Stage Beauty Strives for Authenticity
Paul Brissett, Associated Press
December 6, 2013
Compleat Female Stage Beauty is a well-written play, and the production that opened Thursday at UMD is well-directed and acted, with excellent production values.
It is the true story of Edward Kynaston, star of the London stage and famed for his skill at playing females, who falls to dissolution and debasement after King Charles II lifts the ban on women onstage and outlaws the ages-old practice of young men playing women.
It’s a play perhaps of greater appeal to theater historians than to the public at large, but the story of Kynaston’s struggles and journey is a universally compelling one, well told by playwright, director and cast.
Playwright Jeffrey Hatcher strives for the utmost authenticity in recreating London and its theater world in the mid-17th century, peopling his play with historical figures such as diarist Samuel Peyps, impresario Thomas Betterton, Villiars, Duke of Buckingham, King Charles and Sir Charles Sedley.
He also seeks to reproduce the rawness of life in those times, with the bawdiest of humor, the crudest of language and depictions of the easy sex in all social classes.
Hatcher also catches the fundamental insecurity of so many actors and the petty jealousy that’s rampant among them. When Kynaston witnesses the first woman to audition for the role he’s been playing to great acclaim, he snipes mercilessly before indulging himself in open scorn and hostility.
Ironically, the male actor portraying Kynaston is named Erin Miller, who is not terribly convincing as a female, but brings range and subtlety to Kynaston as a man who has been stripped of his identity and struggles to find a new one. Kynaston, as played by Miller, is even confused about his sexual identity and also about what it means to be a man.
One of Miller’s most impressive feats is to portray an actor giving a bad performance, when Kynaston is challenged to act the role of Othello. His best scene (spoiler alert) is when he coaches a woman at whom he initially sneered to a triumphant performance in the role she took from him.
Director Kate Ufema honors Hatcher’s devotion to authenticity with brilliant period costuming by Laura Piotrowski, wigs and makeup by Patricia Dennis and a set designed by Topaz Cooks that converts from a 17th-century theater to a public space to a seedy tavern.
Ufema also has carried through on Hatcher’s penchant for earthiness: The show includes graphic simulations of anal intercourse and fellatio and a brief glimpse of a naked female breast.
Thursday’s opening also included what for UMD was an unusually large number of technical miscues in lighting and sound.
Compleat Female Stage Beauty is a play written by Jeffrey Hatcher set in 17th century England. It follows the actor Edward Kynaston (Erin Miller), an actor renowned for playing female roles, as he copes with new laws enacted by King Charles II (James Goodman) banning men from playing female parts.
The set design of Compleat Female Stage Beauty was phenomenal. The stage was constructed in a manner similar to other theatres in the time period the play was set in, with a wooden floor and wooden balconies. One could easily see the similarities between the Globe Theatre and the stage, something that was probably done on purpose but nonetheless very cool given the amount of space they had to work with. The gorgeously stained wood combined with the lush lighting created an ambience that warmed the theatre tremendously, but by far the greatest piece of set design were the two triangular columns that spun to denote the current setting. One side of the columns was solid white separated into squares by brown planks to resemble the inside of the theatre, one side was painted to look like a brick wall covered in ivy to resemble the parks, and the last side was painted light gold with fleur-de-lis' for the inside of the King's palace.
The actors in Compleat Female Stage Beauty did a fantastic job. The most memorable and enjoyable part was when the Duke of Buckingham (Pascal Pastrana)was having a conversation with Margaret Hughes (Amanda Sjodahl) and Edward kept making these snarky comments laden with innuendo. The contender for that title was when the Duek of Buckingham burst out of the covers, completely surprising many of the people in the audience to the great amusement of some people in the audience. Some of the more interesting parts was when the Duke of Buckingham had sex with Edward, something that doesn't happen too often in any type of media. When the Duke of Buckingham told Edward he wasn't looking for a homosexual relationship, one might have seen the parallel between situational homosexuality in the "real world", a subject not often touched upon in television or movies. Some parts were less noteworthy than others, such as Peyps (Joe Cramer), but this is likely due to the fact that they simply had less time on stage and were more minor characters than others. The one thing that stood out in a negative was Nell Gwynn's (Chelsea Lin Reller) strong Cockney accent. The rest of the actors employed moderately subdued British accents, but for whatever reason (perhaps the script called for it?) she employed an accent some may have found highly obnoxious and grating on the ears.
Overall, Compleat Female Stage Beauty was a superb production, whose actors and subject matter grasped the audience's attention and never let go. There were surprisingly few negatives to the play, and it was a play many would love to see writ large.
Compleat Female Stage Beauty is a historical play about the famous actor Edward Kynaston (Erin Miller) who played women leads during the 17th century. King Charles II lifts the law against women not being allowed to act on stage. When the first female actress Margaret Hughes (Amanda Sjodahl) debuts Kynaston is sent into a spiral of denial and depression as he tries to cope with his loss of fame. Kate Ufema the director of Compleat Female Stage Beauty had a challenge on her hands on how to get the message of this play to the audience. This production is more for the theatre historians rather than for the public crowd.
