Romeo and Juliet Blog #2 – I See Queen Mab Hath Been with You…

When you take the Balcony Scene out of the running, it’s difficult to think of a moment in Romeo and Juliet with lines more iconic than Act 1 Scene 4. Here, Romeo is unwillingly dragged to the Capulet ball by his cohorts, who seek to get him to stop pining for Roseline. Along the way, Mercutio begins his iconic rhapsodizing on Queen Mab and her mischief involving love and dreams:

“O, then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the fairies’ midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
On the fore-finger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies
Athwart men’s noses as they lie asleep…” (1.4.57-62).

While this is Queen Mab’s first explicit appearance in any written work, a strong candidate for a literary source exists in the Irish folk-figure Queen Medb. Medb exists in Irish literature as a warrior-queen who survives several different husbands, and is most well-known as a primary character in the Ulster-cycle epic, Táin Bó Cúailnge. As someone who enjoys literature from this era, I highly recommend giving it a read.

Wherever Queen Medb or Mab began, Shakespeare’s work is certainly not where she ends. Further writings on her span the works of Ben Jonson, Michael Drayton, J.M. Barrie, and a chapter title in Herman Melville’s epic Moby Dick, to name a few. In more contemporary works, some visual artists have used depictions of Queen Mab to explore female sexuality and power. This is quite source-appropriate; central to Medb’s character in Irish texts is the power she asserts in the face of patriarchy, as well as her unrestricted sexuality. Working with this textual root of Medb’s character and the ways that Shakespeare’s depiction lends itself to our message, the imagery of Queen Mab is central to our production’s exploration of the limits of a gender binary in relation to creativity, authority, and power—onstage and off.

Posted on by Gabriel Kokoszka in General Leave a comment

Romeo and Juliet Blog #1 – Why This, Why Now?

The mere mention of a season containing any play that is sufficiently dated can, I think, prompt questions about the decision. Particularly with works that are as generally well known as Romeo and Juliet, the first question I always have is: why this play, and why now? I am sure that I am not alone in this impulse. So, with these blog posts, it seems to me that it would be best if I opened with a note on some of the thoughts that our director Ann M. Shanahan and our design team had on how Shakespeare’s classic tragedy Romeo and Juliet is particularly striking for our current moment in history.

Discussion around the play began with observations on the nature of binaries as they exist in society today. In U.S. politics, we can perhaps see the sharpest and loudest examples: an incredibly divided nation has been revealed in the fallout of this presidential election, with less and less middle ground for compromise than ever (for better or for worse). This type of modern political binary can be viewed from so many perspectives, too, with the ideas of Red State vs. Blue State, Trump vs. Hillary, Bernie vs. Hillary, and Trump vs. Never-Trump Republicans. But even within these breakdowns, most are resigned to believe that there is always a binary choice, one of two ways forward.

Another confrontational binary found in modern society is the generational divide–and all the tension it entails. I’ve heard millennials called inherently lazy and soft and heard older generations hit for trashing the economy and environment. Generational warfare certainly is not new, but for many it feels more contentious now than ever.

Gender and sexuality binaries still exist as operative elements in our society, too. Youth in the U.S. have directed particular scrutiny towards the legitimacy of a restrictive gender and sexual binary system. The ideas of necessarily being male or female, and the idea of standard heteronormativity, have never been questioned as loudly in U.S. culture as they are now.

Romeo and Juliet addresses all of these binaries and more, with the feud between the two houses of Capulet and the Montegue as the overarching conflict. Our production critiques a world that sees static binaries as the only options for humanity. The idea that the only way forward is adherence to one of two worldviews or visions of the future comes under harsh attack, as we witness binarisms onstage that result in the death of our two young lovers.

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Tintypes Blog #3: Meet the Characters

We made it, folks! With four shows in the books, our Underground Laboratory Theatre is brimming with the spirit of Tintypes. Our production warms an intimate cabaret atmosphere with stunning technical elements and the voices of five characters: Charlie, TR, Susannah, Anna, and Emma. While the characters take on a variety of identities throughout the show, they are chiefly inspired by historical figures of the late 1800s / early 1900s. Read more about them and view some stunning photos by Joe Mazza below!

CHARLIE CHAPLIN was an actor, comic, and composer who found fame in the silent film industry. Chaplin grew up poor and without parents for much of his rough childhood, but found enjoyment in performing at a young age. After immigrating to the United States from England at nineteen, he became a worldwide icon with his “Tramp” screen persona.

TEDDY ROOSEVELT famously led the Rough Riders during the Spanish–American War, after which he was elected governor of New York in 1898. He served as Vice President under William McKinley in 1901, then became the 26th President upon McKinley’s assassination. Roosevelt was known for his conservation efforts, trust-busting, and hot temper.

BERT WILLIAMS was a recording artist, comedian, and vaudevillian. An immigrant from the Bahamas, he was the first black American to have a lead role on Broadway. W.C. Fields described him as “the funniest man I ever saw–-and the saddest man I ever knew.”

ANNA HELD was a singer and Follies star born in Poland to a German-Jewish father and a French-Jewish mother. Held grew up in France after anti-semitism forced her family to move to Paris. There she pursued performing and received high praise for her talent and flirtatious stage presence. After capturing Florenz Ziegfeld’s attention in London, she moved with him to New York.

EMMA GOLDMAN was an activist, writer, and lecturer. Born in the Russian Empire to a Jewish family, she immigrated to the United States at sixteen. Goldman was a renowned anarchist and advocate for workers’ rights, women’s equality, and free speech. She was also an accessory in the attempted assassination of steel magnate Henry Clay Frick and was later questioned for potential involvement in the assassination of William McKinley.

Posted on by Anna Joaquin in General Comments Off on Tintypes Blog #3: Meet the Characters
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