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DIGITAL RESTORATION SERIES

Thirty years after the death of William Shakespeare, England plunged into a bloody civil war that ended with the execution of King Charles I, the exile of his teenage son (Charles II),, and a new Puritan theocracy called the “Protectorate.” For nine long years, the Protectorate, led by Oliver Cromwell, ruled the country of England with an iron fist. 

One of the primary targets of Cromwell’s new Puritan regime was the theater. Offended by what they perceived as the “vulgar” and “deceitful” practice of telling stories onstage, the Protectorate shut down all the playhouses in London and outlawed live performance. Theater, as it had existed for a hundred years, was suddenly gone. 

Sound familiar?

When the Protectorate finally collapsed in 1659, the newly “restored” King Charles II made it his priority to reopen the playhouses that had sat empty for almost a decade. In addition to licensing two theater companies to compete for London audiences, he passed a radical new law that allowed women to act on the stage. 

English theater was back, and this time around, women got to be part of the action. But after so much darkness and persecution, everyone in theater—playwrights, actors, designers, and administrators alike—found themselves asking the same questions facing artists in the shadow of COVID-19:

Where do we go from here?

Whose stories should we be telling and listening to? 

And how do we reconcile our nation’s suffering with the joy of our craft? 

In the five decades following the Restoration, some of the most brilliant storytellers in history set out to answer these very questions. Here at Sweet Tea Shakespeare, we think it’s worth exploring the revolutionary theater those artists created, which is how the Digital Restoration Series (DRS) was born.

“Why Sweet Tea Shakespeare?” you might ask. The answer is simple: we believe in the magic of classical theater. Like all the best plays of Shakespeare and his early modern contemporaries, Restoration comedy reveals and interrogates the world around us through heightened language, vibrant characters, and gripping action. The plays dazzle and delight us, while still finding ways to hold the mirror up to nature. But most importantly, Restoration drama is perhaps the greatest example we have in the English-speaking world that art will go on, no matter what. That theater, like Shakespeare, is here to stay. That our stories matter.

This is the Digital Restoration Series. Welcome to the party.

What are the projects of the DRS?

In addition to Claire’s “deep dive” interview series, there are fourteen play titles attached to the Digital Restoration Series. By August 2021, there will be seven (7) complete “audio dramas” and seven (7) full-cast table reads available on our podcast, The Sweet Tea Shakespeare Hours.

Our seven audio dramas are:

 

London, 1700. When the hottest playboy in town falls in love with a free-spirited heiress, high society has a lot to say about it. Scheming aristocrats, catty ex-girlfriends, country bumpkins, and a tyrannical matriarch threaten their romance from all sides. Will the bickering lovers get their happily ever after? Or will gossip, greed, and jealousy win the day? Featuring iconic characters and some of the wittiest dialogue ever written, this audio drama of Congreve’s beloved Restoration comedy is brought to life by actors from across the United States.

 

Listen to the audio drama wherever you find podcasts or in our gallery below.

 

It’s carnival season in Naples, Italy, and Hellena wants to attend. There are just a few problems: her sister’s forbidden romance with an English soldier has put them both under house arrest and Hellena herself is promised to a nunnery. What’s a clever young lady to do? Sneak out of the house in masquerade, of course! And maybe, just maybe, fall in love. Aphra Behn’s dazzling Restoration comedy gets a modern makeover in this freely adapted audio drama, featuring actors from across North America.

 

Watch the Zoom performance in our gallery below and listen to the podcast on your favorite podcast player as soon as it is available.

 

Strapping English bachelor Dorimant has a problem. Three of them, in fact. His affair with a married woman is getting tedious, his seduction of her best friend is getting complicated, and—worst of all—he seems to be falling in love with the only woman in London who can’t abide him. Toss in a snarky best friend, a few wily dames, a French dandy, and one mortifying love triangle, and it’s a recipe for chaos. George Etherege’s gleeful Restoration satire bursts to life in this audio drama adaptation, featuring actors from across North America.

 

Watch the Zoom performance in our gallery below and listen to the podcast on your favorite podcast player as soon as it is available.

 

Chaos abounds and hilarity ensues when two down-on-their-luck Englishmen decide to pass themselves off as a rich lord and his servant in order to snag wealthy wives. It’s not long before the fake aristocrat, Aimwell, finds himself caught in a battle of wits with an heiress and her mother. Meanwhile, his fake valet, Archer, gets in over his head when he falls for a married woman whose husband just happens to be the target of a heist. This rollicking adaptation of George Farquhar’s late Restoration comedy features actors from across the United States.

 

To purchase tickets to future performances, visit our Tickets page.

London debutante Letitia Hardy has been engaged since birth to a man she has never met. After their first meeting goes horribly awry, Letitia vows to win over her handsome fiancé, Doricourt…by disguising herself as a rival for his affections. Meanwhile, Doricourt’s best friend, Saville, teams up with a motley crew to thwart a local Casanova hellbent on seducing an innocent young bride. This sparkling adaptation of Hannah Cowley’s Enlightenment-era comedy of manners features actors from across the United States.

