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As a theater company, the essence of our work is to gather people together to share stories and acts of imagination. So what’s a theater company to do when everyone must stay home? We’ve gone digital.

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John Ford's


LIVESTREAMED Monday, April 20, 2020

Recording disappeared Friday, April 24 at 7:29 PM EDT.

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Stream Here

We want to engage you and our entire community with something stimulating and of genuine value. We didn't promise a finished performance, but rather a unique way to experience the crown jewel of Jacobean drama: ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore. This is a  fun and rare opportunity to hear this delicious, decadently dangerous play. We’re thrilled to reunite the fantastic company of artists that brought this play to life with our 2015 Off-Broadway production for this livestream benefit occasion. 


This unrehearsed reading will featured Matthew Amendt, Kelley Curran, Franchelle Stewart Dorn, Clifton Duncan, Ryan Farley, Ryan Garbayo, Philip Goodwin, Christopher Innvar, Amelia Pedlow, Everett Quinton, Rocco Sisto, Derek Smith, Auden Thornton, Tramell Tillmann, and Marc Vietor. Each will zoomed in from wherever they were practicing social distancing.


Oh! And if you don’t already know: ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore is John Ford’s heart-pounding tale of love, lust and hypocrisy. In this deliciously perverse romantic tragedy, siblings Annabella and Giovanni fall into an incestuous affair with a brutal velocity that sets Renaissance Parma aflame with its passionate force. Defiant in their desires to the bloody end, these lovers take “star-crossed” into a whole new galaxy.

All of us at Red Bull Theater hope you and yours are safe, healthy, and staying as sane as possible during this difficult time. 

Red Bull Theater wishes to express its gratitude to the Performers’ Unions: ACTORS’ EQUITY ASSOCIATION, AMERICAN GUILD OF MUSICAL ARTISTS, AMERICAN GUILD OF VARIETY ARTISTS, and SAG-AFTRA through Theatre Authority, Inc. for their cooperation in permitting the Artists to appear in this program.

John Ford (c.1586-c.1639) is considered the one of last of the major English Renaissance dramatists. Most of his plays date from the 1620s to 1630s, decades that witnessed the final flourish of English drama before the Puritans closed the theatres in 1642. He began his dramatic career co-authoring at least six plays with some of the era’s most-influential playwrights—Thomas Middleton, William Rowley, John Webster, and Thomas Dekker, though it is possible he wrote a play entirely on his own as early as 1611 (An Ill Beginning Has a Good End, sometimes attributed to Ford). By 1628, with the licensing of The Lover’s Melancholy for performance, his career as “solo” dramatist had begun in earnest.  Ford is the sole author of 11 plays, including The Broken Heart (c. 1630-1633), ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore (c.1630-1633), and Perkin Warbeck (c. 1633-1634).


As with many Renaissance dramatists, little is known of Ford’s life. His date of birth is not recorded, although he was baptized at a church in the village of Ilsington, Dartmoor, in the southwest of England in April 1586. He was the second son of Thomas and Elizabeth Ford. The Fords were a reasonably well-off landowning family, whose forbears possibly had roots in the area’s tin-mining industry. A “John Ford Devon gent” is listed on the rolls of Exeter College, Oxford, in 1601, although it is not clear this is the future playwright.


Ford enrolled in the Inns of Court at Middle Temple in London in November 1602.  Here, he trained for a career in law, though he was expelled in 1605 or 1606 for not paying his buttery (food) bill, and he was not allowed back in until 1608. Though there is no evidence that Ford was called to the bar, his continued residence at the Middle Temple suggested that he pursued some kind of legal career. In 1617, he was reprimanded for refusing to wear the designated lawyer’s cap during trials.  By 1621, with the performance of The Witch of Edmonton, a play he co-wrote with Dekker and Rowley, Ford established himself as a dramatist.  Ford wrote for several companies in London, including the King’s Majesty’s Servants (Shakespeare’s old company) and the Queen’s Men.


