Five Fun Facts about She Stoops to Conquer

Five Fun Facts about She Stoops to Conquer

  1. INSPIRED BY TRUE EVENTS She Stoops To Conquer may be based on playwright Oliver Goldsmith’s personal life experience. According to a letter written by his sister, on his way home from college, Goldsmith stumbled into a bar and demanded a man tell him directions to “the best inn in the neighborhood.” Unfortunately for Goldsmith, he was talking to the local trickster Cornelius Kelly, who directed him to Squire Featherstone’s country house. When Goldsmith arrived, he was just as insulting and demanding as the aristocratic character Marlow is in the play. Like Marlow, Goldsmith didn’t realize his mistake until he requested the bill and was embarrassed to discover that the host was a friend of his father’s. 

     

    2. BEYOND RESTORATION COMEDY She Stoops to Conquer appeared in the late 18th century (1773) as a comedy of manners that mocks its predecessors. With this play, Goldsmith achieved a parody of the melancholy, moralistic, and sentimental plays produced in backlash to the previous decades’ sexually frank Restoration plays. Many scholars consider She Stoops to Conquer a gateway to a new era of popular comedy, influenced by a changing society:  Goldsmith challenges the accepted hierarchies of the time period by blending wit with “low” humor, but still submits to them at the end.  Women may speak freely, and engage in repartee and intrigue, but in the end they consent to marry and confirm patriarchal values.
      1.  

3. DANGEROUSLY FUNNY  She Stoops to Conquer was originally rejected by London’s famous Covent Garden and Drury Lane theatres because it didn’t conform to the theatrical fashion of the times for sentimental comedy and melodrama. Covent Garden Theatre’s manager, George Coleman, was persuaded by Goldsmith’s creditable friend Samuel Johnson (the poet and playwright) to stage the play, but Coleman demanded many revisions. Goldsmith later sent thanks to Johnson in a letter describing his anxiety about the script.

4. TRY, TRY AGAIN The play was born out of financial necessity. Oliver Goldsmith was a very generous man who liked to have a good time. He was a lavish gambler and would give to others, beyond his financial means. His first play, The Good Natur’d Man, was only moderately successful. She Stoops to Conquer, his second attempt at play writing, was a critical and financial success, finally getting Goldsmith out of debt. Published in London in 1773, its first print run of 4,000 copies sold out in three days.

5. BACKSTAGE DRAMA The opening night of She Stoops to Conquer started as a train wreck. The leading ladies Mrs. Green (playing Mrs. Hardcastle) and Mrs. Bulkely (playing the daughter, Kate Hardcastle) got into a fight over who would perform the Epilogue (a feminized parody of Shakespeare’s famous Seven Ages of Man monologue from As You Like It). Meanwhile, Goldsmith decided seconds before the curtain speech to change the title of the play from the simplistic, laughable Mistakes of a Night to the more intriguing She Stoops to Conquer. Despite the drama behind the scenes, the comedy She Stoops to Conquer was a triumph when it opened March 15, 1773. Since that time, the play has been one of the most staged and printed English comedies; there have been more than 300 editions since the 1770s.

Sources:  British Library, Kate Moncrief (Dramaturg for our production); Diane Maybank’s essays,  An Introduction to She Stoops to Conquer,  and  An Introduction to Restoration Comedy.

Click here for tickets and details about our production of She Stoops to Conquer.

An Introduction to She Stoops to Conquer

Oliver Goldsmith published several critiques of audiences and playwrights before writing a laughing comedy that was the triumph of its season and that continues to be performed today. Diane Maybank introduces She Stoops to Conquer, which uses satire to explore divisions between city and countryside, men and women, and rich and poor. Source:  The British Library (June 2018)

By Diane Maybank

Did Oliver Goldsmith once mistake a gentleman’s house for an inn and use the experience to shape the comic mayhem at the heart of She Stoops to Conquer?

His biographers accept the story as told by his sister Catherine, even though she wrote it down some 40 years after the event. Catherine’s account has a rather gauche Goldsmith riding in style to his home in Lissoy, Co Westmeath, Ireland. He is tasting freedom at the end of a long school term and burning to spend the guinea in his pocket. He soon tires on the badly rutted roads and loses his way. On reaching the outskirts of Ardagh he unknowingly falls in with a local trickster, Cornelius Kelly, and demands to be directed to ‘the best inn in the neighbourhood’. Kelly takes great satisfaction in directing the high-handed youth to Squire Featherstone’s rambling country house. Goldsmith is a very demanding guest, every bit as officious and insulting as Marlow, who is one of the play’s main characters. When he calls for the bill next morning he is deeply embarrassed to discover his mistake. To make matters worse, Goldsmith realizes that his host is an old friend of his father, and word of his behaviour is bound to get back to his parents sooner than he will.

Staging She Stoops to Conquer

In early 1772, many years after the Ardagh incident, Goldsmith presented George Coleman, manager of Covent Garden Theatre, with a challenge – the script of She Stoops to Conquer. Coleman’s mission was to stage sentimental comedies, make a handsome profit and avoid offending critics and the Lord Chamberlain. All his professional instincts told him that this new play would fail. Its ‘low’ features and clever parody of sentimental comedy were completely out of touch with the latest trends. He returned the script and suggested ‘improvements’.

Goldsmith grew desperate; he had debts to pay off and was looking for a quick profit. There were only two official theatres in London at the time, leading to fierce competition and risk-averse production choices. Coleman was especially reluctant to stage a new play because Goldsmith would have to be paid out of the profits and might be entitled to a benefit night where he could scoop all the takings.

Although poor and something of an Irish outsider, Goldsmith could call upon the support of powerful friends from London’s literary elite. Samuel Johnson, among others, pressed Coleman to accept the script, and by March 4, 1773 the play was in rehearsal, with a date set for its premiere within two weeks.