 

To purchase tickets to future performances, visit our Tickets page.

Venice is rumbling. A corrupt Senate rules the city with an iron fist, while activists take to the streets in protest. Amidst political upheaval, the love affair between a young reformer named Jaffeir and the daughter of a Senator explodes into scandal. When Jaffeir’s friend invites him to join an underground resistance aimed at destroying the Senate once and for all, the stage is set for a revolution that will turn everyone’s world upside down. This thrilling adaptation of Thomas Otway’s Restoration tragedy features actors from across North America.

To purchase tickets to future performances, visit our Tickets page.

Money, status, family, desire: anything’s a scandal when it’s talked about enough. Lady Sneerwell, reigning queen of London society, knows that better than anyone. As Sneerwell schemes and gossips with the upper crust, two brothers battle it out for the love and fortune of a beautiful heiress named Maria. If only Maria’s young stepmother weren’t so appealing… Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s exuberant 18th century comedy comes to life in this audio-drama adaptation, featuring actors from across North America.

To purchase tickets to future performances, visit our Tickets page.

Our Table Read Series consists of…

Is marriage a blessing or a curse? For Harry Horner, it’s an opportunity. Through a simple ruse, Horner invites a string of unhappy wives to enjoy the pleasure of his company, right under their husbands’ noses. But when he seduces Margery Pinchwife, a young bride from the country with an outrageously jealous spouse, Horner gets a whole lot more than he bargained for. Recorded on Zoom in a single afternoon, this one-shot table read of William Wycherley’s THE COUNTRY WIFE features actors from across North America.

 

Listen to episodes below in our gallery or wherever you find podcasts.

 

Mrs. Rich lives up to her name. The phenomenally wealthy widow has money to spend, freedom to enjoy, and nobody to love. When she sets her sights on the dashing Sir John Roverhead, London society erupts in chaos. After all, the only thing more dangerous than a social-climber is a woman determined to marry on her own terms. In the world of money and status, can true love prevail? Recorded on Zoom in a single afternoon, this one-shot table read of Mary Pix’s THE BEAU DEFEATED features actors from across North America.

 

Coming soon.

 

After enjoying one too many nights on the town, Valentine is dead broke. When his disapproving father threatens to cut him off, Valentine devises an elaborate scheme to reclaim his inheritance. Unfortunately, his plan hinges on the fiery young heiress, Angelica, who is nowhere near convinced that Valentine wants to marry her for love. Recorded on Zoom in a single afternoon, this one-shot table read of William Congreve’s Restoration smash-hit, LOVE FOR LOVE, reunites the cast of Congreve’s THE WAY OF THE WORLD for a final encore.

 

Coming soon.

Once upon a time, there was a pleasure-seeking libertine named Loveless. He was reformed by the love of a virtuous woman named Amanda. They lived happily ever after. Or did they? Sir John Vanbrugh turns the Restoration comedy on its head in this rare sequel, which follows Loveless and Amanda as their once-perfect marriage is threatened by the arrival of Amanda’s beautiful cousin and her dashing ex-lover. Recorded on Zoom in a single afternoon, this one-shot table read of THE RELAPSE features actors from across North America.

Coming soon.

Miranda loves Sir George. Isabinda loves Charles. The girls’ fathers have other ideas. Enter Marplot, a gregarious fop who loves meddling in people’s lives almost as much as he loves food. As Miranda and Isabinda scheme against the patriarchy to secure their happily-ever-after, Marplot hurls himself into the middle of the action with hilariously disastrous results. This whimsical adaptation of Susanna Centlivre’s late Restoration rom-com features actors from across North America.

Coming soon.

Lady Mary Woodley has it all: a handsome husband who loves her, plenty of money, and a pristine reputation. Unfortunately, she also has a habit of spending time with the wrong sorts of people…namely, Mr. and Mrs. Bromley, a pair of con artists out to swindle the Woodleys for all they’re worth. With friends like these, who needs an enemy? Recorded on Zoom in a single afternoon, this one-shot table read of Elizabeth Griffith’s eighteenth century comedy of manners features actors from across North America.

Coming soon.

Before becoming the most celebrated playwright of the Restoration, William Congreve was a law school dropout with a razor-sharp wit. At the age of twenty-two, he penned his first play, which took London by storm and changed English drama forever. Two young rakes go head-to-head with two brilliant heiresses, an aging libertine struggles to reform his ways, and a new mode of comedy is born. Recorded on Zoom in a single afternoon, this one-shot table read of Congreve’s THE OLD BACHELOR features actors from across North America.

Coming soon.

*This table read reunites the cast of THE WAY OF THE WORLD as part of a dramaturgical exploration of the late Restoration playwright, William Congreve.

Experience Restoration

Listen to our audio drama and table read episodes or watch our past Zoom productions below. Just click a title to get started. Don’t see the title you’re looking for? Don’t worry, it’s on the way. Check back here, subscribe to The Sweet Tea Shakespeare Hours on your favorite podcast player, or stir up tickets to yet-to-come productions.

