Fall Production

Romeo and Juliet

by William Shakespeare

October 27-29, 2005
Fine Arts Theatre
Hyman Fine Arts Center
Francis Marion University

Written in the mid-1590s and first published in 1597, Romeo and Juliet is Shakespeare’s first non-historical tragedy, and it is in many ways the richest and most mature of his early works. The writing bears many of the characteristics of Shakespeare’s early work, with frequent use of end-rhymes and an abundance of descriptive, metaphoric imagery.

Shakespeare did not invent the story of Romeo and Juliet. He did not, in fact, even introduce the story into the English language. The generally, and understandably, forgotten Arthur Brooks first brought the story of Romeus and Juliet to an English-speaking audience in a long and plodding poem that was itself not original, but rather an adaptation of adaptations that stretched across nearly a hundred years and two languages.

Many of the details of Shakespeare’s plot are lifted directly from Brooks’ poem, including the meeting of Romeo and Juliet at the ball, their secret marriage, Romeo’s fight with Tybalt, the sleeping potion, and the timing of the lover’s eventual suicides. Such appropriation of other stories is characteristic of Shakespeare, who often wrote plays based on earlier works. Two examples are Richard III, which Shakespeare based in large part on Thomas More’s excellent history of that English king, and Hamlet, which is based on two known sources: one from France, another from medieval Denmark. Shakespeare’s use of existing material as fodder for his plays should not be taken as a lack of originality. Instead, readers should note how Shakespeare crafts his sources in new ways while displaying a remarkable understanding of the literary tradition in which he is working.

Shakespeare’s version of Romeo and Juliet is no exception. The play distinguishes itself from its predecessors in several important aspects: the subtlety and originality of its characterization (Shakespeare almost wholly created Mercutio); the intense pace of its action, which is compressed from nine months into four frenetic days; a powerful enrichment of the story’s thematic aspects; and, above all, an extraordinary use of language.

Winter Production

The Hammerstone

by Jon Tuttle
directed by D. Keith Best

February 23-25, 2006
Fine Arts Theatre
Hyman Fine Arts Center
Francis Marion University

THE STORY:

At a small college with virtually no admission requirements, two aging professors deal differently, but disastrously, with the students whose S.A.T. scores are lower than their cholesterol counts–and with their own obsolescence. Victor Ransome has long since given up cajoling his classes into paying attention and now uses insults and threats of physical violence. “I can kill you if I want,” he tells a student, “I’ve got tenure.” His best–well, only–friend, Murray Stone, still loves teaching, primarily because it fosters his delusions of perpetual youth. Through their offices come a variety of aggravations in the persons of a completely bewildered baseball player, a smitten spinster, and a gorgeous business major, each of whom serve to remind them that in education come various human responsibilities which sometimes supersede actual teaching. By play’s end, Murray has understood this lesson. Victor, however, has not, and is, in fact, quite dead. His death underscores the message at the bottom of the play: that teaching, like living, takes continual reinvestment. As Murray puts it, “Happiness is an act of will.” While the play makes considerable fun of the state of modern American education, and speculates on the collapse of western civilization once the next generation assumes control of it, in the end, it is a positive statement for teaching, and for teachers.

Director: D. Keith Best
Asst. Director: Dwayne Malcolm
Stage Manager: Vince Triana
Set/Light Design: David Granath
Costume Design: Abby Kiker

Cast
Victor: Andrew Cogswell
Murray: DeJuan Conner
Woody: Damien Ruffner
Grace: Erin Lamz
Kristi: Barika McCall
Dotty: Melissa Bjorgen

PLAYWRIGHT’S NOTE:

To the Greeks, drama was supposed to address the question of How To Live. That’s expecting a lot of a play, if you ask me. All I had in mind when I wrote The Hammerstone–this was the early 1990’s, when I first came to FMU–was a light comedy that poked a bit of harmless fun at academics. I already knew how exhilarating a university environment can be, how professors and students challenge each other to keep learning and growing, but I also saw the real harm we can do one another. There’s a lot at stake here, and sometimes that pressure makes us all say things we don’t mean–or really do. While I was working all that out in my head, someone close to me was losing the will to get out of bed every morning. My fear that one day soon he wouldn’t found its way into the play–and suddenly it was about How To Live. I’m grateful to Keith Best and this fine cast and crew for lending it their talents, and somewhat terrified that the Department of English has selected it as a common text. Hope you enjoy it.

Spring Production

The Actor’s Nightmare

by Christopher Durang

April 13-15, 2006
Fine Arts Theatre
Hyman Fine Arts Center
Francis Marion University

Having casually wandered onstage, George is informed that one of the actors, Eddie, has been in an auto accident and he must replace him immediately. apparently no one is sure of what play is being performed but George (costumed as Hamlet) seems to find himself in the middle of a scene from Private Lives, surrounded by such luminaries as Sarah Siddons, Dame Ellen Terry and Henry Irving. As he fumbles through one missed cue after another the other actors shift to Hamlet, then a play by Samuel Beckett (Endgame), and then a climactic scene from what might well be A Man for All Seasons – by which time the disconcerted George has lost all sense of contact with his fellow performers. Yet, in the closing moments of the play, he rises to the occasion and finally says the right lines – whereupon make-believe suddenly gives way to reality as the executioner’s ax – (meant for Sir Thomas More) – instead sends poor George to oblivion, denying him a well-earned curtain call.