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Extreme Casting: Extreme History and Tragedy

PictureRogue Shakespeare, the 2013-14 MFA company of Mary Baldwin College’s Shakespeare and  Performance graduate program, in association with the American Shakespeare Center, is proud  to announce two productions that will run in repertory in the first week of December: Richard II  by William Shakespeare and The Insatiate Countess by John Marston, et al.

These plays feature a unique style of performance dubbed “extreme casting” where five actors portray all the play’s characters. Performers use minimal costumes, props, and set to convey the shifting nature of identity, loyalty, and treason in these contrasting but complementary plays.

In Richard II, Shakespeare portrays the downfall of King Richard the Second and the rise of Henry Bolingbroke through a lens of ambiguity. Shakespeare never makes it completely clear whether Richard abdicates or is deposed, or whether Bolingbroke is a loyal subject or a usurper. Richard II backs the audience into a corner by forcing them to swap sympathies between the falling King Richard and the rising Bolingbroke. Director Charlene V. Smith and designer Rebecca Hodder explore the themes of identity, changing loyalties, and performance through the use of a five-actor, all-female cast. Playing multiple roles, cast members will change sympathies between Richard and Bolingbroke as quickly as the audience does.

In The Insatiate Countess, the actual text of the play defies the loyalty of authorship. This play was written and rewritten by four different authors, including John Marston, and the corruptions of the text add an extra layer of complication to an already complex play. In multiple parallel plots, the rich characters of The Insatiate Countess are willing to overthrow commitment and
loyalty in order to follow their lusts. Isabella, the eponymous Countess, remarries immediately after her first husband’s death only to abandon matrimony for lover after lover. Two young wives, Abigail and Thais, are wooed by each other’s husbands and hatch a plot to keep their erring spouses in check. Meanwhile, the lusty Mendoza pursues the prim widow Lady Lentulus.
Director Kelly Elliott and designer Melissa Huggins encourage the five actors to play within this colorful world through the use of overtly theatrical set and costume elements.

These two plays will run in repertory in theS.P.A.C.E. @ 107 E. Beverley and the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton from December 5th-9th. The performances for Richard II are December 5th and 7th at 8:00 p.m. and December 8th at 2pm in theS.P.A.C.E. @ 107 E. Beverley in Staunton. The Insatiate Countess will run on December 6th at 8pm and December 7th at 2pm in
theS.P.A.C.E. @ 107 E. Beverley in Staunton, and December 9th at 8pm in the Blackfriars Playhouse. These two productions are designed for mobility and are available for bookings in schools and theaters beginning in February.

Our other plays this season are William Shakespeare’s Macbeth which opened in October and is available for educational bookings, Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus which will open in January, and Lope de Vega’s Fuente Ovejuna in March. Make sure to also join us for our staged reading series throughout the year and our festival of plays in the first week in April. Visit rogueshakes.com for more information. Rogue Shakespeare is inspired by scholarship and stagecraft, fusing these fields in order to seek new perspectives on early modern drama. As an ensemble-based company, we believe in igniting a collaborative conversation between text, performers, and audience about issues that matter to us today.

Rogue Shakespeare’s members are:
Kelly Elliott, Mary Beth Geppert, Rebecca Hodder, Stephanie Howieson, Melissa Huggins, Cyndi Kimmel, Dane Leasure, Julia Nelson, Celi Oliveto, Jessica Schiermeister, Charlene V. Smith, Riley Steiner.
MFA Faculty:
Doreen Bechtol, Dr. Ralph Cohen, Dr. Matthew Davies
For more information:

Our Partners:

Mary Baldwin College, the American Shakespeare Center, theS.P.A.C.E

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