Thursday, August 10, 2017

How Lost is Love's Labour?

As Bad Quarto Productions stands ready to preview its production of Love's Labour's Lost: The First Quarto, our second production of the 2017 season, I keep coming back to something that's always nagged me about this comedy: how lost is love's labour really? Ferdinand and his men don't get to marry the Princess and her ladies at the end of the play as they had hoped, but they've all extracted a promise to marry when the gentlemen have made certain proofs of their characters to those ladies.

In early modern London, a promise to marry was legally binding in a way that modern marriage proposals are not. The abundance of pregnant brides in the period (including Anne Hathaway) is partially explained by the religious allowance that, for a marriage to be legitimate before God, all the couples needed to do was to make a solemn promise to each other before God: neither the church nor state were necessarily involved in what could be considered a private matter (Dolan 622). These promises were legally enforceable in church courts, however, and it seems unlikely that the sober-minded Princess of France and her equally pragmatic ladies would make such promises in vain, even if state marriages were of a different order than common ones (Dolan 622). The labours of love that Ferdinand and his men are enjoined to have not even begun by the play's conclusion, but the rewards for their successful completions seems certain.

As for the labours that Ferdinand and his men have already undertaken? The Princess (by then Queen) and her ladies interpret them:
At courtshyp pleasant iest and courtecie,
As bombast and as lyning to the time:
But more deuout then this our respectes,
Haue we not been, and therefore met your Loues,
In their owne fashyon like a merriment.
        (TLN 2738 - 2742)
Ferdinand and his men have presented their love as trifles (literally), not as something sacred, and the ladies have replied in kind. As is typical in Shakespeare's comedies, as we see see in virtually all of them, women are masters of the art of love, and serve as tutors to their undergraduate gentlemen.

What makes this lesson particularly poignant is that, in director Alex Dabertin's analysis, the King of France sends his daughter on this embassy to Ferdinand with the idea of a political marriage in mind. This reading is in keeping with Boyet's lines:
Now Maddame summon vp your dearest spirrits,
Cosider who the King your father sendes:
To whom he sendes, and whats his Embassie.
Your selfe, helde precious in the worldes esteeme,
To parlee with the sole inheritoure
Of all perfections that a man may owe,
Matchles Nauar, the plea of no lesse weight,
Then Aquitaine a Dowrie for a Queene.
        (TLN 492 - 499).
And it is certainly within the realpolitik of the period. But at the end of the play, she is Queen of France, and not merely princess, and knowing the professed truth of Ferdinand's love, is able to force him to Biblical terms: if Ferdinand truly loves her, following the example of Genesis 29:20, his year of labour will only seem a few days, and they will enjoy more than a political match.

That said, one could plausibly read the title as a promise that Ferdinand and his gentlemen will fail in their yet-to-be-performed labours. How you view the loss of love's labour in the play is, in this way, a measure of your own feelings as to the truth of Ferdinand, Longaville, Dumain, and Berowne's love.


Billings, Timothy Ed. Love's Labour's Lost (Quarto I, 1598). By William Shakespeare. Internet Shakespeare Editions. University of Victoria. 5 Aug. 2017. Accessed 5 Aug. 2017. <>

Dolan, Frances. "Shakespeare and Marriage: An Open Question." Literature Compass. 9 Aug. 2011. Hoboken: Blackwell Publishing. 620 - 634. Web. Accessed 4 Aug. 2017. <>

Geneva Bible, 1599 Edition. Tolle Lege Press, 2006. Web. Accessed 5 Aug. 2017. <>  

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Meet the company of Love's Labour's Lost: The First Quarto

We're excited to open Love's Labour's Lost: The First Quarto on August 12th, and we think it's about time you met our company for the show....

Amy Hayes, Audrey Brown, Courtney M. McClellan, Kevin Dang, Kitty Mortland, Marcella Pereda, Martin Goldberg, Max Stein, Melody Lam, Natasha Cole, Olivia Vessel, Elizabeth Kipp-Giusti, Rebekah Carrow, Samantha Burkland, and Alex Dabertin; The company of Bad Quarto Productions' upcoming Love's Labour's Lost: The First Quarto
Amy Hayes, Audrey Brown, Courtney M. McClellan, Kevin Dang, Kitty Mortland,
Marcella Pereda, Martin Goldberg, Max Stein, Melody Lam, Natasha Cole,
Olivia Vessel, Elizabeth Kipp-Giusti, Rebekah Carrow, Samantha Burkland, and Alex Dabertin;
The company of Bad Quarto Productions' upcoming Love's Labour's Lost: The First Quarto