Coleman had difficulty casting the play. Actors sensed the manager’s lack of faith and did not want to be associated with the ‘low’ Tony Lumpkin or Kate, the squire’s daughter who liked playing the barmaid. On the opening night the leading ladies squabbled over who should speak the Epilogue, and the indecisive Goldsmith took until just before curtain-up to change the play’s title from the simply farcical Mistakes of a Night to the more intriguing She Stoops to Conquer.

Despite the tussles behind the scenes, She Stoops to Conquer was a triumph when it opened on March 15th, quickly becoming the season’s favourite play. Critics heaped on praise, even though the audience hissed at the ‘vulgar manner’ in which Mrs. Hardcastle emerged from the horsepond. No matter – the witticisms sounded fresh, and the piled-on misunderstandings were deemed a gift for comic actors.

Coleman relented as profits grew, and the play became his ‘go to’ choice whenever he felt his company needed a boost or rival productions at Drury Lane were exciting too much interest. The king and queen attended on May 5th, and Goldsmith got not one but three benefit nights, for which he received the handsome sum of £502 18s 6d.

There was more to this moment of theatrical triumph than the emergence of a hit play. She Stoops to Conquer had broken the bonds of sentimental comedy and shown how superior laughing comedy could be. For Goldsmith, it was the crowning moment of an all too short career. His comic genius received the public recognition and rewards he craved, but he died a year later.

In the last quarter of the 18th century, some 12,000 Londoners attended a play or opera every week. This was a socially mixed and very demanding clientele with strong ideas about how they wanted to be entertained. Goldsmith had a low opinion of theatre audiences, a view which he expressed in a series of satirical letters written under the penname Lien Chi Altangi, a Chinese philosopher visiting London.

In Letter XXI Lien Chi complains that the upper gallery crowd was too noisy and given to interrupting the actors by calling for music or some other diversion. He portrays the middle gallery ‘eating oranges or making assignations’. He disliked the pit crowd most of all because they sat in judgement over ‘poet and the performers’. As for the aristocrats in the side boxes, they were not interested in the play at all, being engrossed in their fashionable clothes, fans and flirtations. This diverse and unruly audience would hiss, clap, cheer and shout insults, creating a din which left Lien Chi ‘quite dizzy’.

‘Low’ or laughing comedy

Writing ‘low’ or laughing comedy came naturally to Goldsmith, because it gave him free reign to express his contempt for the hypocrisy of polite society. In January 1773 he published “An Essay on the Theatre”; or, “A Comparison between Laughing and Sentimental Comedy”, in which he made the case for the superiority of laughing comedy.

Goldsmith argued that the proper target of satire should be human folly in characters from all social classes. Comedy should concentrate on exposing vice and gulling fools, rather than lamenting the plight of genteel folk in distress. If playwrights only allowed wholesome characters on stage, who uttered emotional platitudes, audiences would be weepy, unamused and none the wiser. Goldsmith used the Constance/Hastings subplot to expose all the clichés of sentimental comedy. At the same time, he provoked thoughts about personal liberty, women’s agency and parental responsibility that revitalized a tired storyline. There is laughter, but there are also bruised emotions, sad partings and anxiety for the audience to contend with.

Like his heroine Kate, Goldsmith was brave enough to stoop to expose hypocrisy. He took risks with ‘low’ features: Tony’s glee at his mother’s drenching in the horsepond, barmaid Kate’s flirtatious ways, Marlow’s frank disclosure of his sexual adventures. To these he added the gulling of gentlemen and an interest in scripting rural dialect. He presented the Three Pigeons alehouse as a world of vigorous, authentic experience, unshackled from the concerns with outward appearance, social class and inheritance that beset the manor house. Goldsmith’s most daring idea was to place Tony and Kate in lowly positions where they suffer abuse but find ways to achieve their personal goals. By giving Tony equal prominence with the lovers, he fostered an acting style that was more natural and forthright than Georgian etiquette would normally have tolerated.

The city versus the countryside

She Stoops to Conquer was written during a time when England was going through rapid, unstoppable social and economic change, fueled by the Industrial Revolution. Cities increased in importance, and the size and power of the middle classes grew. If you were a factory owner, merchant or banker you prospered; if you lived in the countryside you felt your traditional way of life was under threat. The play put its finger on the pulse of change by holding up a destabilizing mirror to all that was considered enduring in family, courtship, marriage, class and wealth. A lot of unease must have piqued the laughter at Covent Garden.

Explicitly political content in plays had been effectively banned since the Licensing Act of 1737, yet the theatre was still a place where new ideas and subversive opinions could be aired. When Hardcastle calls his home ‘Liberty Hall’ (2.1.178) and Marlow’s servant shouts out ‘liberty and Fleet Street forever! Though I’m but a servant, I’m as good as another man’ (4.1.135–36), it is possible that Goldsmith was evoking the rallying cry of radical politician John Wilkes, whose supporters would have been in the audience. Wilkes had been elected to Parliament but prevented by law from taking his seat in 1768–69. His followers circulated pamphlets calling for an end to corrupt government.

Meanwhile, within the squire’s house other kinds of liberties are being sought and taken amidst a general subversion of the status quo. Parents are disrespected, ancient property rights are challenged, wives and servants disobey their masters, sons and daughters make free with the class structure and family heirlooms are passed around like highwaymen’s booty.

The play presents the values of city life and the countryside as deeply at odds with each other. Hardcastle’s house is ‘old-fashioned’ and ‘rambling’ (1.1.22, 16), because he lacks the wealth to invest in it. Had he been more enterprising he could have opened his home as an upmarket inn and got a share of the fortunes being made in the liquor trade (2.1.230–34). Instead, he despises London’s modernizing trends and outward shows of gentility, preferring ‘everything that’s old’ (1.1.23). Mrs. Hardcastle has a huge appetite for London fashions, but her understanding is flawed, and her desires are ludicrous and superficial.

The pair preside over a manor house muddled by the fog of deception and misunderstanding, where attempts to be genteel give way to farce and burlesque. Hardcastle does not perceive that his house has been recast as a wayside inn by a pair of city blades on the make. He fails to take proper care of Tony and Constance, allowing them to be trapped by his wife’s snobbery and greed. Goldsmith was taking a considerable risk in making this dysfunctional family the butt of his humour. For the previous 100 years country squires had been counted upon as the backbone of England. They owned much of the land and wielded considerable local power.

