Saturday, June 04, 2011

Elizabeth Rex

The final meeting of The Society's 105th season included a production of Timothy Findley's Elizabeth Rex, directed by Stephen Shrader and produced by Marianne Shrader.

Would you believe that Shakespeare and his players once entertained Queen Elizabeth in a barn? That historical fantasy is roughly the premise of this play, a whimsical post-show talkback between the legendary Elizabeth I, William Shakespeare and his troupe of actors known as The Lord Chamberlain's Men.

It's a play within a play. It is the evening before the Earl of Essex is to be beheaded for the crime of treason against his former lover, the Queen.

Veteran FASD actor Julia Keim, provided us with a convincing Queen, who banters combatively with Ned Lowescroft, Shakespeare's leading portrayer of "mature" female roles played by George Abud. Their verbal duel of wits, filled with electricity, lead to the Queen's challenge to Ned "if you will teach me how to be a woman, I will teach you how to be a man."

The director made the unusual, but not surprising, choice of a woman to play the part of William Shakespeare in this production. Afterall, women were never allowed on stage in Shakespear's time. The talented Karen Quarnstrom filled this role admirably.

The queen's lady-in-waiting Lady Mary Stanley, played by Agnes Ward, and another of the acting troupe, Matthew Welles played by FASD guest performer Deshon Favors, provided a secondary theme in the play. Lady Stanley was assisted in her duties by servants played by Katherine Shrader and Abigail Carney.

The troup's costume mistress, Kate Tarwell played by Gina Telford, provided some comedic relief during this intense play.

Lecta Stewart as Anne, Countess of Henslowe, Bruce Maters as Lord Robert Cecil, Matthew Miazgowicz as star actor Jonathan Edmund, Bill McCarthy as over-the-hill actor Percy Gower, Cody Shrader as young actor of female roles Henry Pearle, Zach Langenburg as yound actor Benjamin Herlie, Bob Lee as the lecherous actor Luddy Beddoes and Carolyn and Lindsey Shrader as Ned's pet bear "Harry" rounded out the cast.

The simple yet effective set, built and painted by Dave Wojtan, Greg Ridella and Bonnie Denler, came alive with costuming by Shirl Williams and Norma Eschenburg and lighting by Andrew Denler and Jesse Villegas, and the large cast was aptly kept on their toes by stage manager Jonathan Davis. The vast array of period props was provided by the artful Sally Van Deventer, assisted by Anne Maters and Bonnie Denler. Frank Van Deventer managed the many sound effects during the play, and period music was provided live by Michael J. McGillivray on violin, Catherine Sherwin on flute and David Haughey on cello. Makeup by Laurie Striebel, Margaret Dawson and Sharon Conte made the actors visible in the dim lighting of the production. Dance sequences were choreographed by Laura ver Beek. Gary Miller and Nancy Radke served as assistant directors through the long rehearsal period.

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