When Suffolk University Economics Professor David G. Tuerck was asked to participate in a panel discussion about the limits of executive power following a reading of William Shakespeare’s Richard II, he was intrigued.

“I didn’t know the play well,” said Tuerck, who is chair of the Economics Department and executive director of the Beacon Hill Institute. “But when I read it, I found the parallels between Richard II and Obama I, quite striking.”

The reading, part of the 12th annual Shakespeare and...the Law Series, will be held at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17, in the Modern Theatre at Suffolk University and is co-sponsored by Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, the law firm McCarter & English LLP, the Boston Lawyer’s Chapter of the Federalist Society and Suffolk University.

The performers include some of Boston’s most prominent lawyers–including former federal judge Nancy Gertner as Richard II–and will be hosted by C. Boydon Gray, former White House Counsel to President George H.W. Bush.

Shakespeare’s history play, written around 1595, traces the downfall of Richard II, whose abuse of executive power is his undoing.

Tuerck will join Professor Rachael Cobb, chair of the Government Department, and Edward Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a contributor to National Review Online’s Bench Memos, for a conversation following the reading that will focus on the political and legal consequences when a president attempts to impose his will by exceeding his constitutional powers and subverting the law.

The issue of the expansion of the executive power has been at the forefront of Constitutional debates since the end of the Cold War, according to Cobb.

“What’s fascinating about Shakespeare is that he has the amazing ability to touch all the key human questions as well as the political questions,” she said.

Marilyn Plotkins, chair of the Theatre Department, says she’s very excited about the interdisciplinary conversation and said the availability of the Modern Theatre “allows us to engage in local partnerships with great local companies like Commonwealth Shakespeare Company.”

Plotkins says she worked with Commonwealth Shakespeare artistic director Steve Maler on a theater project last summer.

“That experience was so terrific; we were eager to find other projects to work on together,” says Plotkins.

While Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, McCarter & English and the Boston Lawyer’s Chapter of the Federalist Society cast the reading with local judges and lawyers, Plotkins says Jim Kaufman and Abbie Katz of the Theatre Department looked across disciplines within the University to see who would be well suited to contribute to the event.

In addition to the College faculty participating in the discussion, a member of the Suffolk University Law School adjunct faculty, Daniel J. Kelly, will play a role in the reading. Kelly is a partner with McCarter & English.

“What’s fun about this program is that wonderful people are drawn to it, perhaps because lawyers have to be theatrical in their work,” says Plotkins.

The Theatre Department also has a collaboration with the Sawyer Business School in the works: Shakespeare and Leadership.