Jeffrey Hatcher the playwright wrote a historical play that brings up the same question in people’s lives today. Are we defined by what we do? Kynaston struggled with the fact that his only identity was as a woman on stage. Miller brought a vulnerability to Kynaston that showed his desire to be loved not only as an actor on the stage but also as a human being. When Hughes comes in the spot light he is angry and ultimately jealous of how London reacts to her performance which is a mirror performance of his own. Ufema made an interesting directing choice when you saw Miller act as a woman he was more delicate and soft with his gestures. Sjodahl on the other hand was sharper and harder, seeming to the audience that she didn’t even know how to act as a woman even though she was one.
Jayson Speters was another actor who played Betterton the owner/actor of a competitive theatre company. He offered a comic relief to the show with crude language and almost a barbaric sense of humor. Another stand out in this show was Emily Sue Bengston who played Maria, a seamstress who longs to be an actress. Maria being somewhat of a feminist, Bengston brought an innocence that broke the boundary of what woman were supposed to be like in the 17th century. At one point in the show Maria and Kynaston have an interaction on stage where Kynaston asks how Maria does Desdemona death seen in Shakespeare’s Othello. When Kynaston acts in this scene he lets Othello overpower him and die immediately. Bengston brought a feminist rage when she tells Kynaston that no woman would ever just let someone murder them, they would fight and that is how she would play the scene.
Aside from the acting the Topaz Cooks the scenic designer harnessed the 17th century theatre. Simple yet offers more than one location. Ufema stayed true to the time period with elegant and detailed costumes designed by Laura Piotrowski. Patricia Dennis designed the wigs and make up for this period piece as well.
This show is meant for an adult audience with crude language and a display of anal intercourse and a small glimpse of a female breast. If you are not comfortable with nudity or crude language viewer discretion is advised.
The show ran smoothly with little to no technical issues offering a pleasant journey into the 17th century theatre.
Complete Female Stage Beauty opened at the Marshall Performing Arts Center on Thursday, December 5th. The story of young Edward Kynaston, star of the theater at the time, and his struggle after King Charles Ⅱ made it illegal for males to play female roles in theater. The performance featured a professional-looking cast and a former umd student quest sound designer.
Director Kate Ufema had a strong choice for costume designer with Laura Piotrowski creating a majority of restoration-era outfits for a cast of colorful characters. Wig/Makeup Designer Patricia Dennis had her hands full with male members of the cast portraying females on stage.
A strong dialect was constructed to cater to a London, England setting with Kate Ufema partnering up with UMD senior Dan Marta to do so. Although at certain points in the performance with a certain degree of annoyance the accent was a bit over exaggerated. But nonetheless much of the script had a comedic tone to compliment the seriousness to it especially with Kynaston’s sarcastic comments.
The controversial play featured homosexual sex scenes and a glimpse of a female breast keeping audiences on the edge of their seats. Ufema’s decision to feature these controversial scenes compliments the play’s projection of the excitement surrounding the theater in the late 17th century.
The set was kept simple but was efficient when it came to scene transitions but also kept the setting clear while also being visually pleasing. The opening scene’s set is a restoration period theater with two raised balcony seating areas on opposite sides of the stage which simply transitioned to a backstage scene by raising the elevator thrust of the stage and tweaking the lighting to focus attention away from the previous set. A simple process that allowed for the play to carry on fluidly.
Edward Kynaston’s character was portrayed by UMD’s own Erin Miller, currently a senior. Miller’s performance in the Marshall Center was one to remember, excelling in his role both as a male and female. Miller’s display described the struggles his character faced of sexuallity, manhood, unemployment, and the rise and fall of stardom.
Complete Female Stage Beauty was surprisingly funny with a script filled with dry humor with a lot of sexual subject. One scene stood out to me where Kynaston’s character goes out for a walk with some irksome fans immediately after a performance still outfitted in a dress and wig, when stopped by a rich sponsor which mistakes them for prostitutes Kynaston continues his act as a female even offering the other girls up for money.
Overall UMD’s Department of Theater’s rendition of Complete Female Stage Beauty was carried out impressively with it’s controversial scenes, bitter humor, and strong message concerning one’s life work. The story of a 17th century actor transitioning from female roles to male roles, completely changing their career, and the struggles that accompanying them is told flawlessly by a strong cast surrounded by a strong technical and stage team.
Compleat Female Stage Beauty is a play written by Jeffery Hatcher set in the 1600’s. Hatcher uses the rough language and depictions of easy sex. It’s about the actor Edward Kynaston (Erin Miller), an actor that was renowned for playing female roles. He tries to cope with the new laws that were enacted by the King Charles II (James Goodman).
It’s a play that probably has a greater appeal to theatre historians than to the majority of the public, but the story was a very interesting and controversial one. The director did a good job at making the issues come to life.
