A few thoughts about Antony and Cleopatra

Antony and Cleopatra, as far as we know, first appeared in print in the 1623 Folio. There is little we can say for certain about what marks William Shakespeare actually put on the page. Scholars have argued over drunken typesetters and Hand A, Hand B, etc. for decades. I think it’s fair to say that the prevailing consensus now is that Shakespeare himself punctuated very lightly. Much of the punctuation in a script you might see today was added by typesetters or by editors working on the text in the past 400 years. With that in mind, it’s rather odd to think about the big, bloody comma in the 1623 title page of the play: “The Tragedie of Anthonie, and Cleopatra.” In all likelihood, that comma was stuck in between those two names without any thought. It does not appear on the remaining pages (the title appears at the top of each page). But there is, in my mind, a truth to that division.

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I’ve always seen this as Cleopatra’s play. Peter Brook observed that many Victorian actors felt the same, and that’s one reason why the play fell out of favor during the Victorian era. No actor worth his salt wanted to be upstaged by AN ACTRESS (although Antony is the larger of the two roles). Brook suggests that rather than a man in decline, as is often the preconception, Antony is a man at his peak who is required to give one hundred percent to two different worlds, and manages to do so for a while.

It is true that almost everything she says or does relates to Antony in some way. Yet, I think the reverse is also true. Antony’s heart is tied to her by the strings. Even when he goes off to war (which are the moments where he isn’t talking about Cleopatra), those wars are for her, as her soldier-servant. Their love is such that neither of them can really fully commit their faculties to their day job. And once Antony dies, there is a change in Cleopatra. Antony’s end is pathetic. Cleopatra’s death is transcendent. He loses. She wins.

Harold Goddard said that “if one were asked to select the play of Shakespeare’s that best represents all aspects of his genius and preserves the most harmonious balance among them, Antony and Cleopatra would be the inevitable choice.” While most of his works or love dramas or power dramas, A&C is the one play in which they are “completely fused.” There are moments of comedy inextricably would into the serious moments of the play. Even Antony and Cleopatra seem themselves to be inextricable from one another. Observe how often one of them uses a word or phrase that the other picks up later.

It’s a shame that Antony and Cleopatra isn’t done more often. It’s a truly masterful piece.

Antony and Cleopatra cast

Thanks to everyone who auditioned. Poor Shadows is pleased to announce the cast of Antony and Cleopatra.

Travis Bedard: Lepidus/Clown/Demetrius/Scarus
Bridget Farias: Cleopatra
Kevin Gates: Antony
Becky Musser: Charmian
Stephanie Monica Nelson: Iras
Weldon Phillips: Soothsayer
Charles P. Stites: Caesar
Hallie Strange: Attendant
Deb Streusand: Alexas/Decretas/Euphronius
Heath Thompson: Enobarbus

Antony and Cleopatra

We’re happy to announce that our next production, Antony and Cleopatra, will be directed by Joe Falocco. Joe has an MFA in Performance from Roosevelt University and he received his Ph.D. from UNC-Greensboro. He directed The Comedy of Errors for the Shakespeare Festival of Arkansas; The Merry Wives of Windsor for the Wimberley Players; and University productions of Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Macbeth. He has also acted for the Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wisconsin Shakespeare Festivals and the Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern, in addition to spending a year on tour with the Shenandoah Shakespeare Express. Joe teaches Shakespeare in Performance at Texas State University, and is the author of Reimagining Shakespeare’s Playhouse: Early Modern Staging Conventions in the Twentieth Century.

We are also thrilled to announce that the play will be performed at Richard and Laetitia Garriott’s Curtain Theatre the first three weekends of May.

Audition dates will be announced soon. Bridget Farias will play Cleopatra and Kevin Gates will play Antony. All other roles are open.

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Gallathea photos

St. David's logoOur production of John Lyly’s Gallathea opened this week. Here are a few images.

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Rachel Steed-Redig as Phillida and Kristin Hall as Gallathea.