Class and social mobility

New wealth made in manufacturing was making social mobility possible, however. She Stoops to Conquer welcomes that possibility in its very title and takes the bold step of making a woman its chief exponent. Kate relishes playing women from three classes in her quest for a husband. Her mobility may be temporary and risky, but its effects are liberating. Hardcastle and Tony, meanwhile, are more comfortable with servants and rustics than with their social equals.

When Marlow and Hastings first appear at the Three Pigeons (2.1.82) the stage falls silent as both sides of the class divide take in a powerful sense of difference. Their travelling attire indicates their social status but also their vulnerability; they are coach travelers who have wandered into a situation where they could be gulled by rustics. Their upper-class sense of entitlement at first asserts itself. They whine, they judge, they show contempt for everything; but the manor house slowly emasculates them. Marlow becomes everybody’s fool, and Hastings’s plans are continually thwarted. Meanwhile, the London audience is teased with talk of a countryside full of confusion and menace, with its gibbets (from which the bodies of executed criminals were hung on public display) and bloodcurdling place names (such as ‘Crackskull Common’, 1.2.142 and 5.2.70–71).

Georgian England was a place where strict rules of etiquette and dress defined your class identity. There was a growing feeling that too much attention paid to genteel behaviour risked trapping men in an overly feminized world where women, had the upper hand. For Marlow and Hastings, the masculine world of warfare has been replaced by the pursuit of women and fashionable clothing has become their battle garb (2.1.173–208). Hardcastle’s tales of military campaigns are simply an irrelevance to a city-bred generation who recoil at country fare, rough roads and makeshift beds.

Marlow and Kate: Gender and marriage

Audiences admired Goldsmith’s characterization of Marlow, finding in him a complexity that rang true. He is deeply conflicted by the dictates of the society he is born into, finding it hard to settle on his true nature. Gentlemen were expected to live a life bound by codes of class, manliness and honour. They were always on show and some clearly struggled with what was expected of them. For Marlow the marriage market holds only terror (2.1.118–32), yet he feels pressured to acquire a wife. The double standards he operates – deference towards ladies and lechery towards barmaids – were standard for the time, but change is in the air and the old certainties let him down badly. The advantages of class, gender and wealth should be enough to get Kate into bed, but she laughs at his efforts and, turns lust into love and finally, respect.

Kate persists with Marlow because she is a woman of complex desires. For young women such as Kate and Constance the best marriage was one that combined love with sound financial advantage. Both argue for some agency in the matter of courtship, something not always available to women in the late 18th century when, within the upper classes, arranged marriages were the norm. In their decisive and intelligent participation in the play’s love intrigues, Goldsmith makes their choices an inspiration for the increasing number of women in the audience.

She Stoops to Conquer continues to be performed to audience delight and critical acclaim because it is extremely funny and while deeply probing into the vagaries of our social nature.

Written by Diane Maybank

Diane Maybank BA. MA. taught English Language and Literature for over 35 years in schools and colleges in France, New Zealand and the UK. She now works as a freelance editor specializing in seventeenth and eighteenth-century drama. Her editions for the “Oxford Student Texts” series include Aphra Behn’s The Rover, William Congreve’s “The Way of the World”, George Farquhar’s “The Beaux Stratagem”, Oliver Goldsmith’s “She Stoops to Conquer” and Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s “The Rivals”.

Source: British Library

Click here for original article, which include links to additional images.

Click here for info on CSC’s production of She Stoops to Conquer.

The Diary of Anne Frank: Compelling, Controversial, Essential

Pages of the original red checkered diary of Anne Frank                                                                                         © Anne Frank House / Photographer: Cris Toala Olivares

By Arthur Hirsch
for Chesapeake Shakespeare Company

Through the pages of her diary written in hiding in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, Anne Frank made a powerful first impression on Shelly Mintz. The mere existence of a book about a Jewish girl like herself was striking to Mintz, at a time when characters who shared her background were hard to find in literature, movies, and theater. Across decades and miles, a girl in Paramus, N.J., connected with a girl who experienced the Holocaust.

That was in the mid-1960s, as Anne Frank posthumously was emerging as a global pop culture phenomenon. After The Diary of a Young Girl first appeared in English translation in 1952 – eventually becoming one of the most widely read books ever published – there followed a Broadway play, a movie, a museum in Amsterdam, TV productions, an array of Anne Frank-inspired musical compositions, fiction, biography, poems, dance performances, a Broadway revival with a revised script starring Natalie Portman, and who knows how many other theatrical productions.

In Spring 2019, the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company will perform the revised script of the play, The Diary of Anne Frank. Mintz, who is president of B’Nai Israel Congregation in Baltimore, will be there. She has revisited the diary many times since her first encounter, and the more she has learned, the more compelling Anne Frank seems. The more time that passes since World War II and the Holocaust, the more urgent seems the need for people to hear Frank’s words.

“It’s an eternal story that never stops being relevant,” said Mintz. “These days it seems more relevant than ever. There’s been such a rise in xenophobia, there’s been a rise in anti-Semitism. There’s so much happening in the world that seems to be separating people and sorting them into groups.”

The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company production will run from April 26 through May 26, 2019, ending just a few weeks before Anne Frank would have turned 90 years old. She died at age 15, in the late winter or early spring of 1945, at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in northern Germany. Her father Otto Frank was the sole Holocaust survivor among the eight people who hid in the rooms above his spice business between late spring 1942 and their arrest in August 1944. He arranged the publishing of her diary. He died at age 90 in 1980.

Visitors view copies of the book from around the world.                                                © Anne Frank House / Photographer: Cris Toala Olivares

Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s Founder and Artistic Director Ian Gallanar said he chose The Diary of Anne Frank for a few reasons, one being the theatre company’s mission to stage at least one classic work each season that is not just for adults.