Hatcher also catches the insecurity of most of the actors and all the jealousy that’s among them throughout the play. When Edward is a part of the very first female audition, he criticizes her. She was going for his part.
As far as the actors go, Erin Miler (Edward) wasn’t very convincing as a female, but when he had rage and anger, he did a very nice job. Once he was taken from his identity (being the female) he has a hard time being the true him. (A male) He is very confused as about his sexuality and he doesn’t know what it’s like to be a man.
One of his better parts was when he was teaching a woman how to do the role she took from him.
Jayson Speters was another actor, he played Betterton; the owner/actor of a competitive theatre. He was the comic relief to the crude show. He had a great sense of humor. Emily Sue Bengston played Maria, a seamstress that wanted to be an actress. She was the feminist of the group.
This play was kept quite simple as far as scene changes go, but it was still visually appealing. The two balcony seating on the opposite sides of the stage transitioned nicely with the entire play. The stage had rising and lowering elevator thrust that helped with different transitions. The lighting allowed for the focus to be on what was needed.
Compleat Female Stage Beauty was a script with dry humor and lots of sexual subjects. The show is meant for adult audience with crude language and a display of anal sex, a blow job, and a glimpse of a female breast. For most this is a “viewer discretion is advised” play.
The show ran smoothly; however wasn’t the most pleasant theatre performance and was a odd glimpse back to the 17th century.
UMD's main stage production of Compleat Female Stage Beauty was remarkable. The actors and designers both worked together to create an amazing show.
All of the actors worked to overcome their American accents and replace them with older ones. They all did a magnificent job of speaking in believable British accents.
Kayla Peters made an incredibly loveable character. One of her best scenes was when she was yelling at Kynaston (Erin Miller) about his female death scene. It was one of the more influential parts of the show, and Peters delivered it perfectly.
Amanda Sjodahl, who played Margaret Hughes, also played her role well. She managed to show both the fiery will and compassion of her character. She made it obvious that she was felt bad for Kynaston when he can't act as a man. And, one has to acknowledge that it takes a lot of guts to "flash a tit" in front of a live audience.
The crown jewel of the show was Erin Miller, who played Kynaston. Miller was able to make the audience see the inner turmoil the was raging within Kynaston. He's fighting for his identity, sexuality, and his job. He also added bits of comedy to the show, which were appreciated.
The technical aspects of Compleat Female Stage Beauty were astounding. The sound, designed by Jacob M. Davis, was incredible. Davis used shotgun microphones to pick up the voices of the actors and added a small echo. This echo was hardly noticeable, but it generated the ambiance of a large and resounding theater. The classical music helped set the time period and mood both in-between and throughout scenes.
The lighting also created the mood of each scene. Dylan Lee, the lighting designer for this show, made the audience see the transitions between a brightly lit stage, the fire lit green room, a dark and gloomy park, and a dingy hotel room. One of the most noticeable pieces of Lee's design was the lighting positioned in front of the stage, right in front of the audience. Lee used this light to create the illusion of the footlights of a old theater, and also to light the backstage room in the way that a glowing fireplace would.
Topaz Cooks' scenic design was jaw dropping. She used the upstage wall of the Marshall Performing Arts Center as the backdrop of the frame of the story. The Restoration Period parts of the show changed scenery by utilizing four ingenious triangular flats. These flats were rotated between scenes to display an ivy strewn brick fence, an intricate interior wall, and the inside of a theater. Another interesting aspect of Cooks' design was the operation of the Marshall Performing Arts Center's three hydraulic lifts throughout the show. The very edge of the stage, which acted as the green room and a small inn room, was raised and lowered several times throughout the play.
“She did what she did first. He did what he did last.”
UMD’s production of Jeffrey Hatcher’s Compleat Female Stage Beauty!, directed by Kate Ufema, opened last Thursday evening in the Marshall Performing Arts Center. The cast and crew, despite rehearsal set backs from Mother Nature’s snowstorms on Tuesday and Wednesday, pulled off a successful opening night with only a few minor kinks.
In 1660, Edward Kynaston was pursuing his passion as an actor, who was well known for flawlessly playing women’s roles, but when King Charles II signs a law enabling women to make a career out of acting on the stage as well, Kynaston’s days as an actor are over. Along with his career, his identity and place in society are also lost. The story shows the struggles of male actors during this time in London’s history.
This show is filled with challenging roles. Although Erin Miller’s masculinity was still apparent during his time spent on stage as a woman, he gave an excellent performance throughout the entire show as Edward Kynaston. As Kynaston’s career as a woman in theater ends, Margaret Hughes’s career is just beginning. Margaret, played by Amanda Sjodahl, is very elegant on stage and shined in her final scene. As for the rest of the cast, each added their own charismatic light to the serious, yet witty show.
