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College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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Cheating History: Performing Period or Period Plays The Mainstage Theatre season at Grand Valley State University always begins with a Shakespeare production as part of the Shakespeare Festival. The second production is generally a smaller production and is defined as a diversity production. The third production is either a musical or opera and is produced by the Music department. The final production is a larger production and rotates among different periods and styles, not is an orderly rotation, but the theatre faculty try to select shows from a range of periods and styles over a potential students four years of study. With the annual Shakespeare production as part of the season, often more modern or contemporary plays are selected for that fourth slot. In selecting productions for the 2014-15 season, the faculty decided to search for a restoration period play. The director often has key influence in the final choice. The director for the production recommended contemporary playwright Amy Freeds play Restoration Comedy, which is an adaptation of two restoration plays, Colley Cibbers Loves Last Shift and its sequel, The Relapse by John Vanbrugh. During final selection of the season, I debated that recommendation with the director along the lines of authenticity of style, arguing that the play was in fact a contemporary play that played in period rather than an actual restoration period play, something more akin to performing West Side Story for our Shakespeare Festival than Romeo and Juliet. Nevertheless, Restoration Comedy will be performed in March, 2015 for the Grand Valley Season. In fall 2014, I have been teaching a Restoration Comedy dramaturgy class focused on the style and period of such plays as contextual research support for the production. For this paper, I will examine the differences in performing period plays in contemporary times and contemporary plays set in a period using Restoration Comedy and this production as the case study. The primary question in this case is pedagogical in that period plays and styles for production are part of a larger mission to educate theatre students about theatre art and production.

Conference Name

HERA Conference 2015

Conference Location

San Francisco

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