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Mario Silva as Cupid (disguised as a nymph).

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Bridget Farias (Diana), Christina Peppas (Venus), and Emily Gilardi (Neptune).

Director Kevin Gates talks about Gallathea

Although Gallathea is interesting on its own, I’m personally really interested in the history of the work. I see it as a link between one of the most popular plays of the Italian Renaissance and some of the most popular plays of the English Renaissance.Image

 

(Rachel Steed-Redig as Phillida, and Kristin Hall as Gallathea. Photo by Bridget Farias.)

Torquato Tasso is best known for his poetry and his insanity. He died only a few days before he was to be crowned “king of the poets” by the Pope. His poetry is largely forgotten in the English-speaking world, but his legacy still lives in our collective consciousness. In 1573, Tasso’s play, Aminta, was performed before the Duke of Ferrara. This pastoral play is extremely difficult to stage effectively, because much of the dialogue describes action that occurred offstage. The play features nymphs and satyrs, Cupid and Venus. If I were to try to describe what the play is about in one sentence, it would be something along the lines of, “What is the true nature of love?”

In 1588, John Lyly’s play, Gallathea, was performed before Queen Elizabeth I by the Children of Paul’s. Gallathea features nymphs, Cupid, and Venus, and asks the same question. The action of the two plays are different, and Gallathea is much more English in its approach, since it features a comic subplot, but the theme, setting, and characters of the two plays are very similar.

I decided to direct Gallathea for Poor Shadows primarily because it was the opposite of our last production, Richard II, in many ways (it’s a comedy, in verse, with many substantial female roles). But possibly the most rewarding thing for me about digging into this text has been discovering the echoes of this play in later works by Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Scholars have compared parts of the play to The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and As You Like It. Parts of this play also call to my mind Romeo and Juliet (the fathers remind me of Capulet and Montague), Love’s Labour’s Lost (lovers hiding and listening to another confess their love in a soliloquy), and Twelfth Night (Toby and Andrew discussing which signs of the zodiac rule which parts of the body). And obviously, the Alchemist and his boy, and their lists of spirits and bodies, call to mind Jonson’s play on the subject.

At first blush, Gallathea is very light and not very deep, but there’s one aspect of the play that I think defies that impression. (SPOILER ALERT) To escape the curse of Neptune, two young virgins are disguised by their fathers as boys. The two girls meet in the woods and, each thinking the other to be a boy, fall in love. In the final scene, when they discover they’re both girls, the reaction of the bystanders is predictable. But the reactions of the two girls are surprising. Diana tells them they must “leave these fond affections,” and Gallathea replies, “I will never love any but Phillida.” Phillida agrees. “Nor I any but Gallathea.” Their love is based on something deeper than gender. Although the social order might not approve (Venus says she’ll change one of them into a boy), neither of the girls cares, as long as they can be together. It’s the viewpoint of the two girls that I find so interesting in this play, and I’ve tried to enhance the focus on that element in our show.

The Early Modern English drama is my area of interest, so, of course, I find this play really interesting for many reasons. But I think our show will still be very entertaining for regular, non-nerdy people, too.

Gallathea opens January 3rd

John Lyly’s GALLATHEA is a slapstick, Elizabethan, cross-dressing, lesbian fairy tale. Don’t miss it!

January 3-19 (Friday, Saturday evenings 8pm, Sundays 2pm)
Buy tickets now at:

http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/539643

Trinity Street Players Theatre (901 Trinity Street, 4th Floor).  January 3-19 (Fridays, Saturdays 8pm. Sundays 2pm)

We would like to thanks St. David’s Episcopal Church for their help in making this production possible!St. David's logo

By bridgetfarias
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Blackfriars Conference 2013

Artistic Director, Kevin Gates, and Production Manager, Bridget Farias, attended the 2013 Blackfriars Conference.  It was glorious. We cannot wait to share some of the great things we learned with our fellow artists, as well as trying out some of the staging techniques with our next production, Gallathea

By bridgetfarias