UMD’s main stage was completely transformed by scenic designer, Topaz Cooks, into a wooden, seven-teenth century theater. The design allowed for the stage to transform into multiple separate indoor spaces along as an outdoor space. Her design also utilized the unique moving platforms of the MPAC stage to raise and lower during scene shifts.
Laura Piotrowski designed the costumes for the show represented each character’s social status and personality, and like the set, were fitting to the time period. There were many wigs used in this performance to show the time period, along with the make-up, Patricia Dennis designed both.
This show was one that really pushed the envelope for the UMD theater department with the crude humor and graphic language and sexuality used. Even though the racy nature of this show posed individual and group challenges for the cast, I’m sure, they gave a very professional performance.
Compleat Female Stage Beauty
Introduction to Theatre
This December, UMD’s Department of Theatre presented an intellectual, historical, and artistic play titled Compleat Female Stage Beauty. Written by Jeffery Hatcher, the play is a true story of actor Edward Kynaston on his journey to restore his identity after King Charles II banned male actors from playing female roles in 1661 London.
Erin Miller showed off his talent and his physique as he intricately played the dynamic Edward Kynaston. Miller started off confident as Kynaston was originally rewarded for his interpretations of Shakespeare's tragic ladies, especially his famous "death scene” as Desdemona. Miller exhibited confusion and desperation when Kynaston’s life seemed to crumble because Kynaston was no longer allowed to do what he loves. In the end, Miller was brilliant as Kynaston found a new talent coaching an actress named Margaret Hughes, played by Amanda Sjodahl. Kynaston also found new talent acting the male role of Desdemona’s executioner, Othello. Erin Miller outdid himself in this production as he believably played Kynaston with elasticity and congeniality.
Lighting (designed by Dylan Lee) and sound (designed by Jake Davis) placed Stage Beauty on and offstage in 1661 London. The repetitive and catchy tune really tied in all the scenes together. Also, the flashing blue lights and thunder sound in the Othello production within the play was great. Lighting and sound was essential in pulling together all of the themes that were provided by Hatcher’s script.
Scenic design by Topaz Cooks also helped set this story in its many locations within the 1660s time period. The raised boxes helped the audience distinguish the difference between theatrical performances within the play and the offstage events. The moving platforms on the mainstage of the Marshall Performing Arts Center aided in creating the different locations as well. Overall, the set created a very comfortable and open environment that fit this story extremely well.
UMD Professors Patricia Dennis and Laura Piotrowski had their hands full with designing the makeup, wigs, and costumes in this production. The characters were made distinguishable by their body languages and accents with the help of the appearances of their hair, dress, and makeup. The vivid colors, patterns, and makeup added to the performances entertainment and historical accuracy.
Compleat Female Stage Beauty was directed by Kate Ufema and contained a lot of adult content that helped show the audience the pleasure and the pain of the real, historical characters. When Maragret Hughes showed a breast for her portrait, it aided the audience’s understanding of the revealing movement in British theatre history. It’s strange to think that she had to do it to prove she was a female in that era since everyone was used to only male actors.
Overall, this historical and revealing play was well worth seeing. UMD’s Department of Theatre presented a well-rehearsed and well-rounded production of Compleat Female Stage Beauty that provided its audience with entertainment, education, and brilliance.
Playing now through the 14th, the wonderfully written, refreshingly edgy Compleat Female Stage Beauty first opened the 5th on UMD’s Mainstage Theatre in the Marshall Performing Arts Center. With superb acting as well as clearly exceptional direction, one doesn’t want to miss out on this powerfully true story.
Edward Kynaston is the protagonist in this real life drama as the former London stage star, highly renowned for his expertise at playing women. As the story moves along, he suddenly falls out of the theatre scene shortly after King Charles the II scraps the centuries old ban of women onstage and prohibits the earlier practice of men playing female roles. While the subject matter may seem somewhat obscure to the occasional theater goer, this once very hot topic stands out among historians as a turning point in the “lively art”. That being said, Kynaston’s personal story of the obstacles he faces after the decree, as well as the journey that follows, is widely captivating as told by UMD's outstanding production company.
As far as authenticity goes, it doesn’t get any better than playwright Jeffrey Hatcher’s recreation of London’s mid-17th century theater world, and the play itself is stocked with various historical personalities like King Charles the II, Sir Charles Sedley, and the Duke of Buckingham.
Director Kate Ufema successfully recreates the general atmosphere of mid-17th century England, incorporating the unrefined language of the time as well as some very risqué humor. In addition, she depicts the underlying inhibitions common among actors at the time, not to mention the trifling feelings of envy widespread between 17th century actors. This is evident as the protagonist watches the first woman who auditions for one of his more famous roles, publicly trash talking her, unashamed of his open contemptuousness.
Edward Kynaston’s part is played by Erin Miller, and although one isn’t exactly persuaded of his femininity, Miller does a fine job of bringing out Kynaston’s depth and vulnerability as a man who grapples to find a new identity after being figuratively robbed of his old one. Other issues include Kynaston’s confusion about his own sexual identity as well as his contemplation of what being a man truly means. As far as the acting goes, one can’t tell whether Miller is just that bad of an actor or if the part calls for the portrayal of terrible acting. This is meant to be a joke of course, as the poor acting is intended to portray Kynaston’s on-stage persona, most notable in the scene where Kynaston is commissioned to play the role of Othello in The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice.