“I’m very interested in theatre that families can see together, multigenerational theatre,” Gallanar said.

He also said that the story of the Holocaust “is maybe the most important 20th century historical story to keep alive. I take it to heart when people say how important it is to keep this story alive so people don’t forget.”

Indeed, members of B’Nai Israel and some who have taught the Holocaust say The Diary of Anne Frank only gains significance with the passing of time. A generation of survivors, military servicemen who liberated the camps, and other witnesses is passing on.

“If we don’t expose people to this, we are risking greater and greater chances for it to happen again,” said Louise Geczy, Senior Project Coordinator at the John Carroll School, a Catholic high school in Bel Air, Md., where she organizes a Holocaust education program.

Those concerned about fading historical memory could point to the results of a survey released this spring by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. The sample of 1,350 American adults recruited by telephone and online found that two-thirds of millennials and 41 percent of respondents overall could not correctly identify Auschwitz as either a concentration camp or an extermination camp.

The merits of The Diary of Anne Frank as a way to tell part of the story of the Holocaust, and as a work of dramatic literature, have been debated since it first appeared on Broadway in 1955. The play by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett was a commercial and critical success at the time, winning a Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

First print of “The Diary of Anne Frank” in Dutch, 1947 © Anne Frank House

Over the years, though, the original play has been much maligned. Critics have called it sentimental, its title character idealized from the complex person who emerges in the diary, its characters’ Jewish identity nearly removed. The play’s uplifting closing note of belief in humanity’s decency has been called unsuited to a story of people hiding from a genocidal campaign that slaughtered millions.

“One might wish that a happy ending could emerge from the Holocaust,” said Samuel Spinner, the Zelda and Myer Tandetnik Assistant Professor of Yiddish Language, Literature, and Culture at Johns Hopkins University, who recently taught a course on the Holocaust in literature and film. Given the magnitude of the calamity, however, and the deeply disturbing revelations about the human spirit that emerge from this history, Spinner said there is the point of view that “telling a story with a happy ending is not telling a Holocaust story.”

Jeanette Parmigiani, who directs Holocaust programs for the Baltimore Jewish Council, said she’s aware of the many critiques of The Diary of Anne Frank, but she still thinks it’s an effective way to introduce the subject to young people who might not be ready to confront the most horrifying aspects of the Nazi extermination program that targeted Jews and other minorities. Historians estimate that between 4.5 million and 6 million Jews were murdered.

“The students can identify with this girl,” said Parmigiani, adding that the book and the play are usually taught in middle school. “It doesn’t get into the graphics.”

The version of the play Chesapeake Shakespeare Company will perform is given credit for improving on the original in several ways. In her 1997 adaptation of the Goodrich and Hackett play, playwright Wendy Kesselman put more stress on the fact that the characters are Jewish, including scenes in which they sing or pray in Hebrew. Kesselman also included a passage that does not appear in the original play, in which Anne Frank talks directly to the audience about her sexual curiosity about another girl.

The uplifting line from the diary that appears as the original play’s next to last line –“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart”–appears in the adaptation, but not at the very end.

Instead, the new version ends with Otto Frank telling the audience what happened after the arrests, the deaths of the other seven people at several concentration camps, Anne Frank last seen by a friend at Bergen-Belsen “through the barbed wire, naked, her head shaved, covered with lice. ‘I don’t have anyone anymore,’ she weeps.”

The adaptation is one of several darker and more complex versions that have emerged after the diary was first published in Europe in 1947 under the direction of Otto Frank, who insisted that his daughter’s sexual thoughts and critical musings on other characters be edited out.

These complexities, said Mintz, makes Anne Frank, and the play, more interesting.

“Over the years she’s become less the icon and more real,” said Mintz. “Not just more Jewish, but more of a real girl.”

Museum presentation with photos of Anne Frank                                                                                                        © Anne Frank House / Photographer: Cris Toala Olivares

Arthur Hirsch is a writer, teacher, and editor based in Baltimore. He is an adjunct faculty member at Goucher College, and formerly worked as a writer for The Baltimore Sun and in media relations at Johns Hopkins University.  All images are © Anne Frank House, Netherlands, used by permission.

Click here for info about CSC’s production of the The Diary of Anne Frank.

Well-Tuned Shakespeare

 

A Little Conversation About Art
In this illuminating new series of lively conversations,
Founding Artistic Director Ian Gallanar exchanges ideas
with Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s leading artists.

No. 2: “Well-Tuned Shakespeare” 

with Isabelle Anderson, Distinguished Artist-In-Residence

IAN: You are a U.S. citizen, but you were born in Australia and worked and trained as an artist in France, England and India. Do you find something unique about American artists?

ISABELLE: It’s the same thing that I find in the general culture in this country. Great energy. In my first visit to New York in 1990 I found the energy of possibility and striving was amazing. When I went back home to Australia, I missed it. So I came back! There is definitely a daring and a can-do energy here.

When I first encountered the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company many years ago, it was exactly their energy in performance that was so appealing and delightful. Still is! Sometimes though, as a teacher, I notice that the striving to get things right and do it the best (Reach for the moon, as it were) can get in the way of American student actors just having a deep experience, right now, or even of failing and learning. That’s where teaching clown work is helpful and a great technique for American actors. I taught a clown course for many years at Michael Howard Studios in New York, not to create  “clowns,”  but to give freedom and courage for creativity.

The actors here have great physicality. They seem to love improvisation and comedy. The comedy here is fantastic and powerful.  They are brave. I think actors were the original “start-up” kids. So many brave ventures into new theater groups reflect the innovative and individual style of American actors. I love and admire that. Then there’s the American actor’s love for Shakespeare. So much Shakespeare is done here. I was stunned, and delighted by that. 

IAN:  We’re so proud and grateful that you have lent your significant talent and outlook with us over the years. I remember meeting you that very first summer- when our work was accompanied by work lights and lots of folding tables. Now, we have this bright shiny theater and other toys, but, in many ways, we’ve held on to some values. What do you notice has changed with CSC? What has stayed the same? I mean, in terms of the art work?

