Theatre SC Explores Gender Identity on the 17th Century Stage With Compleat Female Stage Beauty
COLUMBIA, SC - Theatre South Carolina will explore the interplay between passion, power, fame and gender identity via the 17th century stage with Compleat Female Stage Beauty, showing at Longstreet Theatre November 9-17.
Show times are 8pm Wednesdays-Fridays, 7pm Saturdays and 3pm on the first Sunday. There is an additional half-price late night performance on Saturday, November 17 at 11pm. Tickets for the production are $12 for students, $16 for USC faculty/staff, military personnel and seniors 60+, and $18 for the general public. Tickets can be purchased by calling 803-777-2551 <tel:803-777-2551> or by visiting the Longstreet Theatre box office, which is open Monday-Friday, 12:30pm-5:30pm, beginning Friday, November 2.
Compleat Female Stage Beauty contains strong adult language and situations, and is intended for mature audiences only.
Playwright Jeffrey Hatcher’s historically-based drama is set in England during the Restoration, 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, his 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, DC, and an internationally known Shakespearean voice, text and dialect expert, is directing the production.
“The Restoration era is kind of a forgotten period in the theatre," says Logan. "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."
Logan is imposing a unique twist on the lead character’s issues of 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,” he explains, “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 that he had to do, which brings the character’s situation very much into the now.”
Hatcher’s play provides a daunting challenge for the show’s design team, as it follows Kynaston’s journey from the resplendent opulence of the royal palace to the seedy theatrical underworld. MFA scenic designer Xeumei Cao has created a set that allows for effective transition between these two worlds, with the imaginative addition of a surrounding, “carnival-mirrored” backdrop, symbolic of the importance of appearances in society of the period. MFA costume designer April Andrew has the formidable task of creating multiple, period specific, on and off-stage attire for Kynaston, his fellow actors and the royal court. Detailed wig and makeup design by costume instructor Valerie Pruett will complete the show’s myriad fashions. Lighting by designer Jim Hunter (Artistic Director for Theatre SC) will be used to full effect to differentiate the play’s many locations and underscore Kynaston’s psychological descent. Finally, sound by guest artist Matthew Nielson will encompass original compositions as well as the variety of environmental sounds of the play’s theatrical settings.
This production will mark the first appearance on the Theatre SC main stage of a new class of Master of Fine Arts in Acting students. In addition to Peters, MFA actors cast in the production include James Costello, Kate Dzonvik, Trey Hobbs, Josiah Laubenstein, Corey Lipman, Laurie Roberts and Leanna Rubin. Also cast are guest artists Park Bucker, an Associate Professor of English at USC Sumter, and recent MAT alumnus Stephen Ingle. 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 talented cast.
It all adds up a riveting theatrical experience that Logan describes as an interweaving of two distinct moods. "There's a lot of jest and frolic in the play, but there's also the deep undertone of a man who is in the midst of losing his complete identity—his sexual identity, his professional identity, his social identity. Amidst all of the lighthearted frolic, we're deeply moved as we watch a man's psyche cracking in half."
For more information on Compleat Female Stage Beauty or the theatre program at the University of South Carolina, contact Kevin Bush by phone at (803) 777-9353 or by email at email@example.com.