In addition to a few graphic scenes involving the simulation of anal and oral sex, as well as brief nudity via naked female breast, Ufema maintains the story’s authenticity with the help of Patricia Dennis in hair and makeup, Laura Piotrowski in costume design, and Topaz Cooks as the set/scene designer.
For a feminist or a historian, Compleat Female Stage Beauty is just the kind of story to watch. The play takes place in the 17th century at the time when women were finally allowed to act. Though this was a positive note, many males were out of a job once King Charles II rules men illegal to take female roles. In this production we followed Edward Kynaston's journey after the ban.
The show though spoken with the dialect of the time, it was still full of humor and risque content. The opening scene features homosexual intercourse and the struggle of gender identity is relevant throughout. With starting the play right out of the box like so, it sets a platform for the rest of the show.
There was a tasteful way the director went about the promiscuity with nude leotards and coverings. By keeping in risque scenes, there were notes to the time period and discrimination of the time. Though women were now allowed to act, they were exploited in order to "make sure they really were female".
Since there were many grudges held in the show, there were also many opportunities for revenge. The way the characters went about it with mockery and power felt witty in the audience.
Though the audience was rather small on a cold snowy Friday, the actors held it together as if the Marshall Performing Arts Center was full.
Peyps, as the note taker of the play's show didn't hold much stage time which would usually leave him in the dust. Though Joe Cramer delivered his lines with charisma and wit.
Knowing this didn't take place in the United States, accents didn't seem quite necessary, they were almost distracting. Most weren't very good and it made the dialog difficult to understand at times.
Costume designs were beautiful. There were many that seemingly needed quick changes and yet the actors didn't miss their queue. They also had to take clothes off on stage. With the complicated looking outfits, there must have needed simple clasps and ties, yet no malfunctions were to be had.
While part of the stage moved and actors had to jump on to it, it was a neat way to break up the scenes. It made for smooth transitions since actors could shuffle out the back while others kept the story going up front.
With the set design being a theater itself, it gave an impression like we were part of the production. While sitting on the balcony, we were eye to eye with the upper classed audience in the show. The set though simple, the stage hands did a nice job wheeling in the extra props for each scene. That was a clever way to change the setting.
At some points, actors and actresses used the rows in the audience, but since it was a rare occurrence it seemed out of place. Otherwise the show was full of clever staging.
Though the play was written many moons ago, it still addresses relevant issues in society which made it relatable.
Compleat Female Stage Beauty, a play written by Jeffrey Hatcher and set in 17th century England, opened at UMD’s Marshall Performing Arts Center on Thursday, December 5th.
The play centers on a man named Edward Kynaston, who makes his living playing the female roles in his theater company’s plays. Kynaston is a man struggling with his identity and sexuality, and becomes completely lost when King Charles II outlaws men playing female roles on stage. Throughout the course of the play, Kynaston faces torment and abuse, is called a “bum boy” and is even horribly physically assaulted. Though he disappears for a while, Kynaston, with the help of his former seamstress Maria, eventually makes it back to the theater and to the only job he knows how to do: act.
The scene design for Stage Beauty is described in the name – the stage was beautiful, with rotating pillars in the background that provided backdrops for three locations. When the setting was the theater, elevated box seats on stage allowed the real audience to see the play’s “audience”, and added an element of authenticity to see the different ways the audience would react to things happening on stage. When Kynaston performed the role of Desdemona in Othello, the audience gasped and applauded, showing their love for his character. After Kynaston upset Sir Charles, a couple men from the audience started jeering and throwing things at him while he performed. The set also made use of an elevator at the front of the stage, allowing for smaller, more intimate scenes like the one between Maria and Kynaston in the hotel room. The scene changes were sometimes noisy when something had to be rolled on or off (like the bed), but were altogether done smoothly and did not take away from the performance.
The costumes, designed by Laura Piotrowski, were extremely elaborate and very historically accurate. The audience was able to see each layer that went into a woman’s dress of that time period whenever Kynaston was dressing or undressing for his female roles. The higher class ladies wore big, extravagant dresses, and the higher class men had many layers as well. The costumes really helped effectively set the time period of the play.
The play was full of controversial content, including a homosexual sex scene and an exposed breast, and dialogue that did not shy away from sexual references.
Every character had an accent to contribute to the setting of 17th century England. Though the dialect was mostly convincing, at times it was a hindrance. Chelsea Lin Reller as Nell Gwynn did very well in her “cockney” accent, but seemed to overdo it at times where it was very difficult to understand. Kayla Peters as Maria was on the other end of the spectrum, sometimes almost losing her accent.
