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Location: Lincoln, Nebraska

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Welcome to Windsor


Bob Hall, with tongue firmly in cheek, has announced that Flatwater's upcoming production marks a radical change. The Flatwater Shakespeare Company has distinguished itself with a series of modern-dress and alternative-period productions, including last year’s "Spaghetti Western" The Taming of the Shrew, but this version of The Merry Wives of Windsor will actually make use of Renaissance costumes and music. The play is Shakespeare’s only purely contemporary comedy, set in England. It is also incredible fun.


While Sir John Falstaff makes repeated overtures to the Merry Wives, more complications arise when Meg and George Page have different ideas about the best match for their daughter Anne. Shakespeare then adds several of Falstaff’s companions from the Henry IV plays, a Welsh parson and a French doctor both worthy of Monty Python, and an innkeeper given to grand talk and grander jokes. The combination has delivered a night of sheer, hilarious entertainment to audiences for over 400 years.



The production features Sasha Dobson as Mistress Alice Ford and Becky Key Boesen as Mistress Meg Page in the title roles. Joel Story plays the incorrigable Sir John. Dick Nielsen is the jealous Master Frank Ford and Stephen Buhler plays Master George Page. Other performers include Flatwater regulars Paden Alexander, Sam Colwell, Tom Crew, Robie Hayek, Melissa Lewis Nuss, Larry Mota, Elbert Traylor, and Nathan Weiss. Joining Flatwater for this show are Maggie Austin, Ryan Kathman, Chloe Nore, Trent Stork, Peter Swanke, Gage Wallace, and Bob Williams. Costumes are by Janice Stauffer, with set construction by Richard Imig and sound design by dramaturg Stephen Buhler.



Flatwater Shakespeare performs The Merry Wives of Windsor, directed by Bob Hall, in the open-air Swan Theatre at Wyuka Cemetery and Park, 3600 O Street in Lincoln, beginning Thurs., June 4, at 7:30 p.m. Performances continue Fri.-Sun., June 5-7; and Thurs.-Sun., June 11-14 and 18-21. All show times are 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors, and $10 for students. Call 484-7640 for reservations.



(The photo shows Melissa Lewis Nuss as Mistress Quickly and Joel Story as Sir John Falstaff. Photo by John Nollendorfs.)



Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Why Horns?

In The Merry Wives of Windsor Shakespeare gets a lot of mileage out of horns: Frank Ford imagines them popping out of his forehead; Sir John Falstaff winds up wearing literal horns at play's end when dressed up as Herne the Hunter. Throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance times, cuckolds – men whose wives were unfaithful – were imagined as wearing horns. (Horns might also be perceived on the brows of wittols, men who accepted their wives’ infidelity.)

You might recall all the "horn" jokes in Much Ado about Nothing and, more seriously, Othello’s bitter humor about a pain in his forehead as his jealousy increases. It’s a fair question (and a member of the cast has sensibly raised it) to ask why horns came to symbolize cuckoldry. It’s also a question that doesn’t seem to have a definitive answer.


In fact, scholar Claire McEachern (who edited the Pelican Shakespeare Henry V that Flatwater used) published an essay as recently as December 2008 that asks, "Why Do Cuckolds Have Horns?" (it’s in the Huntington Library Quarterly). McEachern reviews a wide range of explanations and offers some new ones. Here’s a selection:


–The horns may reflect "the practices of the Greek emperor Andronicus, who was known to place horns on the houses of his [erotic] conquests in order to signify his grant of compensatory hunting privileges to their husbands" (615).


–During the Renaissance, perhaps in imitation of Andronicus, members of a community would nail "horns to the door of a suspected cuckold," both alerting him to their suspicions and casting scorn on his ignorance of the situation (615).


–Psychologically speaking, the horns constitute a kind of cultural displacement "in which the horniness of the cuckolder ends up manifesting itself on the brow of the insufficiently masculine cuckoldee" (610). This is a different kind of compensation, since "Virile animals, such as bulls, stags, and the traditionally lecherous goat have horns" (610; McEachern here quotes from Coppelia Kahn’s book Man’s Estate).


Many of these ideas are represented visually in a woodcut that accompanied a 17th-century ballad entitled "The Married Man’s Miserie." The illustration (seen above) depicts a wandering wife dancing with the devil, a clueless husband with horns just beginning to sprout, horns nailed to their house, and a concerned (and/or nosy) neighbor sounding the alarm with the help of a, yes, horn.


The Flatwater Shakespeare Company presents The Merry Wives of Windsor in the open-air Swan Theatre at Wyuka Cemetery and Park, 3600 O Street in Lincoln, beginning Thurs., June 4, at 7:30 p.m. Performances continue Fri.-Sun., June 5-7; and Thurs.-Sun., June 11-14 and 18-21. All show times are 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors, and $10 for students. Group rates are also available.


Call 484-7640 for reservations.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Merry Wives of Windsor

These are not desperate housewives.

And even if they were desperate housewives, Alice Ford and Meg Page still wouldn’t be desperate enough to fall for Sir John Falstaff.

Low on funds but with his appetites and waistline as large as ever, the lovable scoundrel has hit on a new scheme: seduce the wives of two of Windsor’s leading citizens and have access to their husbands’ finances. What could go wrong?

Plenty, after Alice and Meg find out that Falstaff has written identical "love" letters to them both.

Plenty more, after two of Falstaff’s men inform the husbands, Frank Ford and George Page, of Falstaff’s plans.

What follows are disguises, bribes, dirty laundry, insane jealousy, a plunge into the River Thames, transvestism, and much ado about horns.

All this and more awaits you when The Flatwater Shakespeare Company presents The Merry Wives of Windsor, Shakespeare’s own BritCom, in the open-air Swan Theatre at Wyuka Cemetery and Park, 3600 O Street in Lincoln, beginning Thurs., June 4, at 7:30 p.m.

Performances continue Fri.-Sun., June 5-7; and Thurs.-Sun., June 11-14 and 18-21. All show times are 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors, and $10 for students. Call 473-2897 for reservations.