Amy Hayes
 (HolfernesAmerica Is Hard to See, Life Jacket Theatre, NYC.  Regional: Hesther, Equus (Oldcastle Theatre); Mistress Ford, Merry Wives of Windsor (IndyShakes); Gertrude, Hamlet (Indianapolis); Tour Guide/Doctor, No Exit’s Middletown (Indy), Hermione, The Winter’s Tale (Indy Shakes), Mama,Distracted, Wisdom Tooth Theatre (Indy), Jasmine, Chris White’s Thawat Indyfringe.  Film and TV: Mrs. Samuelson in The Celebrant with Rae Dawn Chong and Reparation with Jon Huertas. Artistic Director, Wisdom Tooth Theatre Project.  Recording Projects: Some Things Never Change, Hidden Graces (Spring House); Books: A Collection of Wednesdays (Zondervan/Harper Collins).

Audrey Brown (Longaville) Going three years strong as a New York based actor, Audrey is elated to be cast in her first Bad Quarto Production play. Audrey moved from Nevada to attend the Lee Strasberg Institute after graduating with a BA in Theatre and International Affairs. Before making her move east, she discovered her love for Shakespeare and classical theatre after working with Shakespearean Actor, Author and producer, Ben Crystal in a production of Hamlet. This experience ignited a love for the language and ensemble work that couldn’t have been found anywhere else. Audrey was most recently on set of Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel as well as in a production of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot by Stephen Adly Guirgis. Special shout out and all the love to my family who have taught me the true meaning and importance of perseverance and support.

Courtney M. McClellan (Berowne) is an actor/voiceover artist, graphic designer, teaching artist, and Artistic Associate at Bad Quarto Productions. Courtney is also a proud Equity Member Candidate. Recent credits include What Lamb, What Ladybird! and The Life and Death of Jack Straw with Bad Quarto Productions, Garbage Person Karaoke with the Capital Fringe Festival (Washington D.C.), As You Like It (La Belle/Phoebe) with Shakespeare Off-Broadway, Whatchamacallit and, "Luck Bar Scene," and "No Plan B" with the Skeleton Rep, and Ripper at Times Scare. BA Communications/Theatre, Hampton University; McCaskill Studios, NYC.

Kevin Dang (Katherine) is a native of Dallas, TX. He has recently worked on the TV show Gotham and was in The Madness of Hercules at the New York Euripides Summer Festival as the Messenger. He is a proud member of the Asian-American activist community and is striving for equality and representation on stage and screen.

Kitty Mortland (Ferdinand) is excited to be working with Bad Quarto for a second time, having previously played the Queen in Hamlet: The First Quarto. She recently played the title character in King Lear (What Dreams May Co), appeared in Measure for Measure (Hudson Warehouse), As You Like It (Folding Chair Classical Theatre), and repertory productions of Richard II and Romeo and Juliet (Hamlet Isn't Dead). Kitty also played the title character in Hamlet: The Series, available on YouTube. Originally from Chicago, she appeared there in Down & Derby (The New Colony), Devour (20% Theatre Chicago), and the Jeff Nominated The Bad Seed: The Musical (Corn Productions).  When not on stage, Kitty is also a singer/songwriter who played venues across the Chicagoland area including the Elbo Room, the Underground Lounge, and Reggie's Rock Club. DFTBA.

Marcella Pereda (Don Armado) is excited to be back at Bad Quarto after appearing as Ismenus in this season's Cupid's Revenge. Some of her recent credits include the world premier of Remington and Weasle (Kim Luna) at PYGmalion Productions, Peter Pan (Tiger Lily) at Utah Children's Theatre, The Skin of Our Teeth (Gladys) at the Grand Theatre, and A Few Good Men(Joanne Galloway u/s) at Pioneer Memorial Theatre.

Martin Goldberg (Nathaniel)  is a NYC native and graduate of Brooklyn College. He has attended classes at HB Studio, Penny Templeton Studios, and the Upright Citizens Brigade. Marty’s credits include the Love Creek Productions of Classy Shorts, An Evening with Le Wilhelm, Rubicon Crossed, and Masqurade Asylum, The Manhattan Repertory’s productions of Some Squeaking Cleopatra Boy, A Thousand Words, Exhume Yourself, and Tales of Terror (The Hand),  the AlphaNYC Production of Ceiling Art and And Then There Were None, and the Firebird Youth Theatre’s production of Romeo and Juliet.

