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FROM THE PLAYWRIGHTS | Arden of Faversham

Red Bull Theater's production of ARDEN OF FAVERSHAM on stage at the Lucille Lortel Theatre for a limited Off-Broadway engagement, March 6 - April 1, 2023.

Insights | Arden of Faversham by Brandi K. Adams

It’s daunting to revise a play that Shakespeare may have co-written. It seems presumptuous. So, when you cut a scene or fiddle with a speech, you hope it was by one of the other guys. And when you try your hand at blank verse, it isn’t to mark your territory (“This is so much better than that ‘Now is the winter of our discontent’ stuff”)—it’s so the gears won’t strip when you shift from 1565 to 2023. The goal is seamlessness, hide the stitches.


But why adapt Arden at all? Especially if it has the pedigree many claim for it.


Arden is said to be the first docu-drama, a real murder case “ripped from the headlines,” the depiction of historical events embellished only by language, poetry, and speculation of character (Shakespeare). But it’s also Elizabethan noir, perhaps the first iteration of the plot seen in books and films like Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Body Heat, and Blood Simple. In fact, it was Arden’s weird resemblance to a Coen Brothers plot—the mixture of savage bloodletting and farce—that made us lean towards that mix in the adaptation: Arden of Fargo.


Another appeal is the fun and challenge of getting inside characters who were created over four centuries ago, not to mention based on real people. In doing that, you double down on the notion that people, and relationships, have not fundamentally changed. And while gains have been made in the status of women today, we’re still living in a society where some men are trying to control female bodies and desire.


In the original play, Widow Greene was farmer Greene, a male character. And Susan had very little to say or do, until she was conscripted into scrubbing Arden’s blood out of the floorboards. By imagining and filling in these two characters, suddenly we had two women—of different marriage and social status—to support the powerhouse of Alice Arden, who rivals Lady Macbeth in terms of sheer number of lines as well as outrageous ambition. In locating Alice and her shifting desires as the center of the play, we bring to our contemporary stage just the kind of complicated gutsy female we all like to root for (deceit and murder aside): Alice of Faversham.

JEFFREY HATCHER & KATHRYN WALAT

 

Jeffrey Hatcher’s work was last presented by Red Bull Theater in 2021 with the acclaimed romp The Alchemist and in 2017 with his hit version of inane corruption à la Gogol, The Government Inspector. His Broadway credits include Never Gonna Dance (book). Off-Broadway credits include Three Viewings and A Picasso at Manhattan Theatre Club; Scotland Road and The Turn of the Screw at Primary Stages; Tuesdays with Morrie (with Mitch Albom) at the Minetta Lane; Murder by Poe, The Turn of the Screw, and The Spy at The Acting Company; and Neddy at American Place. Other credits include Compleat Female Stage Beauty, Mrs. Mannerly, Murderers, Mercy of a Storm, Smash, Korczak's Children, To Fool the Eye, Confederacy of Dunces, The Critic, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and others at The Guthrie, Old Globe, Yale Rep, The Geffen, Seattle Rep, Cincinnati Playhouse, Cleveland Playhouse, South Coast Rep, Arizona Theater Company, San Jose Rep, The Empty Space, Indiana Rep, Children’s Theater Company, History Theater, Madison Rep, Intiman, Illusion, Denver Center, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Milwaukee Rep, Repertory Theater of St. Louis, Actors Theater of Louisville, Philadelphia Theater Company, Huntington, Shakespeare Theatre (D.C.), Asolo, City Theater, Studio Arena and dozens more in the U.S. and abroad. Film and television credits include "Stage Beauty," "Casanova," "The Duchess," "Mr. Holmes," and episodes of “Columbo” and "The Mentalist." Grants/awards: NEA, TCG, Lila Wallace Fund, Rosenthal New Play Prize, Frankel Award, Charles MacArthur Fellowship Award, McKnight Foundation, Jerome Foundation, Barrymore Award Best New Play, and IVEY Award Best New Play. He is a member and/or alumnus of The Playwrights Center, the Dramatists Guild, the Writers Guild, and New Dramatists.


Kathryn Walat is a playwright and opera librettist. Her play Creation, developed at The O’Neill, premiered at the Theatre @ Boston Court and was nominated for a LA Stage Alliance Ovation Award for Playwriting. Her Victoria Martin: Math Team Queen premiered Off-Broadway at WP and was published in New Playwrights: The Best Playsof 2007. Her Bleeding Kansas premiered at the Hangar Theatre and received a Francesca Primus Citation (American Theatre Critics Association). Other plays include See Bat Fly (Kilroy’s List; Brown/Trinity Playwrights Rep), Ancient Gods of the Backwoods (New Georges’ Germ Project), Know Dog (Salvage Vanguard), Johnny Hong Kong (Perishable Theatre), and On the Road (Actors’ Theatre of Louisville/Anthology Project). Her work as an opera librettist includes Paul’s Case (PROTOTYPE, Pittsburgh Opera) with composer Gregory Spears, named in New Yorker magazine’s Ten Notable Performances for 2014; its recording from National Sawdust Tracks was named in Opera News’ Five Best New Works of 2019. The Echo Drift was commissioned and produced by Beth Morrison Projects, HERE, and American Opera Projects, and premiered at PROTOTYPE Festival. She is an affiliated artist with New Georges and the Playwrights’ Center, and an associate professor and resident playwright at SUNY Albany. BA, Brown University; MFA, David Geffen School of Drama at Yale.


For complete details about Red Bull Theater's ARDEN OF FAVERSHAM, visit here.

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