Shakespeare Theatre Co. director flips the script
By: Frenche Brewer, email@example.com, 803-777-3691
Theatre South Carolina explores the interplay between passion, power, fame and gender identity on the 17th century stage with “Compleat Female Stage Beauty,” showing at Longstreet Theatre Nov. 9-17.
Playwright Jeffrey Hatcher’s historically based drama is set in England during the Restoration, 1600-1669, at a time when only male actors were permitted on stage. Edward Kynaston, a glittering star famous for his portrayals of female characters, is at the height of his celebrity when King Charles II issues an edict allowing women to perform. Almost overnight, Kynaston’s domain of privilege is shattered, and he is forced to confront his own sense of self-worth as an actor…and as a man.
Gary Logan, director of the Academy for Classical Acting at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C., and an internationally known Shakespearean voice, text and dialect expert, is directing the production.
Logan is imposing a unique twist on the lead character’s struggles with gender identity by casting a female actor, first-year master of fine arts candidate Melissa Peters, to play Kynaston.
“I think the choice makes a nice piece of contemporary commentary, because there are moments in the play in which the king says, ‘Give the women a chance,’ and this casting choice brings that to theatrical reality. Also, the actress playing Kynaston gets to do the gender work,” Logan said.
In addition to Peters, MFA actors cast in the production include James Costello, Kate Dzonvik, Trey Hobbs, Josiah Laubenstein, Corey Lipman, Laurie Roberts and Leeanna Rubin. Also in the cast, guest artists Park Bucker, an associate English professor and USC Sumter, and Stephen Ingle, a MAT alumnus. Undergraduate students Ben Aaron, Robert Paul Austin, Grace Fennell, John Floyd, Kelsey Gibson, Dennis Lopez, Kristina Montgomery, Emily Olyarchuk, Olander Wilson, Kelsea Woods and Andrea Wurzburger round out the cast.
“The Restoration era is kind of a forgotten period in the theatre," Logan said. “But in the nearly forgotten mists of time there is a fascinating piece of history about men who had been trained to play female roles on stage and how they came to their demise when Charles II issued an edict allowing women on the stage. This production is a vivid story about that period and that event."
Show times are 8 p.m. Nov. 9, 14, 15 and 16; 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10 and 17; 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11. There is an additional half-price late night performance at 11 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17. Tickets for the production are $12 for students, $16 for USC faculty, staff, military personnel and seniors 60 and older, and $18 for the general public. Tickets can be purchased by calling 803-777-2551 or at the Longstreet Theatre box office, 12:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays.
“Compleat Female Stage Beauty”contains strong adult language and situations, and is intended for mature audiences only.