Max Stein (Rosaline) Max has enjoyed living and acting in New York City for the last ten years. Before that he trained with the British American Drama Academy in Oxford, and attained a B.A. in Theatre at Wittenberg University. He has enjoyed working with companies including The Actor's Project and The Michael Chekov Theatre Company, and is currently a member of The Complete Theatre Company. Thanks for coming to see him do what he loves!

Melody Lam (Princess of France) is classically trained with a focus on Shakespeare and Anton Chekhov. She has studied at various studios across NYC including Stella Adler and Michael Howard. Credits include Lady Macbeth in Macbeth with Theater2020, Ariel in The Tempest and Dorine in Tartuffe. Film credits include Red Plastic Bag. Melody is a trained vocalist and contemporary dancer, and speaks Mandarin, Cantonese and French. 

Natasha Cole (Costard) is thrilled to make her Bad Quarto debut! She is proud ensemble member of Providence-based Out Loud Theatre and is a current cast member of the international tour of Kultar's Mime. She recently graduated Hofstra University with a BFA in Acting. 

Olivia Vessel (Moth) is excited to be performing with Bad Quarto Productions! Recent credits include Jeanie in Hair (Heights Players), Miss White in Clue: The Musical (West End Lounge), and Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream (Salt Lake Shakespeare). You may have also seen her performing her original one woman show, Olivia's Corner, a satire about a children's show host teaching kids about adult themes, performed at various comedy clubs in NYC.

Elizabeth Kipp-Giusti (Dumainis a strategic, multidisciplinary performer and programming developer invested in honoring communities in the city with effective, creative policy and programming.  A New York City native, she values the intersection of education and history as foundation for building institutions. Elizabeth received a BA in Religion, with a concentration in Human Rights from Columbia University and graduated with a MA in Arts Politics from NYU-Tisch. She is the grant writer for The Public Theater. Many thanks and endless love to my partner, Alex Dabertin.

Rebekah Carrow (Boyet/Dull) is an actor and playwright in New York City. Her first play, Mary V, just finished its first run at Theater for the New City. She is an alumni of Atlantic Studio's Evening Conservatory program. She has performed throughout New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Virginia.   

Samantha Renèe Burkard (Maria/Jacquenetta) is a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and has lived in New York for the past year, pursuing her passions for music, acting, and Shakespeare. Recently, she has been working with Titan Theatre Company as a Young Company member, which has expanded her love and knowledge of Shakespeare sevenfold. She is thrilled to be appearing for the first time with Bad Quarto Productions, and hopes you enjoy the show! 

Alex Dabertin (Director) is an artistic associate at Bad Quarto Productions. Alex was recently seen in Bad Quarto's productions of Cupid's Revenge as Leucippus, Hamlet: The First Quarto as Hamlet, and The Taming of a Shrew as Polidor. Alex directed Bad Quarto's Summer 2016 production of What, Lamb! What, Ladybird!, and assisted with direction of Bad Quarto’s Fall 2016 production of The Life and Death of Jack Straw

Monday, April 24, 2017

Meet the company of Cupid's Revenge

Travis Burbee (Agenor) recently relocated to New York and this will be his first full production in the city. He is thrilled to be a part of this unique and exciting production. Some of Burbee's most recent credits include Beethoven in Dog Sees God, Peter in Pinkalicious, Glaston in The Reluctant Dragon, and Eric in Runaways.

Jane Coty (Nisus) is a new actress in the Manhattan theater scene. Previous New York credits include: And This is How You Break My Heart (Ellen), Wolves (Eleanora), Ashes to Ashes (Rebecca), A Dolls House (Mrs. Linde), and Emotional Creature (Ensemble). Special thanks to all my teachers who told me I could.

Alex Dabertin (Leucippus) is an artistic associate at Bad Quarto Productions. Alex was recently seen in Bad Quarto's productions of Hamlet: The First Quarto as Hamlet, and The Taming of a Shrew as Polidor. Alex directed Bad Quarto's Summer 2016 production of What, Lamb! What, Ladybird!, and assisted with direction of Bad Quarto’s Fall 2016 production of The Life and Death of Jack Straw. Additionally, he will direct Bad Quarto's Summer 2017 production of Love's Labour's Lost.

