The UofSC Dept. of Theatre and Dance, in partnership with Full Circle Productions, will present the world-premiere production of Aphra Behn: Wanton. Wit. Woman. April 21-28, 2019 at the Center for Performance Experiment.
Show times are 8pm nightly. Tickets are $10 each, and available online at theatre.sc.edu or at the door. The Center for Performance Experiment is located at 718 Devine St., between Huger and Gadsden Streets, near the Colonial Life Arena. Patrons are advised to arrive early, as seating is limited. Aphra Behn: Wanton. Wit. Woman. contains adult themes that may not be appropriate for children.
Aphra Behn is the debut play by Mariah Anzaldo Hale, a prominent theatrical costume designer with credits on Broadway and at theatres around the country. The production has been made possible by the Performance Incubator Grant, a program of Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College which seeks to help creators develop original performance works into tour-ready productions.
The show will have its debut performance at Harbison Theatre, 7300 College St. in Irmo, on April 13th at 7:30pm. Tickets for that performance are available at harbisontheatre.org.
Hale’s relentlessly raucous and witty script tells the true story of Aphra Behn, the 17th-century English playwright, poet and novelist credited as being the first female to earn her living by writing. A fiercely independent spirit, Behn’s trailblazing exploits even saw her finding work as a spy for King Charles II during the Second Anglo-Dutch War. Set against the backdrop of lawless 1660s London, Aphra Behn: Wanton. Wit. Woman. charts Aphra’s growth into the revolutionary cultural figure she would become. Combining contemporary dialogue, movement, and music with witty, fast-paced storytelling, Aphra Behn: Wanton. Wit. Woman. compares women’s roles and relevance in society and the lengths they must go to succeed.
Hale says she began researching Aphra Behn in late 2017, and was struck by similarities between Behn’s bold stances and the fight for female equality today.
“She’s controversial as a proto-feminist because on the surface her plays were so exploitative of women,” says Hale, “But, if you really examine them, she turns the exploitation of women on its head and makes a point about it. She knew that plays had to be bawdy in order to have audiences, but she made a point with that bawdiness.”
Behn wrote over a dozen plays between 1670 and 1687, but it wasn’t until the publication of The Lucky Chance in 1686 that she used her real name, an audacious move that earned her critical and social derision. Hale dramatizes that crucial chapter of Behn’s career in the play.
“In order for women to make history they had to behave badly,” Hale says. “She forced her way into history by being a rule breaker.”
Hale has been working closely with the production’s director, Lindsay Rae Taylor (a third-year MFA in Directing student), and UofSC theatre professor Robert Richmond to develop the script and this inaugural production. Richmond originally submitted Hale’s script idea to the Harbison Theatre Performance Incubator, effectively kick-starting the entire project.
“I was first made aware of the Harbison Incubator project by watching Terrance Henderson’s The Black Man Project,” says Richmond. “The idea that a local arts institution was supporting the development of new work was extraordinarily exciting to me. I had to find out more.”
Richmond says his goal for the play is to get it published and attract productions by regional theatres and other universities around the country.
Cast in the production are MFA Acting students Leslie Valdez (as Aphra), Sean Ardor, and Iuliia Khamidullina; undergraduates William Hollerung, Reilly Lucas, and Susan Swavely; and Full Circle Productions company member Katrina Blanding. Production designers include Hale, who is creating costumes with the assistance of students Kennedy-Reid Roberts and Susanna McElveen, and MFA Design students Nate Terracio (scenic) and Allison Newcombe (lighting).
Hale is quick to point out that while Behn’s story is set in the distant past, this telling of her story is anything but antiquated.
“It’s not a 17th century piece,” says Hale. “It’s not a comedy of manners. It’s raucous, it’s funny, it’s crazy. I call it a femme adventure.”
“It’s for all the ladies out there who will identify with her, and all the men who need to learn some lessons.”
For more information about Aphra Behn: Wanton. Wit. Woman., Full Circle Productions, or the theatre program at the University of South Carolina, contact Kevin Bush by phone at 803-777-9353 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.