Erin Miller was fantastic in his role of Kynaston. He wonderfully portrayed the angst of his character as he searched for identity, and delivered the best scene of the performance when he taught his former rival, Margaret Hughes, how to successfully play the role of Desdemona. The quick dialogue between Miller and Amanda Sjodahl as Hughes in that scene continued to escalate, enrapturing the audience, until the very convincing strangling of Desdemona.
The lighting of the play was very well done, and helped add depth to the scenes. The dark lighting during the park, tavern, and bath house scenes highlighted the sense of despair Kynaston was feeling in each scene. When Kynaston was deciding he should kill Hughes, the lights turned an ominous red as he made his speech. In the happier scenes the light was bright and added to the lively nature of the scenes.
Though the play had many very dark and depressing scenes, there were a few rays of light in certain lines or characters to bring comic relief. Kynaston was very quick-witted, shown in his dry humor at the expense of other characters. King Charles II (played by James Goodman) was a bumbling fool of a king whose lines always had the audience laughing. One of his funniest lines was “happy birthday to me!” followed by a little pop of his hip that really embodied his pompous character. The whole first scene of the second act was faster and lighter to follow the dark place the audience was left in after the end of the first act.
Compleat Female Stage Beauty was an overall wonderful performance. The beautiful set, costumes, lighting, and talented actors and actresses all came together to create a compelling show.
In UMD’s production of Complete Female Stage Beauty, Jeffrey Hatcher’s script and Kate Ufema’s directing combine to form a mesmerizing display of emotion. Complete Female Stage Beauty is a passionate story of a man struggling to find his identity. Edward Kynaston (Erin Miller) was an actor during the British restoration that was stripped of everything he had. The production focuses on Kynaston’s struggle to overcome his own misgivings, while undertaking the burden of presenting both a socially controversial subject matter, and on stage nudity. With this being said, there is much credit to be given to the actors and actresses who so daringly pushed the boundaries.
Erin Miller portrayed Kynaston excellently. Miller did every scene without hesitation. He both walked the walk and talked the talk. Miller appeared comfortable in all situations; whether he was having his penis fondled by Sir Charles Sedley (Jared Walz), involved in love scenes with Villars (Pascal Pastrana) and Maria (Kayla Peters), or as he walked around stage in a corset and a dress. Many of Millers scenes were beyond controversial which earned him negative exclamations from the crowd. It’s unclear whether he heard these comments, but even so he can be seen as a spectacular actor for taking on such a demanding role so well.
The only large negative of having Miller play the role was that he was not feminine in appearance. No matter how much the crew dolled him up with makeup, his masculine structure and defined facial features showed. This is not a major issue but a few scenes depended on his appearance heavily. These scenes include where Sedley mistakes him for a prostitute, and the tavern patrons mistake him for a lady. Even when his appearance is factored in, it is amazing how well he played the role. Millers abilities were mirrored by Pastrana’s.
Pastrana played Kynastons noble lover Villars. If Pastrana was any less an actor the production would have been a flop. He was not only able to stand toe to toe with Millers in shear acting ability, but was also able to match his comfort levels in each homoerotic scene.
Pastrana played the cool, relaxed, overconfident nobleman quite well. His physical techniques included: standing erect at all times, keeping a sly smirk, and keeping a calm monotone voice that projected an image befitting his character. Pastrana was garbed in all whites, which gave an air of innocence and purity, which embodied how Villars aspired to be viewed. His garb gave off a sense polar to his actions. Patrana’s manner, vocal techniques, and clothes succeeded in creating the illusions that made him an integral character in the production.
To oppose Villars self-assured manner is the character Margaret Hughes (Amanda Sjodahl). Hughes is Kynastons chief rival in the play. She is the reason Kynaston loses everything he has. Margaret has no confidence in her own abilities and is portrayed as a character that is dependent on Kynaston. She is unsure of her abilities and her body. This is illustrated best when Hughes is pressured into allowing an artist to paint her breast to prove she is a woman. This scene is very explicit because Sjodahl exposes her breast to the audience. Praise to Sjodahl for being able to expose herself to hundreds of strangers. Margret has no confidence in her abilities, but Sjodahl was clearly dedicated to her role. It is ironic how the person who plays Margret must have the utmost confidence in themselves, but Margret has none.
Sjodahl’s confidence was showcased in other scenes as well. The final scene where Kynaston and Margret enact Othello has Sjodahl all over the floor. She kicks, bucks, and screams like a pro as her character is suffocated. She was a very convincing actress throughout the play and can be seen as the most important actress of the play.
In the end UMD’s production was wonderful. All in all this is a must see show for those with an open mind, but it definitely deserves its R rating. The play is not for everyone and those with weak hearts and narrow minds should stay away. Still, this show was brilliantly put together. It is definitely out of the box, and I applaud the actors and actresses for being able to take on their roles without hesitation.
