5 Things to Know in connection to The Insatiate Countess
1. The Insatiate Countess is loosely based on the execution of Bianca Maria, Countess of Challant, for adultery in 1526. Italian author Matteo Bandello wrote of the incident in Novelle, 1554 which François Belleforest translated into French in 1565. William Painter used Belleforest's text as the basis for his inclusion of the Bianca Maria story in his collection, The Palace of Pleasure, 1567. Painter's account was Marston's principal source.
2. The first publication of The Insatiate Countess was in 1613 which happens to be the year that King James granted Frances Howard an annulment of her marriage to Robert Devereux, the earl of Essex, so she could marry Robert Carr, the Earl of Somerset. Two years later she would stand trial for the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury, an opponent to her marriage to Carr, who died around the time of Howard's remarriage. Frances and her waiting woman, Anne Turner, were found guilty of poisoning him, though only Anne was executed. How the Overbury scandal impacted the theaters (Jacobean drama had already taken a turn for the licentious) is a matter of scholarly speculation.
3. Part of the ritual of execution in Early Modern England was the penitent speech, which the criminal gave on the scaffold, and which was published as both a deterrent and evidence of state power. As an example, Anne Turner's Tears, recounts Turner's final words.
4. The Children of the Queen's Revel's were the first to perform The Insatiate Countess, which makes sense given that the repertory of the boys companies tended to the more satiric and erotic.
5. John Marston only wrote the initial draft of The Insatiate Countess. William Barksted and Lewis Machin finished the play.
John Fletcher and Francis Beaumont’s The Maid’s Tragedy is a sensuous, sensational, and subversive play with a plot worthy of a romance novel and dialogue worthy of the highest poetic accolades. The set up is simple. When the King commands Amintor marry Evadne, sister to the soldier Melantius, despite Amintor’s engagement to Aspatia, he sparks a fire in his court that threatens to consume his kingdom as love and loyalty lead to insurrection. It is a drama filled with the sacred and the profane where vows have the weight of souls and no one is above mockery.
The Maid’s Tragedy is the second offering in Salt and Sage’s Sex Tragedy Saturday Staged Reading series and we hope you will join us for this wicked and juicy bit of Jacobean drama! Saturday November 16th at The Backdoor Theater, 4319 SE Hawthorne Blvd, 2 pm. Tickets $5. Cash only.
Cast includes: Jason Maniccia, Orion J. Bradshaw, Sara Fay Goldman, Arthur Delaney, Wendy Alexandra, Matt Pavik, Grant Davis, Jake Rossman, Scott Fullerton, Kate Belden, and Sarah Peters.
I spent the past two months directing Romeo and Juliet at a high school, as part of Portland Playhouse's Fall Festival of Shakespeare. We closed last weekend, after three performances at their school and a culminating event at the Winningstad Theatre in downtown Portland, as part of a two-day marathon of eight high schools performing in rapid succession, laughing for each other, crying with each other, and cheering each other on. The following Monday, I met with my students for a final time, for all of us to share some feedback on the experience of making a play together, in the context of eight high schools and a collaborative process. After breaking the ice with some general remarks like "it was really fun" and "I'm going to miss you guys so much," one brave student shared with us how her sister had died when she was twelve, and ever since then, she had felt like she could never be herself and didn't fit in anywhere -- until this experience, where she found a family and a support system where she felt safe and loved and accepted for who she was. This story spurred a slew of honest sharing that tended to fall into three categories: stories about loss/pain and finding hope again, stories about what "family" means, and stories about finding a sense of belonging. My Shakespeare students created a stunning piece of art beyond their age and experience. And, through creative collaboration, they learned lessons about trust, friendship, acceptance, hope, and support.
Salt and Sage is pressing forward, through our Sex Tragedy Reading Series, The Twelve Dates of Christmas, and then to Great Falls in January. Asae is a work horse, accomplishing more than seems humanly possible, and I'm doing what I can to keep up. Sometimes, it feels like far too much. But I know there are things much bigger than me at work in this art we create. I witnessed them in my students this fall, and I feel them when I dive into acting, the art I love.
The first rehearsal for Twelve Dates of Christmas is this afternoon! Well, not exactly. Today is the first rehearsal in which actress, Melanie Moseley, directress, moi (Asae Dean), and stage mistress, Elizabeth Garett are all in the same room. For the last two weeks Melanie, from the comfort of her home office in Portland, and myself, from the comfort of the Manchester Art Farm in Pittsburgh, have rehearsed via Google Hangout…talking through the beats, filling in the back story, and assigning accents to the various characters. Ginna Hoben wrote Twelve Dates of Christmas and loosely based the material off of her own adventures and misadventures in dating after having her heartbroken. Twelve Dates is the story of Mary, a working actress based out of New York City, who flies home to Ohio for Thanksgiving to spend her first holiday with family plus fiancé. The fiancé cancels on her, feigning food poisoning, and Mary catches him in his lie when she tunes into the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and see him sucking face with another woman on national television. While Mary goes about the business of mending her heart, her family goes about the business of setting her up. What is a newly single girl to do, though? Cherish her aloneness? Carve a few more notches on her bed post? Search for signs of a new Mr. Right? The Twelve Dates of Christmas is hilarious and heartwarming, sassy and sweet. Today is about getting the play on its feet, figuring out some of the character’s core mannerisms, and staging a kick-boxing class that stirs up some sibling rivalry. Fun!
We will post ticket information for Twelve Dates of Christmas soon. And for those of you who are sad about the passing of Halloween and Dia De Los Muertos or craving some classical fare, Salt and Sage’s Sex Tragedy Saturday Staged Reading Series starts next weekend with The Spanish Tragedy, come and have a bloody good time! 2 pm Backdoor Theater, 4319 SE Hawthorne Blvd. Tickets $5. Cash only.