Acton, Brooks and Co. Bring Marlowe to Life in DC Shakespeare Theatre's New Home

News   Acton, Brooks and Co. Bring Marlowe to Life in DC Shakespeare Theatre's New Home The Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, DC, raises the curtain on its next act Oct. 27 with the first preview of Christopher Marlowe's Edward II — the first production in the troupe's new home.
Wallace Acton will play the title role in Edward II
Wallace Acton will play the title role in Edward II Photo by Carol Rosegg

The play by Shakespeare's contemporary marks the inaugural staging in the troupe's new downtown venue, Sidney Harman Hall. Gale Edwards directs Edward II, which runs in rep in the new 775-seat theatre with Marlowe's Tamburlaine (starting Oct. 30). Shakespeare Theatre Company artistic director Michael Kahn adapts and directs the latter.

In Edward II (Oct. 27-Jan. 6, 2008) Wallace Acton plays the title monarch, Deanne Lorette is Queen Isabella, Vayu O'Donnell is Gaveston and Andrew Long is Mortimer. Opening is Nov. 9.

In Tamburlaine (Oct. 30-Jan. 6, 2008), the title character is played by Avery Brooks, with Franchelle Stewart Dorn as empress Zabina. Opening is Nov. 7.

Additional casting for the Marlowe rep includes Terence Archie, Danyon Davis, James Denvil, Robert Jason Jackson, Scott Jaeck, Floyd King, James Konicek, Christopher Marino, David McCann, Jonathan Earl Peck, Jefferson A. Russell, David Sabin, David Emerson Toney, Mia Tagano, Kurt Uy, Craig Wallace, Amy Kim Waschke and Jay Whittaker.

"If we are interested in Shakespeare we must be interested in Marlowe because of the influence that each had on the other," stated Michael Kahn. "If Marlowe's life hadn't been cut short, I imagine his relationship with Shakespeare would have developed just as Matisse and Picasso's did, with the two continuously in conversation with each other. Marlowe is a writer who developed hugely in a short amount of time, and with Tamburlaine and Edward II we get to experience his work at both the beginning and end of his career." *

"Deemed by many to be Marlowe's crowning achievement, Edward II features the playwright's most nuanced characters and some of his finest language," according to STC notes. "In the weak, stubborn character of Edward II, Marlowe created a compelling portrait of a flawed monarch. Though the son of a great general, Edward is an ineffectual king, and, in the grips of a romantic obsession, he fails to recognize the threats to his crown. As the play unfolds, Marlowe turns the doomed Edward into a more tragic figure, contrasting his plight with the ruthless nobles who depose him."

Marlowe's first play, Tamburlaine "chronicles its hero's meteoric rise from humble origins to fearsome warrior and emperor of thousands," according to STC. "Tamburlaine desolates his adversaries, growing so ruthless that he marches on his beloved's native country. With ravishing poetry, Marlowe ruminates on the corrupting influence of ambition and one man's overwhelming desire for immortality. Tamburlaine exemplifies Marlowe's extravagant style, immense sense of pageantry and bold characters."

Wallace Acton returns to the company for the first time since his 2003 performance as Richard III.

Avery Brooks returns to play the title role after his acclaimed portrayals of Othello and Oedipus. Franchelle Stewart Dorn returns for the first time since 2000 to play the Empress of Turkey.

Both plays will run at the new Sidney Harman Hall, which joins the existing Lansburgh Theatre to create the Harman Center for the Arts — two venues in which the troupe will play in the future (The Taming of the Shrew has been extended into November at the Lansburgh).

In conjunction with its rotating repertory productions of Tamburlaine and Edward II, the Shakespeare Theatre Company presents a multi-disciplinary Marlowe Festival "celebrating the genius and influence of Christopher Marlowe."

For the productions, set designer Lee Savage "has created scenic elements inspired by the existing architecture of Sidney Harman Hall."

Tamburlaine costume designer Jennifer Moeller "has created a wardrobe inspired by the Silk Road region, which includes animal skins, colorful coats and headpieces for the kings of each civilization and militaristic body armor." Edward II costume designer Murell Horton was influenced by the romantic era of the 1910-1940s.

The repertory design team also includes composer Karl Lundberg, lighting designer Mark McCullough, fight direction by Rick Sordelet, choreographer Daniel Pelzig, and voice and text coach Ellen O'Brien.

For more information about Shakespeare Theatre Company, its season and its new home, visit www.shakespearetheatre.org.

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