How can I listen to the DRS projects?

In addition to finding currently published works above, all the DRS projects—audio dramas, table reads, and interviews alike—will be made available on our podcast, The Sweet Tea Shakespeare Hours. You can find the Hours on Anchor, Spotify, Apple Podcast…basically wherever podcasts are to be found!

What’s the difference between an “audio drama” and a “table read”?

In musical terms, a Sweet Tea audio drama is like a full-blown concert and a table read is like an impromptu jam session. Both are equally delightful, but in very different ways.

Each audio drama in the DRS is rehearsed and recorded over several weeks by a company of actors using a vocal software called Audacity. After capturing all the necessary files, Claire embarks on an extensive post-production process with editor/composer Wesley Johnson. Together, Wesley and Claire select the best clips of the show’s dialogue and stitch them together. To further tingle the senses, they also couch the actors’ lines in a realistic soundscape of ambient noise, practical sound effects, stereophonics, and original period music. The final result is a wholly immersive “radio play” experience!

Table reads, on the other hand, are fun, breezy, single-day workshops. On the day of a table read, a group of actors gather on Zoom to read an entire play aloud in a one-shot. We then strip the audio from the Zoom session, polish it up, and release it as a two-part podcast so our audiences can get a taste of some lesser-known Restoration plays. Low-impact, high reward!

Who’s involved in the DRS?

 The DRS is a team effort, to say the least. See below for a breakdown of the creatives involved. View the full acting company.

At the helm of the DRS is Assistant Artistic Director, Claire F. Martin. In addition to directing all eight projects in the series, Claire is responsible for adapting the scripts for audio-only performance. This often involves layering in her own original writing. She also shepherds the audio dramas through post-production and hosts the “deep dive” podcast series.

Canadian theater artist Jillian “Jill” Robinson serves as the Head of Stage Management for the DRS. Jill’s credits in the series include: THE ROVER, THE MAN OF MODE, and both parts of the Stratagem Project (Production Stage Manager). She also facilitates the Table Read Series.

Under Jill’s leadership, the Stage Management team of the DRS features Sweet Tea company member Amanda M. Rogus (Little Green Tea Instructor), staff member Allaira Bartlett-Gray (Social Media Manager), and actor/musician Emma Kelly.

Additional Creatives:

  • Hannah “Rock” Roccisano (MFA, SAFD) — Assistant Director
  • Wesley Johnson — Editor & Composer
  • Dr. Misty Anderson — Resident Dramaturg
  • Lyndsey Turner — Consultant

Full cast list:

Julian Aikens-Helford Simon Kaplan
Benjamin Apple Tyrone Kiaku
William R. Bartley Sara Linares
Jordan Beck Roger Lipson
Andreá Bellamore Shunté Lofton
Michael Blackwood Claire F. Martin
Kelsie Blocker Bernardo Mazón Daher
Siena Brown Laura J. Parker
Samantha Cadieux Kelsey Petersen*
Edmond Clark Laurice Roberts
Robbie Diaz Jillian Robinson
Sarah Duttlinger English Amanda M. Rogus
Jesse Farmer Ronald Román-Meléndez
Cassie Jo Fastabend Jamie Sanders*
Timothy R. Fitch Tenneh Gbeh Sillah
Duncan Gallagher Alexandra Stroud
Emily Garrison Cheleen Sugar-Ducksworth
Caroline Haroldson Patrick Teed
Bryson David Hoff Claire Wittman
What’s the R/18 Collective, and how is it connected to Sweet Tea Shakespeare?

A: The R/18 Collective is “a group of international scholars committed to dramaturgical knowledge in the service of theatre makers and other researchers.”

Co-founded by Dr. Misty Anderson, a dramaturgical consultant of the DRS, the R/18 serves as both a dramaturgical resource and a platform for visibility in academia. During the rehearsal process for THE ROVER, both Dr. Anderson and PhD candidate Ziona Kocher observed a run-through of the production, after which they offered dramaturgical notes and gave a presentation to the cast on the sexual politics and cultural moors of Aphra Behn’s writing.

Visit explore the R/18’s full digital archive.

What if I’d rather see actors’ faces?

 In addition to podcasting the DRS plays, Sweet Tea Shakespeare is delighted to offer series of Zoom performances in which you can watch the actors directly!

Visit our tickets page to purchase tickets to upcoming productions.

How can I learn more about the DRS?

The best place to start if you’re interested in exploring the DRS is to check out our podcast, The Sweet Tea Shakespeare Hours, where you’ll find a collection of two-part interviews with Assistant Artistic Director Claire F. Martin and various artists and scholars involved in the project. These Deep Dives cover everything from English history to show-specific dramaturgy to the best way to parse Restoration text.

If you’d like to connect with Claire directly, you can email her at [email protected].

If you’d like to observe a rehearsal, you can email Jillian Robinson at [email protected].