What would happen if suddenly your whole world turned upside down and you could no longer do what you love? Would you be able to change?
It’s London, in the year 1660, and with the English monarchy restored, London’s theaters reopen after an 18-year ban. But the all-male acting companies of Shakespeare’s day are now a thing of the past. Audiences have become accustomed to the beautiful actresses of France and Italy.
The sexy, violent transition as male “stage beauties” give up the limelight to the first English actresses is playfully imagined in “Compleat Female Stage Beauty,” by Jeffrey Hatcher. The show will open Nov. 18 at West Virginia University’s Creative Arts Center.
The play tells the story of Edward Kynaston, the best of the English boy actors playing female roles. He was described by Samuel Pepys as “the prettiest woman in the whole house.”
After Charles II issues an edict that no longer allows men to play women’s roles, Kynaston’s fashionable world collapses and he doesn’t know who he is anymore.
His light disappears until fate and his desire for revenge give him a chance to take the stage again.
Directed by Theatre professor Philip Beck, “Compleat Female Stage Beauty” opens Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the Gladys G. Davis Theatre. There will be performances Nov. 18-19 at 7:30 p.m. and after the Thanksgiving break, during Nov. 30-Dec. 3. In addition, there is a matinee performance Dec. 5 at 2 p.m.
“The play is about Kynaston’s search for identity,” Beck said. “Most importantly, how do we define ourselves in relation to what we do when change itself is the only constant?”
He said “Compleat Female Stage Beauty” addresses issues of sexuality and creativity that are still prevalent in modern theater.
“In this play, life is art, and vice versa,” Beck said. “When we are willing to reveal our own deepest selves, the play suggests, only then can we reveal real truth in art. Only then can we connect with one another.
“Truth can be ugly or beautiful, but revealing ourselves—warts and all—is what we must do.”
The cast of “Compleat Female Stage Beauty” features WVU Theatre students Matt Webster as, Kynaston; Laura Peters as Nell Gwynn; Vincent Greco as Thomas Betterton; Amy Byrne as Margaret Hughes; Greg Jernigan as Charles II; Brandon Chowen as Samuel Pepys; Blaire Wendel as Maria/Emilia; Steven Bell as Villiars; Brandon Pro as Sedly; Katarina Whitmarsh as Lady Maresvale and Mistress Revels; and Kathryn Fogarty as Miss Frayne. Other students who play a variety of different roles in the play include Chasdan Mike, Justin Griffiths, Ben Koontz and Will Stout.
Set design is by Andrew Moeggenborg, costume design is by Hannah Wold, and lighting design is by Claire Phelps. All three are MFA students in Theatre Design, and Moeggenborg and Wold completed these designs for their MFA thesis projects.
Stage Manager is student Krista White and the assistant stage managers are students Nora Perone and Jenna Dorece.
For tickets or more information, call the Mountainlair or CAC Box Offices at (304) 293-SHOW. Special ticket prices are available for groups of 10 or more.
Note: This play is for mature audiences only. It contains adult situations and language.
For more information, visit the WVU Division of Theatre and Dance on the Internet at: http://theatre.wvu.edu.
CONTACT: Charlene Lattea, College of Creative Arts
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