Lindsay Fabes (Cleophila/Urania/Citizen 3) is thrilled to be joining Bad Quarto Productions this season! She is a recent graduate of the University of Oklahoma's School of Drama, and was most recently involved in the Midtown International Theatre Festival as a Fight Director for Mescaline. Some of her other recent credits include Tribes (Sylvia u/s) at Barrington Stage Company, A Midsummer Night's Dream (Hermia), and Bonnie and Clyde (Bonnie/Blanche u/s). She would like to thank her family and friends for always supporting her. Love you all!

Amelia Fei (Hidaspes/Citizen 1) is a recent graduate from The American Musical and Dramatic Academy in NYC. Her New York credits include Columbia University School of the Arts MFA 8 to 12 Film Festival: Leo's EducationThe Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow (Jennifer Marcus), Into The Woods Parody (Quick Silver Productions). She is granted a BA in Western Literature in Taiwan, and is grateful to have this wonderful opportunity to being a part of the Cupid’s Revenge family. Endless love to her parents and friends.
Brandon Fox (Leontius) is from Wall, New Jersey. He is a recent graduate of the Rutgers, Mason Gross School of the Arts BFA program. New York credits include Romeo and Juliet at Gorilla Rep, Imagine at Theater for the New City and I Am Irish at the NY Winterfest. Rutgers credits include playing Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, Gabriel in Gabriel directed by Christopher Cartmill and Mink in Sardanapalus directed by Knud Adams.                                                                                                        

Liz Lodato (Dorialus/Urania’s Maid) is a graduate of the Mary Baldwin Shakespeare and Performance MLitt/MFA program. Liz previously appeared with Bad Quarto Productions in The Vagina Monologues. Recent credits include Twelfth Night, Love's Labours Lost, and The Duchess of Malfi (American Shakespeare Center), and new work, Smoke Break (Asian Arts Initiative, Philadelphia, PA). Liz is currently a professor of English and Theater at St. Peter's University in Jersey City, NJ.

James Overton (Music Director; Telamon/Priest/Citizen 4) is working with Bad Quarto Productions for the fourth time, having previously appeared in The Life and Death of Jack StrawHamlet: The First Quarto; and The Taming of a Shrew. Other NYC theatre credits include: Twelfth Night with Swiftly Titling Theatre Project, Little Red in the Hood: And Other R-Rated Shorts, and And Then There Were None with Alpha NYC Theatre Company. James has also appeared with New Hampshire's Shakespeare in the Valley as Launce in Two Gentlemen of Verona as well as Oberon and Theseus in A Midsummer Night's Dream. James is currently a studying improvisation at the Upright Citizen's Brigade. He  received his Bachelor's Degree from Bennington College where he starred in Don Juan, and Myths and Hymns.

Marcella Pereda (Ismenus/Bacha’s Maid) is new to New York City, having moved here in September of last year. Recent regional favorites include Tis Pity She's a Whore (Annabella), The Skin of Our Teeth (Gladys) and the world premiere of Remington and Weasel (Kim). BFA, University of Utah. Learn more at

Analiese Puzon (Fight Captain; Timantus) is excited to bring this crazy story to life with such a passionate and talented cast! Favorite credits include: Francine Skullvos Brendan, Pirate Navigator at the New York Renaissance Faire; Juror #6 in Twelve Angry Women, and Ermengarde in Hello, Dolly!. She is a recognized Actor/Combatant with the Society of American Fight Directors and is a graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in NYC.

Sabrina Robinson (Bacha)  is excited to reignite her passion for acting with the company of Cupid's Revenge! Known for being energetic and nice, Sabrina enjoys acting because she's able to explore the other facets of her personality and transform into an entirely different person. A Jersey native, she attended college and grad school in Philadelphia, and has lived in Manhattan for the past two years. She loves feasting on food and libations with friends, frolicking around the city, and snuggling her poodle.

Ivy Tinker (Cupid/Zoylus/Hero/Citizen 2) is finishing up her third year at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and is thrilled to join Bad Quarto for this production! Previous roles include Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream and Dawn Midnight in The Secretaries. She is also very excited to be playing Annie in The Vibrator Play at Stella Adler Studio of Acting this coming May.

