The St. Louis Shakespeare Festival, a recipient of operating support from the Arts and Education Council, announced that Tony, Emmy and Grammy award-winner André De Shields (Broadway: “Hadestown”, “The Wiz”, “Ain’t Misbehavin”) will star in “King Lear” as part of its 21st summer of free Shakespeare in Forest Park. The June 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).

Director Carl Cofield said in a statement, “‘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.”

“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.

The Festival’s 2021 Season will also include a new outdoor touring production of Othello that will visit 24 public parks across the metro area and three outdoor performances of “Shakespeare in the Streets: The Ville” in one of the most historically significant Black communities in America. The Festival also announced the second Confluence New Play Festival and members of the third Regional Writers Cohort. Courtney Bailey (St. Louis, MO), Melda Beaty (Chicago, IL) and Delaney Piggins (St. Louis, MO) were chosen to help foster a regional culture of playwriting as the 2021 cohort of the Confluence Regional Writers Project. Applications for a six-month Directors Fellowship are also being accepted through March 26.

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.