Dr. T. Paul Pfeiffer, director of theatre at the university, adapted the comic novel — which marked the beginning of the English novel as we know it today — and directs the hybrid cast of undergrads supported by older actors with professional credits.
"We have premiered work before, but nothing on this scale and not recently," Dr. Pfeiffer told Playbill.com. "As our program serves as a regional theatre for the peninsula, we draw from three states: Maryland, Virginia and Delaware. We try to operate as a working regional theatre — within the confines of an educational theatre program. I see trying out new works as vital to our outreach as the production of classical works — provided good scripts are available which meet the needs of our students, and the budget of our program."
Performances of Joseph Andrews play March 1-4 and March 8-11, 8 PM Thursday-Saturday and 2 PM Sunday, at the Fulton Hall Black Box Theatre at Salisbury University in Salisbury, MD.
Satirizing the picaresque novel, the play (and novel) "turns the formula of the female victim upside down as young (and of course virile) Joseph strives to retain his virtue against all odds and humorous complications," Dr. Pfeiffer said. "As footman in the service of Lady Booby, he is thrown out of his employment when she fails to seduce him. Setting off from London he journeys to rejoin his childhood love, Fanny, to whom he is devoted. Along the way, he finds his old friend Parson Adams and Fanny herself – who has come looking for him. Together they encounter an array of vivid – and often vile – characters whose pursuit of self-interest enrich some of Fielding's finest social satire. Even to the final 'deus ex machina' discovery, Lady Booby persists in plotting to have Joseph for herself."
The cast includes Danny Schall as Joseph, Aftyn Garvin as Fanny, Greg Jones as Parson Adams, Martha Pfeiffer as Lady Booby, Mary George as Mrs. Slipslop and Tim Dykes as Mr. Wilson with Griffin Jones, Zachery Schlag, Jackie Walter, Megan Murray, Emily Jablonski, Don Paul, Courtney Taylor, Hank Brannock, Susan Wasem, B.J. Hoyle, Andy Lee, Brandon Shain, Lars Ryan and Janey Robson as Narrators. The creative team includes Gerry Patt Jr. (scenic designer), John-James Rutuelo (costume designer), Gerald George (lighting designer and technical director). Jessica Rivera-Pratt is assistant stage manager.
Ribald and earthy, relecting the nature of 18th century life, Joseph Andrews is billed as "epic and fast-paced" as both Joseph and Fanny withstand the advances of colorful highwaymen, rapacious wenches, ignorant magistrates, salacious rapists and Machiavellian seductresses.
What's the challenge of moving the tale from page to stage?
"Perhaps the greatest challenge in this piece is conquering the language," Dr. Pfeiffer said. "Obviously, the original had to be much pared down for modern ears as 18th century writing is full of digressions and parentheticals. Also, certain vocabulary or allusions would be lost to our audiences, so these needed to be 'modernized' or, in many cases, cut. Most of the cuts were for the sake of clarity — and time — as this is an epic story."
The story is told by narrators in an attempt to retain the feel of the novel, he added. The intention is to retain the feel of spirited story-telling shifting seamlessly from narrative to the dramatic.
It's not all words, however. Dr. Pfeiffer said the tale is theatrical and buoyant — "briskly conveyed by a vast array of sharply defined characterizations all of which pass in and out of the action leaving us with fleeting impressions of the bustle, energy and danger inherent in 18th century life."
Dr. Pfeiffer's first play, Apology for the Life of an Actor, is a one-man show based on the life of actor/manager Colley Cibber. It was given two trial runs at the Royal Shakespeare Company's The Other Place in 1999 and 2000, and also played the Edinburgh Fringe Theatre Festival in 2001, where Dr. Pfeiffer played Cibber.
The Bobbi Biron Theatre Program at Salisbury University boasts five productions a year — including at least one classical piece.
For tickets or more information call (410) 543-6229 or visit www.salisbury.edu.