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The Faggot King

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One enters the theatre to the strains of Jimmy Sommerville. Two suits of armor flank the playing space, and it is only once you sit down that you realize the armor is inhabited. The disco beat fades, and the cast emerges to sing a medieval motet as King Edward (Heather Schmidt) is crowned. The Faggot King, The School of Night’s adaptation of Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II has begun.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the production is that, despite the cuts and textual shifts, the adaptation is surprisingly faithful to the original. All the major moments are included. Favorite portions of Marlowe’s “mighty line” might be missed by scholars, but general audiences will be satisfied.

Marlowe’s play about an unpopular king, more interested in cavorting with his favorite, Piers Gaveston (Adriana Colon), than governing the country, remains sui generis. And his choice to dramatize a same sex relationship remains a bold one, even at the remove of several centuries. That said, Marlowe’s Edward is no innocent gay martyr. He is spoiled, petulant, an indifferent ruler, and so dangerously besotted with Gaveston that he rashly drives his wife, Queen Isabella (Kara Hume), into the arms of Mortimer (Eric Rollins.), the man who will be his downfall and his death.

Christopher Johnson both creates the adaptation and directs the production with an eye to clear communication with the audience. The 80-minute running time is roughly half of the original text, but Johnson maintains the epic sweep of the story. He audaciously uses gender-blind casting and blends historical accuracy with sly anachronisms--all of which work beautifully.

Johnson spices the tragedy with raucous humor and blunt sexuality. Not only does Edward consort with Gaveston, but we also witness Mortimer and Isabella’s coupling. The culmination of Johnson’s style is a wild sex party, presided over by biker boy, Spencer (Tiffany Cole), to the sounds of “Relax.” During the festivities, Edward joyously surrenders to Spencer in a way that physically foreshadows his method of execution.

Jen Albert’s thrilling fight choreography is a highlight of the production. Those clanging broadswords, deployed in the intimate Lounge Theatre space, are both galvanizing and a bit frightening. And let’s not even go into the multiple beheadings and the subsequent parade of rolling heads.

If some of the performers handle the verse better than others, it matters little. The cast is so committed and so suffused with the style of the piece that the result is a compelling theatrical experience. Scrappy and irreverent, this School of Night (Marlowe would appreciate the name.) production goes a long way to rescuing Marlowe from his Shakespearean footnote status.

Lounge Theatre    June 3 – June 24, 2017

 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.