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Macbeth: A Note on the Throne

Have you caught a production of Macbeth yet? If not, never fear! You still have 4 more chances to catch a production this week at Vizcaya Villa. For tickets, click here. For some context before you go, keep reading as we explore kingship, or, as it’s often referred to, “the throne.”

The concept of kingship is recurrent throughout Macbeth. It is interesting to note that during the time the play was written, King James I, who believed strongly that the throne should be passed down by hereditary means, was sitting on England’s throne. It is also interesting to note that several of the honorable noblemen and military officials featured in Macbeth can be traced as direct ancestors of King James I, including Duncan, Malcolm, Siward, Banquo, and Fleance. While in the world of Macbeth the throne is passed down based on the blood line, this was a recently established procedure. It was not until Duncan’s great-grandfather came into power that this process was put into place. Before this, the Scottish Princes of Cumberland were elected by the council of thanes. This change in how the throne was filled was not openly received by all.

Hopefully this is some fun food for thought as you watch the play! Hope to see you there!

Shakespeare’s Audiences are Still Lit!

Written by Jessie Wise, Company Wright

I’ve always loved Shakespeare, but despite earning my bachelors degree in Theatre Arts Education and my masters degree in Theatre History and Criticism, outside of classwork I had never had the chance to really get involved with the plays. After losing my theatre teaching position due to budget cuts, I really wasn’t sure how I was going to get back to the theatre game. Early this year, I spotted an ad in the local paper for auditions for Sweet Tea Shakespeare’s summer shows and knew I had to take the leap to get back involved. One play later, I now am stepping further into this wonderful theatre community to help with some writing and dramaturgical projects. I look forward to the opportunity to share just why I love Shakespeare. 

As Sweet Tea Shakespeare prepares to bring HamLit to the stage this fall, I’ve been thinking about all the ways Shakespeare’s writing remains relevant to today’s audiences. While there is much to be said for how the Bard captures humanity in his works (a blog for another day), I have also been considering how though times have changed from the Elizabethan era, the audience’s needs remain the same. 

Shakespeare’s original audiences came to the open air theatre of the Globe to see a performance and received an experience similar to the sports events of today. They ate,drank, and had the freedom to move about. Those in the floor section, often referred to as the groundlings, could move closer to the stage for a better view. 

This is very much a practice we believe in at Sweet Tea Shakespeare. We provide food and beverage offerings for sale. We have a “sit where you will” and “move as you need” policy, allowing audience members to find explore new perspectives by moving around the seating area, and also acknowledging that humans need movement. 

The atmosphere is akin to what you find at today’s breweries. Grab a beer. Visit the food truck. Pick a seat. Spot a friend. Switch seats to sit with them. Grab another beer. This is what you’ll find as Sweet Tea Shakespeare brings HamLit to local bars and breweries this fall. We hope to see you there! 

Crash Course on Timon of Athens

Before settling down on a lawn chair or quilt to watch Green Tea’s production,Timon of Athens, here’s a quick overview of the plot. 

The play opens with the introduction of Timon- a kind aristocrat in Athens with a severe spending habit. When Timon finds himself confronted with debts, his steward, Flavius, can do little more than tell him that he is bankrupt. Timon then sends his servants to ask his friends for help, only to find that no one will lend him money to repay his debt. In a rage, Timon invites them all to one last feast, severing the main dish- stones and warm water. After this, Timon denounces his former friends and all of mankind. 

Meanwhile, Alcibiades, a captain of Athens, has been pleading against a death sentence given to one of his men. For his persistence, the Senate banishes Alcibiades. Despising the Senate for banishing him, Alcibiades decides to turn his army against Athens in revenge and hears about Timon who has left Athens to live as a hermit. 

Timon, looking for food in the wilderness, finds a hidden stash of gold. Alcibiades finds Timon and tries to befriend him by offering him money. When Timon hears of Alcibiades’ plan to destroy Athens, Timon gives Alcibiades gold to pay his men and march to Athens. Timon even sends away his former steward, Flavius, although with gold in his pockets and more kindness than he has shown to anyone else. 

Alcibiades arrives at the gates of Athens. The senators attempt to defend the city, explaining that not everyone in Athens insulted Alcibiades and Timon, and they ask that Alcibiades come into the city in peace. 

To find out how Alcibiades acts once in Athens, come to see Green Tea’s production of Timon of Athens under the stars, August 21-23. Get your tickets to see the play in action at sweetteashakespeare.com/tickets. 

Interview with Aaron Alderman

As we are getting ready to open Richard III and The Merry Wives of Windsor, we had the chance to interview Aaron Alderman on his experiences playing both Richard and Falstaff.

What drew you to playing Richard and Falstaff?

The short answer: I was asked. The more honest answer is that I first agreed to play Richard. When given the opportunity to play one of the greatest written roles with a company that I love and respect, very few things could compel me to say no. Falstaff was a role I’d preformed before and thoroughly enjoyed, and I was excited at the opportunity to play again.

What are the similarities between Richard and Falstaff?

The similarities are few but ones I find intriguing. There are two notable answers. They’re both men who have survived massive wars, and they are both men of notably unusual physicality.

What are the differences?

While there are many differences, the most notable are how they deal with their commonalities.

Richard thrived in war, Falstaff got through it. Richard cannot bear to be bored and left alone with himself, so much so that he murders enemies and friends to take over his kingdom. Falstaff would just as soon goof around and have the rest of his life be nothing but weekend partying followed by a lazy Sunday.