Isabelle Anderson as Cleopatra, in Antony and Cleopatra (2013)

ISABELLE: The camaraderie of the CSC actors is still fantastic. Their willingness to do whatever is needed. Their humility and playfulness. Their genuine connection to and liking for their audience. They are a daring lot. They will pull a show through.  When I had to leave my production of rather intricate stage adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, two weeks before opening night, and fly to Australia for a family emergency, they all pulled it together and pulled it through. Amazing. And done very generously. They are what we in Australia call “Real Troupers.” 

In the gorgeous new theater, there is still the energy and celebration-spirit in performance, the welcoming openness. But I also see, hear and feel a deep desire to grow with the demands of a “home” theater, with its levels and acoustic requirements. It needs skills to fill beautifully and they are up for that. I am super-impressed by their desire to always grow and learn. They are simultaneously a laid-back, likeable, unpretentious bunch AND a driven, keen, growth-seeking group.

IAN: I’ve been thinking about painting and painters a lot lately. Painters seem to work so differently than actors and theatrical artists, but I’m curious about the similarities. I read recently that Jackson Pollock liked to work with a giant roll of canvas so that he wasn’t limited by “the rectangle.” He never wanted to see the edge of the canvas. Do we as theater artists have a rectangle?

ISABELLE: Yes and no! Ha. This is where my two voices, as teacher and director, answer!
Yes, there are the limits of discipline and technique. Actors have to understand their individual strengths and weaknesses and work hard on them, be it voice or body or nerves. Then, what those disciplined skills give possibility to… is infinite. The artistic soul of an actor needs skills to give pathways for it to flow outwards and create infinite possibilities. A solitary actor on a bare stage can evoke a space as far as the horizon, or a tiny airless cell, can summon up heaven or hell, all through what she or he does with body, breath, eyes and mind … and contagiously the audience feels it.

Only if we work our technique can we surpass our limits and fly. It’s the same with ballet, which is the other art I know well. So many hours at the barre doing rather unattractive things like plies and tendus… but then… you can let go and d-a-n-c-e, transporting an audience. It’s when people forget technique is just the vehicle, not the destination that things get boring or egotistical. Or, conversely when the desire for “freedom” dominates and a lack of technique means it’s just personal self-expression or therapy, not art.

I teach actors at the ACA, Academy for Classical Acting in Washington, D.C. and I always say on the first day. “You must become masters of time and space!” That’s beyond all rectangles! I’m in love with Matisse and Diebenkorn as artists. I read how many, many months and versions they would go through for what seems like a marvelously spontaneous slap and a dash of paint. Same thing.

IAN:  I think the rectangle is something to deal with/wrestle with so that someday you can, maybe, find small ways to expand beyond it. But I like producing Shakespeare because you wrestle with the rectangle every day. What is it that has led you to Shakespeare?

ISABELLE: Well. Yes. To continue the metaphor or image… Shakespeare’s plays give us the “rectangle” of form – so many components of form. There is the text. The specific words. The rhythm of the lines. Scansion. Juxtaposition of scenes. Rhetorical devices galore… and on and on. The first response is to find all that rather an obstacle course, a difficulty to be overcome or simplified, so we can “get it.” But my experience, thanks to masterful teachers like Cicely Berry and Bill Alexander, is to bow to the form and enter into every detail, like a treasure hunter looking for clues. Clues abound. One asks. “Hmm, why this word? Why that extra beat? Why a broken, shared line? ” It’s really very Sherlock Holmes stuff and totally, utterly riveting. Shakespeare tells you everything. I remember when Cicely Berry told me… if you find all the clues, you don’t really have to “act,” because the form holds the truth. Just bring it to life and the audience feels it.

I wonder sometimes if I love Shakespeare so much because of its complexity, the search for his intention, the search for the clues. It’s like the intricate choreography to a ballet. Every move is in there. Just find it and repeat it every night …and twice of Saturday’s. It stays alive and fresh. The form gives life to vast and varied experience.

And I am deeply drawn to the insights Shakespeare has into us humans. Comparing him to his contemporary playwrights I wonder at Shakespeare’s depth of humanity, understanding and poetry. How did he get to be so wise and insightful?

IAN: You have worked and studied with some of the great theatrical figures in the world, Peter Brook, Jerzy Grotowski, Jacques Lecoq, Cicely Berry and Bill Alexander. What, if anything, do they have in common?

ISABELLE: Interesting question. I suppose if you put them into a room together (What a great thought!) they would agree that theater is all about creating profound experience for the audience. Not just any experience, they all believe in the depth of experience possible. They would also agree that it is the actors who generate that experience. A painter can give a painting to a gallery and go on vacation while we all look at it and experience the painting’s art and profound beauty or impact. Actors have to do it all in real time, and twice on Saturdays. Move well, speak, be musical, sing occasionally, dance, be coordinated, convey emotions. Their instrument has to be incredibly tuned and above all… brave and open. Because it all happens NOW. In real time and space. Magic. The audience must feel something NOW.

All those teachers you mentioned, that I was so fortunate to have known and learned from, all believed there was massive experience possible for the audience. Not simply diverting, or novel, or spectacular experience, but transformative, life-changing experience. The creative force itself could be harnessed through the actor in the theater space. Whether through laughter, tears, thrill, awe or whatever the style of play, electricity between audience and actors could create a third, shared field where both would feel something powerful.

I think that gathering humans together and going on an agreed plunge into some pool of story is one of the few truly healthy, fabulous things we do in our society. I believe in theater as a muscle for strong societies. And it is beautiful, fun and engaging. I love it.

IAN: Thank you Isabelle!

 

PHOTOS:  Isabelle Anderson by Teresa Castracane. Isabelle Anderson as Cleopatra by Mindy Braden.

The First of Fifteen Summers

The First of Fifteen Summers

 

Fourteen summers ago, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company was a tiny group of about 15 people who wanted to do Shakespeare in a different way. We’d performed one show in the Howard County Center for the Arts Black Box Theatre and maybe a hundred people saw the production. We had no money and no plan for a second show.

