For those who may wish to pursue further reading on Martin Luther and the Reformation era, here is a bibliography of the research sources I used when I wrote A Mighty Fortress (1988). In 1991 when we premiered it (after…
Here are short descriptions of the main historic figures and terms referred to in A Mighty Fortress and its new Prologue.
Being a bit familiar with them in advance will definitely help you to appreciate the events more thoroughly.
HISTORIC PEOPLE AND TERMS FOR YOU TO KNOW:
John Wycliffe(ca 1320 to 1384): known as the “Morning Star” of the English Reformation, an Oxford seminary professor who publicly criticized the decadence of the clergy and the luxurious excess of the Church. He supported rendering the Scriptures into the language of the common people, and supervised a translation of the Bible from the Vulgate into Middle English. He died of a stroke in 1384. He was declared a heretic by the Catholic Church in 1415, and his remains were exhumed, burned, and cast into a river.
It's fairly obvious from the banner what WE are celebrating this year: all for One was founded 25 years ago this September. But by a happy coincidence, the very first play in our repertoire, A Mighty Fortress, concerns the events…
Those who are familiar with all for One will know that since 2010 we have included notes in every program designed to enrich our audience’s understanding and enjoyment of our plays. These notes, loosely referred to as dramaturgy, may include, among other things: brief biography of original author or playwright, overview of the story and/or the time period, a timeline of historic events related to the play, and notes about our staging choices.
This blog was created in 2013 to serve as a repository of all the information we can’t cram in a page or two of the printed program. In this case, there is so much information readily available online about this book, we are choosing to limit our writing to a brief biography of L’Engle and a synopsis of the beginning of the book, along with some notes on our staging. After the play opens on April 28, we may include more production notes along with photos.
Here then is an only-slightly-expanded version of the Dramaturgy you will find in our program. Those of you who will attend get a chance to read it ahead of time, and in better light.
Although it is hard for us on staff to realize that we are already less than a month away from our closing production of 2016-2017, designer/director Jeff Salisbury has been hard at work planning this area premiere for nine months…
There isn’t really any such thing as a “spoiler” in a well-known story, but you might want to read this post after you see the show, so that its impact isn’t diminished by anticipation.
If you know the play well, or have seen other productions, you will certainly notice a couple of things missing or changed in our version–over and above the material cut according to the criteria given in Dramaturgy part 1.
Shakespeare calls for a “Chorus” to speak the opening speech. But he abandons that convention after the first act and Chorus disappears. With another tip of the hat to Larry Life’s 1976 production, I severely edited the prologue and gave the lines to Friar Lawrence, who also ends the play. (The final quatrain in Shakespeare’s version is spoken by the Prince. But I find it more emotionally satisfying coming from the Friar.)
2. The Capulet servant in Act I, Scene 1 is supposed to be called Samson. But he (and Gregory) disappear, never to be seen again. However, Peter has a recurring small role as the clownish, illiterate servant, following the Nurse around, delivering invitations for Capulet, etc. And in the scene in which Mercutio teases the Nurse, Peter protests that he is always ready to fight “if the law be on my side”…which was a primary concern for the servant in Scene 1. Convinced therefore, that Samson is actually Peter, I made the change.
3. Regarding swords: renting swords was remarkably easy–especially because our friends at Fire & Light had just done The Three Musketeers and had exactly what we needed! We transferred their rental agreement with weaponsofchoice.com to afO. However, sword sheaths are very tricky to fit and expensive to rent. We ended up just having the actors tuck their swords into belts. This is fine as long as the actor can keep a hand on the hilt in order to keep the sword from sticking out behind and potentially stabbing an audience member. Therefore, though most actors should have been carrying weapons most of the time, we limited to absolute need.
I did not want Romeo carrying a sword at his wedding. He goes directly from there to the fight with Tybalt, so we solved it this way:
Having decided on a Renaissance setting for our production, it became the obvious choice to use music of the same period. Originally we had hoped to employ musicians to play all the incidental music live, but the nature of the black box theater is that live music too easily overpowers unamplified voices. Additionally, using the excellent sound system that the ArtsLab provides allows us to choose exactly where each sound comes from
For instance: during the dances, since there is important spoken dialogue going on as well, the music is coming from speakers on the floor underneath each section of audience seating. Being near the floor allows us to keep it quite muted but still allows the dancers to hear well enough to not lose their place.
Ultimately, in this wonderful digital age, the sounds of drums, recorder, classical guitar and harpsichord on an
Of course each production–indeed, each performance–of a LIVE play will be unique. Its actors are different, its stage, its costumes, scenery and props are specific to that production design, even if the script stays exactly the same. No two productions of any play will ever be identical.
In fact, although Shakespeare’s plays are among the very oldest “classics” that an American audience is ever likely to see, there is as much or more variation in the way his plays are mounted as in any other playwright’s work.
Written works are protected by copyright for only so long (usually 70 years or so). After that, the author is presumed to have made all the money he or she is going to make on that piece of work. In producing Shakespeare, therefore, our budget is helped by not paying royalties to a publisher.
[However, since we must either 1) purchase printed copies of the script or 2) print our own, there is still certainly some cost involved. In our Dramaturgy post (part 1), we explained how the script was shortened. But it is still 77 pages long, and in a cast of 17 with several production team members, that’s a lot of printing!]
Shakespeare wrote Romeo & Juliet during the Elizabethan era, in England. So should we set the play there and then?
William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-on-Avon, England, in 1564, and died in 1616. He lived during the reigns of Elizabeth I and her successor, James I. He founded a company of players who called themselves the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, and performed in London theaters, notably the Globe. He wrote 38 plays and 154 sonnets, and is widely considered the greatest writer in the English language.