Richard is full of self loathing, and he has been told his whole life that he is disgusting and he despises the world for it, with a special destain for women. Falstaff is called or alluded to as fat at every given opportunity and he still thinks he’s God’s gift to the human race. He truly believes all women want him and all men want to be him (they just don’t know it yet).

How has playing both of these characters in repertory stretched you as an actor?

Goodness, I mean there’s the simple weight of the amount of text itself that’s difficult. The real challenge I find is the switch between characters. I likened it recently to the sport of Chess Boxing, where you box and play chess alternating at 5 minute intervals. The whole point being to physically engage, while keeping your mind lucid and alert, and conversely to engage your mind heavily without deactivating your body to let it cool… so yeah… it’s a bit like that.

Why should people see Richard III and The Merry Wives of Windsor?

These shows are very different experiences, and each one on their own will be a fun and magical engagement. However, combined, they are like coffee and cream and will leave, I believe, a happily satiated audience.

Get your tickets to see these plays in action at sweetteashakespeare.com/tickets.

 

Winter’s Tale ~ A Glance Behind the Pages

Historical Background Information—The Winter’s Tale

This aspect of dramaturgy has posed a challenged, because technically this play reflects no actual history, at least on the surface. Probing below the surface however, it is believed to be allegorical to the second marriage of King Henry VIII of England to Anne Boleyn, or more to the point, its tragic ending. A little historical background to that is in order.

The English Reformation was different from that of Continental Europe in that

1. It was a largely top-down affair, legislated by the monarchy

2. It had very much to do with the personal life of King Henry VIII.

Henry VIII’s marital record is very well known to history, and much came down to producing a male heir. His first wife, Catherine of Aragon had produced only one surviving child—a daughter, Mary. Then as she aged, Henry genuinely developed the hots for her lady-in-waiting, Anne Boleyn. So Henry appealed to Rome for an annulment of his first marriage, on the retrospectively decided grounds of Catherine’s being his brother Arthur’s widow, something that was apparently disallowed without a dispensation (which they had gotten) The divorce suit was hardly the most frivolous one to come forth from or been granted to a monarch, but it nonetheless threatened to undo the whole legitimacy of Papal Dispensations. Furthermore, at the time, Pope Clement VII was under the political thumb of Catherine’s nephew, Charles V.

The pope therefore had little option but to dither and stall, allowing the suit to proceed in England for the next two years, before suddenly announcing that it had to be brought to Rome anew. Henry, after laying increasing pressure on the Pope, in 1531 compelled an assembly of English clergy to make him “protector and only supreme head” of the Church in England. Then, in 1533, he went ahead and married the already pregnant Anne, without waiting for an annulment of his previous marriage. When the child turned out to be a girl (the future Queen Elizabeth I), it must have seemed all for nothing—Henry refused even to attend her christening. From there, things didn’t work out so well for Anne, after subsequent failed efforts to give the king a son, ending with a miscarriage. Afterward, the king fell in love with her lady-in-waiting, Jane Seymour, his eventual third wife. Rather than attempt another divorce, he had Anne imprisoned and executed on trumped-up charges of adultery with multiple men—including a close friend of the king’s who refused to confess even to avoid execution. It has been suggested then that Perdita was an allegorical presentation of Elizabeth, the unwanted daughter who went on to be one of the greatest (if not greatest) English monarchs in history.

There are also historical circumstances surrounding some of the geographical oddities described in the play. In The Winter’s Tale, there are references to the “seacoast” and “desert” of the Kingdom of Bohemia. If this Bohemia is the same the comprises most of the modern Czech Republic, this does not make sense, because this region has neither desert nor seacoast. But Bohemia in this context may refer to a much larger territory briefly ruled by Ottokar II of Bohemia that included the Adriatic coast, making it theoretically possible to sail from Sicily to the “seacoast of Bohemia” during the period under discussion. Other possibilities are that Bohemia was an alternate name for the region Apulia in Sicily or a misspelling of Bithynia in Asia Minor. The most likely theory is that Shakespeare, when adapting the novella Pandosto – in which King Pandosto of Bohemia was the one who suspected his wife of being unfaithful with his best friend, the King of Sicily – Shakespeare chose to reverse the locations of the two characters. This was because of King James II’s alliance with Rudolph II, the King of Bohemia (and the Holy Roman Emperor!) at the time of the play was first performed—also making it possible for the play to be performed in honor of the marriage of James’s daughter Elizabeth to the crown prince of Bohemia! There are also other explanations for this and other geographic improbabilities that have been discussed in a separate literary history of the play.

Beyond Bohemia, there is also the question of why Shakespeare located the Oracle of Delphi on an island, when Delphi (ancient and modern) is located in the mountains in Central Greece. Rather, this seeming relocation of the Oracle to the island of Delos (known in Shakespeare’s time as Delphos) is lifted straight from Pandosto, whose author in turn refers Virgil’s Aeneid.

Winter’s Tale – Historical Timeline

Timeline—History of the Play

~ 1588— Pandosto, a pastoral romance by Robert Greene (the literary source for Shakespeare’s “Winter’s Tale”) published.

~ c.1610-1611—Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale first published.

~ May 11, 1611–”The Winter’s Tale” first performed at the Globe Theatre in London

~ November 5, 1611–”The Winter’s Tale” performed before King James I at the Royal Court

~ February 14, 1613–”The Winter’s Tale” performed at Whitehall as part of the festivities in honor of the

~ marriage of Princess Elizabeth to King Frederick IV, Elector Palatine

~ 1623—“The Winter’s Tale” published in First Folio.