About the Plays

Livermore Shakes 2014

by Peggy Riley, Dramaturge

Notes and Resources

Benedick and Beatrice, played by Henry Irving and Ellen Terry., 1884 New York and London.  Unknown artist, Public domain.

Benedick and Beatrice, played by Henry Irving and Ellen Terry., 1884 New York and London. Unknown artist, Public domain.

“Let but Beatrice/And Benedicke be seen, lo in a trice/The Cockpit, galleries, boxes are all full” wrote poet Leonard Digges for a 1640 edition of Shakespeare’s poems. The appeal of Much Ado About Nothing has not abated through the years; it remains one of Shakespeare’s most loved comedies.

And its appeal goes beyond the play itself: the verbal sparring of its witty lovers inspired an entire genre of comedy, from Much Ado itself down through 17th Century Restoration comedy to 18th and 19th Century comedies of manners and 20th century “screwball comedies.”

Livermore Shakespeare Festival is delighted to open our 2014 season with Much Ado. And we’re thrilled to add Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, in a sparkling adaptation by Christine Calvit, for our second show. The feisty lovers of Much Ado are forerunners of this other pair of witty, warring lovers: Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy.  As Much Ado is one of Shakespeare’s best-loved comedies, Pride and Prejudice is one of English literature’s best-loved novels.

Come see our shows and discuss/debate the similarities and differences between these two wonderfully entertaining works. You can find some interesting talking points at http://humanities.byu.edu/rmmra/pdfs/32.pdf, a fascinating article considering the two works by Renaissance/Shakespeare scholar Ace Pilkington, Ph.D.

Much Ado About Nothing

Cover page for First Quarto edition of Much Ado

Cover page for First Quarto edition of Much Ado

Shakespeare set the play in Messina, a Sicilian seaport and wine producing region, certainly appropriate for our setting in a vineyard! Director Lisa Tromovitch’s vision of the play moves the time setting to 1860 Messina; the story is told against the background of the Italian Risorgimento, the series of events and battles that led eventually to the unification of Italy.  You can read a brief history of the Campaign of 1860, led by Italian hero Giuseppe Garibaldi, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giuseppe_Garibaldi; scroll down to the Campaign of 1860. The image of Don Pedro’s Army by artist Linda Sarver at the end of this section gives you an idea of the uniforms of Garibaldi’s army – the famous “red shirts.”

On-line Resources

http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/muchado/
good study guide – includes scene by scene synopsis + analysis

http://www.shakespeare-navigators.com/ado/index.html
click on “Scene Index.” The text is listed scene by scene on “Simple Scene Index,” click on a scene from the index for the complete text with annotations. The scene index also includes a scene by scene summary.

http://www.bard.org/plays/muchado.html
A study guide from the Utah Shakespearean Festival production for June-Sept 2010 w/links to commentary.

Young persons’ version by Charles and Mary Lamb available at http://www.eldritchpress.org/cml/tfsmuchado.html.

Play scripts

Don Pedro’s Army.  Costume design by Linda Sarver for Much Ado About Nothing at the Pioneer Theatre Company, 1992.  Used by permission of artist.

Don Pedro’s Army.
Costume design by Linda Sarver for Much Ado About Nothing at the Pioneer Theatre Company, 1992. Used by permission of artist.

Inspired by Artistic Director Lisa Tromovitch, Livermore Shakespeare Festival actors and directors work from acting scripts developed by Neil Freeman directly from The First Folio, the earliest (1623) published collection of Shakespeare’s plays.  We will use the Applause First Folio Edition of Much Ado About Nothing, prepared and annotated by Neil Freeman, as our text this summer.

Modern editions of Shakespeare’s plays are readily available. The Folger Library edition of Much Ado is also available as a digital text at http://www.folgerdigitaltexts.org/?chapter=5&play=Ado&loc=p7; the digital text uses the same page numbers and layouts as the Folger print editions, so it’s simple to use the two together, and includes coding for searching.

The Arden edition includes extensive scholarly commentary and notes.

The Shakespeare Pro app for the iPhone and iPad includes the complete works, glossary, concordance, Charles and Mary Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare (for young people), AND First Folio versions of the plays (all for $9.99 – there’s also a smaller free version).   The apps available for the Android are not nearly as comprehensive.  There is a huge variety of apps available from both, including complete texts of the plays.

Pride and Prejudice

drama-Pride_img1

Detail of a portrait of Jane Austen from the memoir by J. E. Austen-Leigh (1870)
Public Domain

Once we decided to add Pride and Prejudice to the Shakespeare Festival this summer, the search was on for an adaptation that 1) does justice to Jane Austen’s novel and 2) would be suitable for us to produce considering our venue and our acting company. We researched possibilities and reviewed over a half dozen scripts. We were delighted when director Virginia Reed was alerted to Christina Calvit’s work by a Chicago theater friend. We contacted Christina through Lifeline Theatre in Chicago (where she is an ensemble member) and, working through her and her agent, attained the rights.

Austen’s genius for characterization and dialogue is often compared to Shakespeare’s, so we believe this is a perfect pairing. We’re working on this show with the double appreciation we believe you’ll share: Jane Austen’s brilliance as a novelist and Christina Calvit’s brilliance in capturing the essence of the novel in her adaptation.

 

On-line Resources

Illustration by Hugh Thomson for Pride and Prejudice (1894).  Public Domain.

Illustration by Hugh Thomson for Pride and Prejudice (1894). Public Domain.

The Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA) has a comprehensive website with links to news, publications, its on-line journal Persuasions, and many more resources:  http://www.jasna.org. Northern California hosts a large, active and enthusiastic group of the JASNA based in San Francisco. Find more information at http://www.jasnanorcal.org.

Both the Jane Austen Society UK http://www.janeaustensoci.freeuk.com/pages/events.htm and The Jane Austen Centre http://www.janeausten.co.uk based in England offer websites with plenty of links and information.

http://www.pemberley.com/index.html – amazing site with everything JA, including a hypertext version of Pride and Prejudice with links to extensive annotations at http://www.pemberley.com/janeinfo/pridprej.html.

The Atlantic published a thought-provoking article that illustrates Jane Austen’s relevance to present-day concerns, particularly about marriage: http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/11/i-learned-everything-i-needed-to-know-about-marriage-from-i-pride-and-prejudice-i/281110/.

Play Script

Illustration by Charles E. Brock for Pride and Prejudice (1895).  Public Domain.

Illustration by Charles E. Brock for Pride and Prejudice (1895). Public Domain.

The Christina Calvit adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is not commercially available. The very best way to prepare to see the play is to read – or reread, or re-reread – Jane Austen’s novel. Pride and Prejudice is widely available in both paperback and hardback at local and on-line bookstores and at libraries. You can find free eBooks at www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1342  and at http://www.planetpublish.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Pride_and_Prejudice_T.pdf as well as the annotated version at The Republic of Pemberley web site mentioned above.

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