Angelina LaBarre (Director)  is a director and professor at Contra Costa College. Recent directing credits with CCC include Exit, Pursued By a Bear; The Laramie Project; Almost, Maine; and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged. Other CA directing credits include The Merry Wives with Big Idea Theatre, Julius Caesar with Darkroom Productions, and Twelfth NightThe Sea Voyage; and The Merry Wives of Windsor with Roving Shakespeare. Angelina holds an MFA and an M.Litt. in Shakespeare and Performance from Mary Baldwin University’s partner program with the American Shakespeare Center, and a BA from Sacramento State University.

Anthony Vaughn Merchant (Fight Choreographer) is an experienced stage veteran with a MFA from The University of Kansas City. In addition to a laundry list of classical experience from Bottom to Tiresias, He has also made a number of appearances on screen for HBO, Hulu and Netflix to name a few. He has done the fight work for a number of companies including his notable wrestling match in CTF production of As You Like It which was praised by a member of the WWE.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Embracing Cupid's Revenge

The Jacobin revenge tragedy is not my favorite genre of play. The wanton bloodshed and downright spectacle of the pieces put me off, to be completely honest. In my mind Cupid’s Revenge or The Revenger’s Tragedy feel more in line with the films of Quentin Tarantino than the plays of Shakespeare. And while Tarantino's films and these plays have a lot to say about the world they spring from, that sort of extreme violence and simplistic morality parable meant having to work a little bit harder to find a human connection to Leucippus and the world Beaumont and Fletcher give us in Cupid's Revenge.

Leucippus (Alex Dabertin) puts Timantus (Analiese Puzon) to trial for
his crimes in Bad Quarto Productions' 2017 production of Beaumont and
Fletcher's Cupid's Revenge. Directed by Angelina LaBarre. 

I had to work with the director to find where the heart of Prince Leucippus lay and why he is the way that he is. Most of the conversations that Angelina and I had centered on guilt. Leucippus falls victim to misplaced passion from the start, and his manipulation by the diety leads him to other, more fatal errors. His ardor for the moral improvement of Lycia, ultimately costs him his sister, his father, and his life. Out of Leucippus’ honest desire to have the best for himself and others comes tragedy. And it was the idea of his guilt for those past actions that opened Leucippus for me.

In my exploration of Leucippus' guilt, I found an even deeper motivation: disgust. Leucippus becomes disgusted with himself and with his world, but he never loses his sympathy. He plays out the role of the Christian martyr with great honesty and, I hope, moving grace. There has an acceptance of his death that is aspirational for me.

My first few weeks with Cupid’s Revenge have been a journey from disgust to intrigue to love. I love the characters for all of their faults and desperate needs. And that's what makes this a good choice for Bad Quarto Productions: whereas other companies might focus on gruesome spectacle, our method of production will strip away some of the artifice from the incidents and leave these characters bare to the audience, open to judgment or admiration.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Rethinking Romance Genres with "Cupid's Revenge"

One of my joys in exploring the non-Shakespearean drama of the English Renaissance are the plays that play with genre. One can forgive Polonius (or even Corambis) for the extensive list of dramatic genres that players are to be congratulated for mastering: "the tragical-comical-historical-pastoral" (Hamlet, TLN 1479) suggests genre flips that can only be taxing for the playwrights and performers.

This kind of genre bending is rare for us today. We tend to know what kind of movie or television show we're going to get before we see it, and there is rarely any deviation from the formula. Which isn't to say that the formula can't be done well: I have previously written about my admiration for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but as intelligent and politically relevant, even necessary, as The Winter Soldier may be, it still follows the basic action genre formula closely.

Most dramatic works establish what Colin Counsell calls "the law of the text" pretty early and stick to it. The law of the text establishes the ground rules for the the audience's interpretation of all elements of a play, so it's important for more plays to establish the law of the text early in the performance (Counsell 15). As an audience, we need to know how we should interpret signs and signifiers in order to enjoy the reading of the story: i.e. should we read that table as a representation of a table from the period in which the play takes place? Should we interpret it as a sign of wealth and status of the characters who use it? Should we read it as an artistic commentary on that wealth and status, or by extension, those characters? Is the cigar merely a cigar, or should we understand it to have signifying value beyond itself? And if so, how much weight should we give that significance, especially as relates to the signifying value of the object as an object?

This law of the text is usually imparted to us, as an audience, so seamlessly that we don't even realize it's happening, but when that law changes, our understanding of the world is turned on its head. Some films use this as a technique to great success: When Keeanu Reeves wakes up in a vat of goo in The Matrix, nothing that we've seen in the movie up to that point makes sense anymore. When Selma Hayek bites down hard on Quentin Tarantino's jugular in From Dusk Till Dawn, we're as surprised as George Clooney, Harvey Keitel, and Juliette Lewis to learn that this is a vampire movie. We're as confused as everyone else, and as a result, we can share in the immediacy and confusion of our protagonists.

