2005 Hamlet; Kaspar Fall One-Act Play Extravaganza, Vol. V
2003-2004 The Tempest Romeo and Juliet
2002-2003 Taming of the Shrew Fall One-act Play Extravaganza, Vol. IV
2001-2002 King Lear The Comedy of Errors
2000-2001 Twelfth Night Fall One-act Play Extravaganza, Vol. III
1999-2000 A Midsummer Night's Dream Troilus and Cressida
1998-1999 Hamlet Fall One-act Play Extravaganza, Vol. II
1997-1998 Much Ado About Nothing Fall One-act Play Extravaganza, Vol. I
1996-1997 As You Like It Macbeth
1995-1996 Macbeth The Marriage of Bette and Boo
Spring 1995 Romeo and Juliet

Shows not yet performed:

Comedy (incl. Romance; Problem Plays) Tragedy History
Two Gentlemen of Verona Titus Andronicus Henry VI (Parts 1, 2 or 3)
Love's Labour's Lost Antony & Cleopatra King John (in full - excerpted 2006)
The Merry Wives of Windsor Timon of Athens Richard II
All's Well That Ends Well Henry IV (Parts 1 or 2)
Pericles, Prince of Tyre Henry V
Cymbeline Henry VIII
The Two Noble Kinsmen (mostly a John Fletcher work) Edward III (of dubious authorship)
Double Falsehood (possibly a vers. of the lost Cardenio)

External links