Complete Female Stage Beauty, directed by Kate Ufema, opened at the Marshall Performing Arts Center here at the University of Minnesota on Thursday, December 5th. Stage Beauty tells the story of one Edward Kynaston (Erin Miller), the most popular young male actor who happens to play all the female parts and works for the famous actor and director, Betterton, (Jayson Speters). Back when the play is set, in London around the 1660s when all the theatre actors were male and all parts male and female are played by men like Kynaston. Not only is the story line of the play historical in its origin some of the characters are also historically accurate. Prior to King Charles II (James Goodman) coming back from his exile the law was that only males can act on stage. Once back Charles decides that since women could act on stage in other countries of Europe why not England? Once the law is revoked, and men are outlawed from acting out female parts, Kynaston is out of a job and the rest of the play descripts his struggles on trying to find a place in the world now that his job and skill set is obsolete. He is replaced by England’s very first actress of the stage, Miss Margaret Hughes (Amanda Sjodahl). Kynaston and Hughes clash from the get-go but Later on in the play when he decides that he must help out his former boss and make the play Betterton is producing a hit, he agrees to help out Hughes (who unfortunately, is a terrible actress) he assumes the role of the male lead and shows that he can in-fact play any part that he so desires.
The costumes, makeup, and wigs were all periodically correct and fit into the production very well. The costumes were designed by Laura Piotrowski and the wigs and makeup were done by Patricia Dennis. It was quick noticeable that some of the actors shoe wear was very loud and distracted from the dialogue a few times. Another thing that sometimes caused distraction was, unfortunately, Erin did not make the most convincing female. There were also a few moments where none of the actors were speaking and no noise was to be heard. They seemed drawn out and awkward at times. Other than that, UMD put on a flawless performance.
The scenic designer was Topaz Cooks; she designed a set that spoke greatly to the 17th century. All wood and to show that the location had changed, she designed three sided panels in the back that would rotate to show the stage, the palace, and the park. It was refreshing to not have to wait a great deal of time for a scene change. The sound director was a guest artist brought in by the school, Jacob Davis. All of the music was composed by UMD’s very own Graeme Shields, having also composed the music for UMD’s production of Coriolana last year; he has yet to let the department down.
Art History Major
Dec 12 2013
“Compleat Female Stage Beauty” a play by Jeffery Hatcher, put on by the department of theatre at the University of Minnesota Duluth. The play is a gender defining piece set at a turning point in theatre production in late seventeenth century England. It was at this time that king Charles the second outlawed male actors preforming female roles. Intern it is also the celebrated time when females could again enter the main stage as an actress in a leading role, and not just as just a part of the help.
Topaz Cooks beautifully designed the set. It made the audience truly feel as though they were at to places at once. To be not only a typical audience member but part of the cast. A play within a play, the audience played an active role within the production. Ms. Cooks designed a simple but effective stage, one that was able to transport the viewer to different settings and times. Her ingenious use of rotating backdrop effectively changed the mood. In addition the use of stage separation through a hydraulic system efficiently transported the viewer to a completely different space.
The costumes were the absolute embodiment of both the time and of the individual character. Each reflected a stylish simplicity of the time. Some of the costuming, or shall I say lack there of, reflected perfectly the characterization portrayed by each of the actors. Laura Piotroswski should be commended on her thoughtful and poignant representation of seventeenth century English dress.
MacKenzie McCullum, Kate Ufema, Jake Davis and Dylan Lee should give themselves and the rest of the crew a good and hardy pat on the back. The stage direction was artfully accomplished and made good use of absolutely every location within the theater both off stage and on. The lighting was insightful and clearly placed each scene directly within context. The atmosphere was further enhanced by a sound direction that created a mood preset for each scene that placed the audience right into the late 1600’s.
The entire cast was outstanding. Every line every gesture was well rehearsed and understood. Even in compromising moments the cast seed well adapt and ready for the challenge. The cast should be commended on its complete grasp of each scenario and subtle nuance. To say the production was merely entertaining would be a complete understatement. It enthralled.
“Compleat Female Stage Beauty” when first produced, set out to shock audiences with its blatant show of gender diversity and sexual defiance. There could be no better time that at the moment to reintroduce theatergoers to this theme. Culture has shifted. This production is no longer shocking but rather a 300-year-old scenario of what is already part of our day-to-day lives.
The night of December 5th, 2013 was the opening of University of Minnesota Duluth’s “Compleat Female Stage Beauty” to take place on the Marshall Performing Arts Stage. Me, as well as most of the audience, was curious as to what the plot would entail, other than the rumors of partial nudity and a raunchy sex scene to be played on stage. Though by ten minutes into the play the viewers were already on the edge of their seats.