Then, out of the blue, the Friends of the Patapsco Female Institute invited us to look at the beautiful Howard County park that is home to the ruins of the former girls’ school. They loved the park. They took care of the park. They had no idea what to do with the park until someone suggested Shakespeare. Could we produce a play outside at PFI? You bet we could! We could do anything! We absolutely, positively could produce Romeo and Juliet with almost no budget!



Founding Artistic Director Ian Gallanar could get terrific young actors to perform beautifully for next to nothing. Four people, led by Dan O’Brien (our wonderful Technical Director today) could build a set out of scavenged materials and pallets. We could find a talented young costume designer named Kristina Lambdin (our Resident Costumer today) to create and beg gorgeous Renaissance costumes for a song. A friend of mine who’d never had anything to do with theatre before could run the box office. We could set up worklights instead of renting expensive lights. We could send out press photos and get a little newspaper coverage (pre-Facebook!). We could convince people to trudge up a hill to see a theatre company they’d never heard of. We could make Verona come to life on top of Mount Ida!

And it worked. Thanks to you, our fledgling organization spread its wings. You liked us and came back for more the next year and then the next and now you all have been coming for 15 summers. We may have a theater with a roof in Baltimore City, but the PFI Historic Park will always be our outdoor home.

MEMORIES: What plays have we performed in the park? Click here to see the list.

THE TEMPEST:  Continues in the park through July 23. Click here for tickets.

Happy Fifteenth Summer to all of you who make coming home again so sweet.

Lesley Malin
Managing Director

A Space to Tell the Story

A Little Conversation About Art
In this illuminating new series of lively conversations,
Founding Artistic Director Ian Gallanar exchanges ideas
with Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s leading artists.

No. 1: “A Space to Tell the Story”
with Technical Director Dan O’Brien, resident scene and lighting designer

Dan O’Brien

IAN: You have multiple roles with the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, but for the sake of this conversation, I’m mostly interested in your roles as scenic and lighting designer. In your view, what does a scenic designer do?

DAN: Designs the scenery. Just kidding. A scenic designer comes up with the visual and physical pieces that the actors will be interacting with onstage. In my view, the initial ideas or direction need to come from the director, but then the scenic designer’s job is to take that direction and give it a shape, a form, and a look, and to give the actors spaces in which to tell the story. Sometimes this means you’re trying to create a very realistic, historically accurate setting, and sometimes it can mean you’re just trying to come up with a more abstract design whose main function is to give the audience something cool to look at while the story unfolds in and around it.

IAN: As an artist, how do your ideas about scenic and lighting design intersect with CSC’s aesthetic?

Macbeth (2016)

DAN: I think CSC’s aesthetic is about not hiding things. It’s a very honest aesthetic that usually lets the audience see a lot of the process in the final product (although I hate the term “product” when discussing what we do). So, I think in terms of the scenic design, it means that we let the audience see a lot more of what’s happening behind the scenes, and that we treat everything that’s happening in the room as something worth looking at and paying attention to. We tend to be interested in playing with the idea that the audience is aware that they’re in a theater watching a play, rather than trying to transport them to some other place for two hours (although I think that both things can be happening simultaneously).

IAN: I think our aesthetic doesn’t exist by itself. The aesthetic is from the people who created it and their collaboration. You’re one of those people. Since you’ve been here since the very beginning of CSC, how do you see your work changing over the past 15 or so years?

The Taming of the Shrew (2017)

DAN: The biggest moment of change has been, of course, when we moved into the theater downtown.

IAN: Yeah, but I’ve seen a change in your visual style. Maybe that has to do with the new theater. But even since we opened the theater, I’ve seen the visuals become more complex. Do you see that?

DAN: Part of it is due to the fact that we get to play over and over again in the same space, so we’re trying to stretch and grow rather than just put up the same thing over and over again. I’m a minimalist at heart, but seeing a minimalist set for every show would get pretty boring very quickly. That’s one of the reasons that we’ve been bringing in outside designers as well as just relying on the things that I do well. They can really shake up how we look at the space and the things that are possible in it.

IAN: Some of my favorite designs for CSC happen when it seems like the designers are building off each other’s ideas and one cohesive design evolves along the way. I think of our productions of Much Ado About Nothing from last season and The Taming of the Shrew from this season, in which the overall design had that quality. Can you speak to that process of collaboration with other designers?

DAN: It’s the best. It’s something that I think we can take for granted sometimes until the feeling isn’t there. A lot of the designers and actors at CSC have worked together frequently in the past, and after doing a few shows together, designers can develop a sense of what each other’s strengths and weaknesses are. When everyone’s ideas gel, it is a very exciting thing to watch and be a part of.

Stuff Their Stockings…

csc-shakespeare-snow-globe

 

The play’s the thing…to give.

Shakespeare-Santa makes it easy for you: Give a romance, a musical, a drama, a comedy — or all four!

Here’s the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company Gift Guide with easy-to-order presents — always classic, affordable, fun, and memorable. Tickets are delivered fast by email, or mailed by USPS (first-class reindeer) at your request. New this year — we have electronic gift cards, too. Share a compelling theatre experience.

SHAKESPEARE-SANTA GIFT GUIDE

GIFTS $150 and under

 

  • For the family who loves Shakespeare outdoors in the summer:  Picnic table plus tickets for 2 adults + 4 children for The Tempest in-the-Ruins in Ellicott City: $150

6c_Tempest

  • For the musical-lover:  The Fantasticks, book and lyrics by Tom Jones and music by Harvey Schmidt,  New York’s longest-running musical. It’s an endearing story about a boy and girl next door and their meddling dads. You won’t have to Try to Remember these classic songs. For romantics of all ages!  A pair of PRIME seats is $130.

