Sunday, May 15, 2016

What, Lamb! What, Ladybird!: recontextualizing Shakespeare-esque theatre with new plays.

Margo Jones, one of the principal founders of America's regional theatre movement, believed that the best programming would include a mixture of classics and new plays, and it is in that spirit that Bad Quarto Productions is excited to be offering our first production of a new play since 2012: What, Lamb! What, Ladybird! by Charlene V. Smith (who is also the artistic director of Washington DC's Brave Spirits Theatre Co).

Since the primary focus of Bad Quarto tends to be on rarely performed plays of the early modern period, and the versions of the texts that have been marginalized by certain scholars, it might seem a little strange, on the surface, for us to be performing a new play, but there are some very good reasons for it that have nothing to do with the direction of American theatre.

It's easy for us in the 21st century to forget that Shakespeare's plays were once new. Audiences watched them not knowing what was going to happen, or thinking they knew what was going to happen only to have Shakespeare change things up on them (as he did in King Lear, which deviates significantly from the early King Leir). Presenting new, or nearly new plays allows us to recapture some of that original sense of surprise and wonder that Shakespeare's plays had.

But on a more basic level, Bad Quarto Productions is devoted to helping recontextualize Shakespeare: most of us first get to know his plays as sacred works of literature that must, when they are staged, be performed with only the most delicate care and precision. We don't perform them that way, since that's not how Shakespeare and his players would have performed them, Smith's script takes a different approach to recontextualizing Romeo and Juliet: by examining the development of the performance history of the character, as well as contemporary reactions to her, Smith explores the relevance of Juliet's poetic passions in the era of Tinder, and this direct examination is something we haven't done before.

While we don't plan to back away from staging the rarely done works of the English Renaissance, What, Lamb! What, Ladybird! will help us explore those contexts in a way that staging an early modern play cannot.

What, Lamb! What, Ladybird! will perform on July 9, 10, 15, 16 at 8PM and July 17 at 2PM in at Studios 353 in NYC.

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