It's easy for us to forget that Shakespeare was a fairly conservative writer, but it also shouldn't be too surprising: when you're the master of a formula, why deviate from it? Even as Shakespeare begins to incorporate some of the changing dramatic tastes into his later work (a masque in The Tempest, for example), his later work is most notable for how his verse develops to match the rhythms of natural speech and thought more closely. The real innovations in dramatic formula came from the next generation of playwrights, and Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher offer us an example of how the "up and coming" playwrights of the early 1600s were developing their own dramatic signatures with plays like Cupid's Revenge.

The law of the text that Cupid's Revenge establishes tells us that this is going to be a romantic comedy. A puritan princess is going to get her comeuppance by falling in love with a clown, the Duke will learn the perils of doting too much on his daughter, and his son will, through all of this, leave off his dallying and grow into the kind of king Lycia needs him to be. And then the bodies start hitting the floor, and Cupid changes from a "blind rascally boy that abuses every one's eyes because his own are out" (as Shakespeare describes him) to a dark and vengeful god whose blood-lust can bring down a country. By the time we've figured out what's happening in this play, the characters we suspected were our protagonists are already dead.

Beaumont and Fletcher wrote Cupid’s Revenge at a time when theatre was beginning to more closely resemble theatre as we know it than it was theatre as Shakespeare knew it, and Beaumont and Fletcher were key innovators in making that leap. Cupid’s Revenge comes right from that moment when Shakespeare was starting to hang up his pen, and English theatre was making an evolutionary leap. This "next generation" of playwrights knew they needed to do something to make their mark, and their formal experiments in drama, including genre bending, helped bring the theatre of the early modern period into something more recognizable to the modern era.

Works Cited

Beaumont, Francis and John Fletcher. Cupid's Revenge. London: 1615. EEBO.  Accessed August 2016. STC 1667.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Dir. Anthony Russo and Joe Russo. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictyures: 2014. Film.

Counsell, Colin. Signs of Performance. London: Routledge. 1996. Print.

From Dusk Till Dawn. Dir. Robert Rodriguez. Miramax: 1996. Film.

The Matrix. Dir. The Wachowski Brothers. Warner Bros.: 1999. Film.

Shakespeare, William. As You Like It. The Open Source Shakespeare. Fairfax: George Mason University. Web. Accessed 20 February 2017. <>

--. Hamlet. The Open Source Shakespeare. Fairfax: George Mason University. Web. Accessed 20 February 2017. <>

--. Twelfth Night. The Open Source Shakespeare. Fairfax: George Mason University. Web. Accessed 20 February 2017. <>

Tambasco, Tony. "A Jig or a Tale of Bawdry." The Shakespeare Standard. 14 Sept. 2014. Web. Accessed 20 February 2017. <>

Monday, January 9, 2017

Announcing our 2017 Season!

Bad Quarto Productions is pleased to announce our 2017 season! The season includes Cupid’s Revenge, a rarely performed play by John Fletcher and Francis Beaumont,  the earliest printed version of Shakespeare’s early comedy Love’s Labour’s Lost, and Anna Karenina Lives! A new musical play by Germaine Shames.

First printed in 1615, Cupid's Revenge is a tale of love, revenge, and mortal folly that was highly influential to post-Shakespearean playwrights. When the Duke of Lycia prohibits the worship of Cupid, the god of love decides to take revenge on his entire kingdom, putting the future of Lycia in peril.

Angelina LaBarre, a California based director and Shakespeare scholar will guest direct this lost classic of the English Renaissance this spring. Some of LaBarre’s most recent credits include Exit, Pursued By a Bear; The Laramie Project; Almost, Maine; and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged with Contra Costa College and The Merry Wives with Big Idea Theatre, and Julius Caesar with Darkroom Productions.

Our summer offering will be a production of the earliest printed version of Love's Labour's Lost, one of Shakespeare's early comedies that we know primarily through the Folio version. The first quarto of Love’s Labour’s Lost was printed in 1598. When the King of Navarre and his friends decide to isolate himself from the world to study philosophy, they think they’ve created the perfect way of understanding the world, but their plans are foiled when the Princess of France and her ladies arrive on a diplomatic mission, the four gentleman discover the weakness in monastic philosophy.