5c_Fantasticks

GIFTS UNDER $100
  • For the history-lover:   Now is the winter of our discontent… Two PRIME seat tickets to Richard III:  $84 – $98

http://www.chesapeakeshakespeare.com/season/richard-iii

  • For the comedy-lover:   This is the way to kill a wife with kindness… Two PRIME seat tickets to The Taming of the Shrew:  $84 – $98

http:www.chesapeakeshakespeare.com/season/taming-of-the-shrew

FOR STUDENTS

 

  • For everyone age 25 and under:   Student subscription to Richard III, The Taming of the Shrew, The Fantasticks, and The Tempest:  $76

 

CSC GIFT CARDS FOR EVERYONE:   $10 – $500

CSC Gift Cards are redeemable for Chesapeake Shakespeare Company play tickets, subscriptions, workshops, and camps.  You choose the gift level on this reloadable, electronic gift card.  Fits all sizes, good for all plays, always in fashion. It is delivered by email:  Perfect for everyone on your gift list! 

 

Questions?

Call the Box Office at 410-244-8570, Tues – Fri, 11am – 3pm or send an email to BoxOffice@chesapeakeshakespeare.com.

 

 

Photos and photo illustrations by Teresa Castracane, Alan Gilbert, Sandra Maddox Barton, and Jean Thompson.

A Christmas Carol – with a Baltimore Twist

A Christmas Carol – on stage now through December 23, 2016

scrooge-at-360-x-300

BALTIMORE (November 27, 2016) – Catch the holiday spirit:  Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s original adaptation of A Christmas Carol delights kids of all ages as it celebrates Baltimore’s heritage.

Spiced with local history, joyous carols, and dazzling special effects, A Christmas Carol is a best-seller and crowd-pleaser. Reservations are strongly recommended: Performances close to Christmas tend to sell out.

This isn’t a “hon” Christmas Carol. Founding Artistic Director Ian Gallanar brings the play’s timeless message home by setting it in Victorian Baltimore. The script closely follows the plot of Charles Dickens’ novella: Scrooge awakens to visits from the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come.  They spirit the lonely miser away from his bedroom  to help thaw his frozen heart and teach him a lesson about the  importance of giving.

Scrooge & Marley’s counting house has the address of the 1885 Mercantile Safe Deposit & Trust Company building in Baltimore’s old financial district. Chesapeake Shakespeare Company converted this bank building into a gorgeous theatre for the classics in 2014.

“We placed the story in the Baltimore business district of the 19th Century in honor of this magnificent building housing our theater, and this amazing city in which we perform,” says Gallanar.  The script includes references to familiar streets, watermen, and the diverse cultures of the early port city.

Gregory Burgess, a Chesapeake Shakespeare Company resident company member known for his great warmth, returns for his third season portraying the irascible and ultimately redeemable Scrooge. Associate Artistic Director Scott Alan Small directs a professional cast of local artists, including company members and 11 child actors from area schools.

TICKET DETAILS

A Christmas Carol runs December 2 through December 23, 2016, at the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, 7 South Calvert Street (at Redwood Street), Baltimore, MD 21202. 

There will be two public preview performances, on November 30 and December 1.   

Ticket prices range from $25 – $65 for adults, $25 – $59 for seniors, and $19 – $33 for children and students.

Group discounts are available for parties of 10 or more.

For a complete schedule and tickets, visit ChesapeakeShakespeare.com or call the Box Office at 410.244.8570. 

Box office hours: Tuesdays-Fridays, 11am-3pm, and 45 minutes before every performance.

 

MEDIA CONTACT: Jean Thompson, Communications Manager, 410.244.8571, ext. 116, or 443-845-6130 or Thompson@chesapeakeshakespeare.com

 

 

Anne of the Thousand Days

A Legendary Queen

The fiery courtship of Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII rends their nation in the splendid and surprisingly topical play Anne of the Thousand Days by Maxwell Anderson, October 21 through November 13 at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company. 
annelizziforwebAnderson gives Boleyn her due, capturing her duality as both a victim of the womanizing Henry VIII and as a leader of a changing England.  Audacious, sparkling, intelligent, obstinate Anne refuses the advances of the most powerful man in England, gambling everything in her bid to be more than a mistress. At great cost, she becomes Henry VIII’s second and most legendary queen.
Anne of the Thousand Days is about Henry and Anne’s passionate and ultimately tragic love story. Though written in 1948, its theme of women and power is surprisingly current.
       “When I chose Anne six months ago, I could not have predicted the recent headlines of the political campaigns,” says Lesley Malin, Managing Director at the theatre company and producer of the play. “Those issues are powerfully reflected in this particular play, with its protagonist declaring, ‘I, too, can say no,’ to a predatory and controlling monarch.”
       Award-winning director Kasi Campbell leads a cast that includes the theatre’s Resident Acting Company Members Lizzi Albert and Ron Heneghan as the royal couple. 

henry-and-annefor-web

The production also features Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s first all-women design and technical team, chosen to showcase local talent in theatre trades and bring their insights to the design of a nuanced story about a powerful woman. The result is a period-piece blockbuster, a re-creation of the Tudor court for the eyes and ears. The music of the play will include compositions by Henry VIII and sound designer Sarah O’Halloran.
         Anne of the Thousand Days will be performed Thursdays-Sundays, from October 21 through November 13, 2016, at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s downtown theater at 7 South Calvert Street, Baltimore, 21202. Tickets are $19 – $49 adults, and $15 -$25 students. Click here for tickets and details.

Two community events are scheduled with Anne of the Thousand Days.

DESIGNING WOMEN On Saturday, October 29, at 6:30pm,  meet the women of our design and technical team who have helped bring this tale to life. Admission to a pre-show panel discussion is free. The designers will discuss their contributions to the play and career opportunities for women. Audience members are welcome, as are college professors and students interested in theatre tech and design fields.  Combine the free event with a paid ticket to the 8pm performance for an evening of insights and entertainment. Get details here.

SEDUCTIVE TEMPTRESS or RELIGIOUS AND POLITICAL CHANGEMAKER? On Saturday, November 5, at 6:30pm, learn all about the real Anne Boleyn.  Join us for a conversation with Professor Amy M. Froide, a historian of women in early modern England. She’ll help us separate the fact from the legends about the fascinating Anne Boleyn. Admission to the pre-show conversation is free. Combine it with a paid ticket to the 8pm performance. Get details here. 