His writing style paid homage to his literary predecessors while showing flashes of originality.  In creating protagonists who yearn to achieve beyond what is humanly possible, and whose yearning destroys them, he echoes Christopher Marlowe, while the fluidity and emotional richness of his verse evoke Shakespeare.  His themes, however, test conventional Renaissance dramatic tropes, as he explores the chaos of personal psychology within a highly formalized, dissociated moral code. The incestuous love between Giovanni and Annabella in ‘Tis Pity, for example, subverts traditional portrayals of star-crossed lovers, while Ithocles’ cruel obsession with his sister Penthea in The Broken Heart leads Bassanes to suspect them of incest.

In 1632, a brief mention of Ford appears in William Heminges’ satiric poem, Elegy on Randolph’s Finger. In a section making fun of contemporary poets, Heminges satirized Ford’s allegedly morose disposition: “Deep in a dumpe Jack Ford alone was got/With folded arms and melancholy hat." After 1639, no mention of Ford appears in print.  Possibly, he retired to Dartmoor, dying before the closure of the theatres and the outbreak of England’s Civil War.


-Kathleen Dimmick, dramaturg


Giovanni, the son of Signor Florio of Parma, has confessed to Friar Bonaventura that he is infatuated with his sister Annabella. The friar admonishes him and begs him to pray that he may be freed from this sin that will lead to his soul’s death. Annabella has several suitors – Grimaldi, a Roman soldier; Soranzo, a rich nobleman; and Bergetto, the nephew of Signor Donado.  Of the three, Soranzo is the most desirable, though he has been carrying on an affair with Hippolita, wife of Richardetto. But to Annabella, none of the suitors compares with her brother Giovanni, who confesses his long-suppressed love to her and offers his dagger for her to kill him. Instead, Annabella confesses her own love for him.


As the suitors vie for Annabella’s favor, Hippolita accuses Soranzo of betrayal; she had persuaded her husband to make a long voyage to rescue an orphaned niece, but it is reported that he has died during the voyage. Hippolita plots revenge against Soranzo and enlists Vasques, his servant, for assistance in carrying it out. Unbeknownst to both of the lovers, Richardetto has not died, but with his niece has arrived in Parma, disguised as a physician, to spy on his wife and take revenge on Soranzo. The soldier Grimaldi also plots against Soranzo, joining forces with the new physician. The simpleton Bergetto is soon eliminated as a suitor as he is unable to speak for himself; his uncle pleads for him, but to no avail. Bergetto quickly transfers his affections to Philotis, Richardetto’s niece.


Meanwhile, despite the repeated entreaties of the friar, Giovanni and Annabella continue their affair; when she discovers she is pregnant, it becomes necessary for her to marry and she and Soranzo are betrothed at the friar’s cell. Richardetto informs Grimaldi of the plan and supplies him with the promised poison for his rapier. At the same time, Philotis informs Richardetto of her plan to marry Bergetto that very night; in the dark, Grimaldi mistakes Bergetto for Soranzo and kills him. Annabella confesses to the friar and receives absolution for her sins; the wedding is set for two days hence.


The wedding masque is led by a disguised Hippolita; when she unmasks she attempts to kill Soranzo with a cup of poisoned wine. Vasques foils her attempt and gives her the poisoned cup instead. She dies, cursing Soranzo and his marriage. Shortly after the wedding Soranzo discovers Annabella’s pregnancy and attacks her in a rage, demanding to know the identity of her lover; she refuses to name him. However, Vasques tricks Annabella’s maid, Putana, into revealing the truth and turns her over to be tortured by the banditti in his employ.


Soranzo prepares a sumptuous birthday feast in which to wreak his vengeance on the brother and sister; he invites many of the leading citizens of Parma. Warned by the friar of Soranzo’s intentions, Giovanni nevertheless resolves to attend. He has a last meeting with Annabella; to forestall Soranzo’s vengeance, he stabs her to death. With her heart on his dagger, Giovanni enters the banquet hall, reveals what he has done, kills Soranzo, and dies at the hands of the banditti. His father, Florio, dies of a broken heart, and Vasques, revealing that he is a Spaniard and has acted in defense of Soranzo’s honor, is spared execution and banished from Italy.


-Kathleen Dimmick, dramaturg


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