Alex Dabertin, who directed 2015's What, Lamb! What, Ladybird!, and has previously appeared onstage as Hamlet in our production of Hamlet: The First Quarto and as Polidor in The Taming of a Shrew, will direct this rarely performed version of one of Shakespeare's most beloved comedies.

Our regular season comes to a close with Anna Karenina Lives! by Germaine Shames. Anna Karenina Lives! is a new musical comedy that sees a young Mae West Join forces with Sophia Tolstoy to save Anna and the Russian aristocracy from themselves through the power of love and vaudeville.

Bad Quarto Artistic Director Tony Tambasco, who most recently directed our production of The Life and Death of Jack Straw, will direct Anna Karenina Lives! this coming Fall.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Shakespearean Costuming Conditions in The Life and Death of Jack Straw.

One of the staging conditions we don't talk quite as much about here at Bad Quarto Productions is our costume choices, which are, like everything we do, inspired by what our counterparts in early modern London did to bring these plays to life. That is to say, we perform our plays largely in modern dress, usually using items we get from thrift shops.

John Ball (James Overton) delivers a sermon to incite a revolt in Bad Quarto Productions' 2016 presentation of  The Life and Death of Jack Straw. Directed by Tony Tambasco. Photo by James M. Smith. 
By and large, costumes in the early modern era came from the early modern equivalent of the thrift shop. It was customary for the well-to-do to leave their clothing to their servants when they died, but loosely enforced sumptuary laws prohibited those from the lower classes from wearing certain types of cloth in certain amounts, which usually corresponded with the types of clothing the ruling classes wore.

Since they couldn't wear them publicly, it was not uncommon for the servants to sell these wardrobe items to the playing companies: the Elizabethan equivalent of a thrift shop.

There are, of course, some aspects of the costuming of these shows that we have to bow to. Certain characters are referred to as wearing capes, cloaks, and often certain kinds of hats, and who could forget the swords? They're not exactly part of the modern suit and tie ensemble, but we can often make them work with a modern base of the suit and tie (dressing down from there).

The Peachum drawing.

That all said, we know that early modern players sometimes costumed there plays more specifically. When the King's Men first performed Middleton's political satire A Game at Chess in 1624, for example, they took some pains to acquire the wardrobe of Diego Sarmiento de Acuña, Count of Gondomar, and former Spanish Ambassador to England, on whom Middleton based the character of the Black Knight. Likewise, the Peachum drawing suggests that togas might have been used for Titus Andronicus, which opens the door to their being used in other Roman plays.

Working with Joanne Famiglietti, who costumed The Life and Death of Jack Straw, when we were confronted with the question of what some of these characters might have worn, we didn't have to look too far to find an answer....

John Ball encouraging Wat Tyler rebels from ca 1470 MS of Froissart Chroniques de France et d'Angleterre in BL.
Granted that manuscript dates from about 100 years after the fact, but it gave us a pretty clear place to begin when designing the costume for James Overton, who plays John Ball in our production of Jack Straw (see the photo above). Froissart's Chronicle was also helpful for costuming the young King Richard II....

Death of Wat Tyler Froissart Chroniques de France et d'Angleterre Book II (c 1483) 175 BL Royal MS 18
We've seen that image before in our discussions of this play: while the image describes the death of Wat Tyler, the most prominent figure is King Richard II, in a blue robe atop his horse. Here is how that translated to our production....

King Richard II (Maria Pleshkevich) knights the Lord Mayor of London (Courtney McClellan) for his service during the revolt in a scene from Bad Quarto Productions performance of The Life and Death of Jack Straw. Directed by Tony Tambasco. Photo by James M. Smith

I like to put kings in lighter colored suits than the rest of the cast because it helps draw focus to them, and I wanted to use the same crown for Richard II that King Harry wore in our production of Cronicle Historie of Henry the Fift, but the blue cloak was suggested by Froissart.

Mounting a play at Bad Quarto Productions always means trying to create a modern early-modern experience of seeing them, which means, ultimately, that we filter what we know about the ways these plays were staged through a 21st century theatrical sensibility, and do so for the benefit of audiences who will likewise view the experience through their own 21st century theatrical sensibilities. It also means adapting the techniques of the early modern playing companies to the technologies and cultural institutions available to us today. How we costume our players is one of the foremost aspects of that process, even though it might not be one of the ones more commonly featured in our pre-show speeches.