 For tickets, visit ChesapeakeShakespeare.com or call the Box Office at 410-244-8570.

 

SEASON ANNOUNCEMENT: Our 15th Anniversary Season

SeasonAD15th


SEASON ANNOUNCEMENT:  
Chesapeake Shakespeare Announces its 15th Anniversary Season
 
BALTIMORE (April 6, 2016) — Innovation and imagination are cornerstones of Chesapeake Shakespeare Company and hallmarks of the theatre company’s 15th season, coming in 2016-2017.
      
Founding Artistic Director Ian Gallanar announces today a richly diverse 15th Anniversary Season with bold firsts and imaginative stagings of classic plays that build on its record of success. Highlights include the company’s first mounting of Shakespeare’s great tragedy, Othello, and its first musical, a revival of off-Broadway’s 20th century romance by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt, The Fantasticks.

“There is a momentum here at our theater. You can feel it,” Gallanar says, celebrating the company’s continuing expansion of its artistic, education, and community outreach programming. The plays this coming season will feature members of the CSC Resident Acting Company and a growing roster of Baltimore-area talent recruited since the theater moved here from Howard County in 2014.

“We’ve always prided ourselves on the variety of the work we present,” Gallanar said. “In our first 14 seasons, we have presented quite a diversity of styles and content. Like our namesake Shakespeare, we believe in big themes freshly presented in a wide range of styles. This season reflects that.”

Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s 15th season will open with its first production of Shakespeare’s Othello. While the company’s production history includes 55 productions mounted over 14 seasons, “Othello is the most famous Shakespeare play we haven’t yet presented,” says Gallanar, who will direct it. This monumental tragedy, with its potent and timely themes of jealousy, power, and racism, is “a tough play, about some of humanity’s darkest qualities,” he says. “We are in the heart of a community that sometimes suffers as a result of some of those qualities, so we are anxious to explore this play with our audiences.”

Turning the focus to historical drama, Chesapeake Shakespeare will produce Maxwell Anderson’s Anne of the Thousand Days. It’s the story of King Henry VIII’s pursuit of bewitching young Anne Boleyn with a scandalous love that betrays his Queen and rends his country. Anne’s point of view is spotlighted, making the play a showcase for talented actresses. “This is a great historical drama that, like Shakespeare’s work, often concerns itself more with drama than history,” Gallanar says. “Some people might be familiar with the 1969 Richard Burton movie that was loosely based on the play but eliminated Maxwell Anderson’s blank verse. Much like Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, the play asks for little or no scenery, but relies on the skills of the actor and his or her words.”

Chesapeake Shakespeare’s holiday tradition, A Christmas Carol presented with a Baltimore twist, will return in December 2016. Gallanar’s adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic has Ebenezer Scrooge living and working in the heart of Victorian Baltimore.  It has become a family favorite.

Taking the stage next is one of Shakespeare’s best-known and most-reviled villains. Richard III is the playwright’s concluding chronicle of the Wars of the Roses. As fascinating as he is horrifying, Richard III marries and murders his way to take the crown of England. Gallanar will direct an innovative staging that sets the story in World War One, and was first produced outdoors in Ellicott City in 2012. “Complete with gas masks and barbed wire, this delightfully frightening production is one of the most popular from our first 14 seasons,” Gallanar says. “It’s fun to bring back one of our favorites for this special anniversary season.”

Is any man worthy of razor-tongued Kate? A spring offering will be Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, a rollicking send-up of marital power struggles, as topical as it is comical. “The Taming of the Shrew is one of the most popular comedies in the history of the theater,” Gallanar says. “Why? Because we can all relate to the bumpy road love takes us on. Our company has a special knack for comedy, and we look forward to sharing one that the whole family can enjoy.” 
   
“Try to remember the days of September when life was slow and oh, so mellow.” Even if you don’t know the play, you probably have heard this song from The Fantasticks, off-Broadway’s longest-running musical. The Fantasticks, with its universal themes and sentimental book and lyrics by Tom Jones and music by Harvey Schmidt, tells of a boy and girl next door and their meddling, matchmaking fathers. Chesapeake Shakespeare has incorporated original and live music in its productions since its first production in 2002, which was Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.  For Season 15, the company is poised to take the next step and mount its first musical. “We’ve been immersed in recent years in live music,” Gallanar says. “It’s become an important part of our aesthetic. Our Christmas Carol includes almost 20 live songs. A musical seems a natural step forward.”  The director will be Curt L. Tofteland, who from 1989 to 2008 was producing artistic director of the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival and who is the founder of the much-acclaimed Shakespeare Behind Bars.

On its summer stage in the PFI Historic Park in Ellicott City in 2017, Chesapeake Shakespeare will present The Tempest, Shakespeare’s magnificent tale of storm and shipwreck, mystery and magic. It will be directed by Lizzi Albert, a CSC Resident Acting Company member. “We love creating an island at the PFI in our beautiful outdoor home,” Gallanar says. “The Tempest is a play with a little bit of everything — drama, romance, wildly comic characters, spirits, creatures, magic. It’s Shakespeare’s last great play.”

Subscription renewals begin today. Subscription sales for new subscribers will begin May 6, online at ChesapeakeShakespeare.com/subscriptions or by phone at 410-244-8570. The Box Office is open Tuesdays-Fridays, 11am to 2pm, at the Baltimore theater, 7 South Calvert Street, Baltimore 21202.

Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s
15th Anniversary Season, 2016-2017

Othello                                             September 16 – October 9, 2016
Anne of the Thousand Days         October 21 – November 13, 2016
A Christmas Carol                           December 2 – 23, 2016
Richard III                                         February 10 – March 5, 2017
The Taming of the Shrew              March 17 – April 9, 2017
The Fantasticks                               April 21 – May 21, 2017
The Tempest                                   June 16 – July 23, 2017