The play opens in the 1660’s a place that doesn’t seem particularly interesting on a stage that looks strikingly familiar to Shakespeare’s globe theater to a when King Charles II ruled, restored the monarchy, and brought theatre back where males could cross-dress and eventually ruled woman could take part in theatre as well. Yet somehow all this is shadowed to male actor Erin Miller who practically single-handedly stole the show. Miller, who played Edward Kynaston, along with a list of woman in his time, was a scene-stealer and you are unable to differentiate if you are intrigued to keep watching by Kynaston’s charm or Miller’s. Miller portrayed his character, or characters if you will, with a passion and a drive, along with a bloody good fake English accent, even when his character is found covered in gin, dirt, and a dress at a bar by Maria he continues to spit out witty lines with a side of cockiness. Maria, played by freshman Kayla Peters, has less than half the time as Miller on stage though it was unneeded to completely sympathize with her in a desire to please and impress her boss, along with a part of her wanting to act on the stage as well, along with a tiny crush on Kynaston. When Miller and Peters share a scene together it often feels like intruding on a private moment between a delicate relationship. This goes on all while impeccably dressed in period clothing that looks so close to the time you wondered if costume designer, Laura Piotrowski, borrowed it from a museum. The men dressed in 1660’s garb along with changes to corsets and dresses, and all the way down to heels and the underwear worn beneath the corsets for the previously mentioned raunchy scenes. All donned with the final touches of wigs and makeup from Patricia Dennis for almost every character in the performance. It completely takes your breath away.
This Performance leaves you intrigued by the characters and almost giddy to see what comes next. The actors are impeccable and you are taken aback when you realize their accents aren’t real nor the relationships between the characters. Luckily, there is another weekend of performances to see these characters again and to see their rendition of “Compleat Female Stage Beauty”.
The Marshall Theatre’s, Compleat Female Stage Beauty, directed by Kate Umema, was a much too lengthy performance that appeared to lack significant direction. While showcasing well acted main characters, the play as a whole seemed to lack quite a bit of comedic tone, and relevance in modern culture.
Stretching a painful near three hours, the audience became restless about halfway through the second act. Adding to the uncomfortable sensitivity of the theatre was due to the fact that almost ninety percent of the seats sat empty. Dragging on, the comedic mood faded from the few people there.
The main character, Erin Miller displayed his part well. The audience looked like they enjoyed his stage presence. Many of the other characters, however, seemed to lack a significant purpose in the plot development. There were so many added performers, that they started to blend together and became difficult to keep straight. The script had the potential to become a shorter, more climactic show. Instead, the overindulgence in the number of actors made the show become way too long and confusing.
The play was overly vulgar for the type of period that it was. Shock value, in the form of language and sexual displays, continued in abundance till it got to the point where it all seemed unnecessary. Several sexually edgy scenes appeared to be added to get more students to attend.
The romantic connection between Miller and his lover demanded more drive. The two didn’t really seem to be in any sort of relationship. This presented an extremely awkward moment in the sparsely filled theatre where the two engaged in assumed anal sex.
The scenic design, by Topaz Cooks, had a Shaker type minimalist feel about it. Besides the impressive balconies on both ends of the stage, there was barely a crumb to be seen. Some props, like a table and chair, were raised and lowered through an elevator system at the front of stage. This constant up and down movement to get characters and furniture on and off stage, gradually became extremely annoying and distracting. This deep pit of doom became a real climactic event when it appeared one performer was about to fall in. A sudden gasp was heard around the theatre as the character was maybe a foot from becoming a paraplegic. Whether this was done on purpose or not, it was certainly a splash of cold water. Overall, The scene design emitted a depressing vibe; definitely not one that fits a comedy.
In the end, the shows plot wasn’t at all relatable to modern times. This helped in making it a tiresomely slow play. The wide use of characters, accompanied by the overall depressingly boring use of the stage, made this show an unfavorable form of enlightenment.
UMD's Marshall Performing Arts Center opened up with Jeffrey Hatcher's Complete Female Stage Beauty on Dec 5th. Kate Ufema had her hands full with this production directing a play within a play within a play. It was well put together in the sense that the audience was able to follow, understand, and anticipate the unusual setting. Though it was a little difficult to follow at first, once members of the audience realized the shifts in scenes and acts, it was a fun and unique experience.
Nell Gwynn (Chelsea Reller) added a lot of humor to the production with her over done, but well fitting, accent. The character was playful and exciting in the sense that her presence was always entertaining. Even her singing was superb.
Erin Miller did an outstanding job playing the role of Kynaston. Portraying both a male and female role, he separated each role very well and was able to express the struggles of Kynaston being caught between who he really was as a person, not just as an actor. The audience really felt his sorrows and could empathize with his situation. He is not the everyday underdog to route for, but an inspiring character nonetheless with such a common struggle that can still be had today.
The makeup designer Patricia Dennis did an outstanding job with the wounds in the scene when Kynaston was injured. The audience really had to look closely and was almost distracted trying to distinguish if the injuries were real or not.
The lighting was done so well that when there were scene changes, a person barely noticed the elevator lowering the previous scene. Colors and contrasts weren't too over the top, but then again when portraying a play within a play in the 1650s, there wasn't much flashiness needed besides the candle lit scenes.
Costumes were rather impressive. Laura Piotrowski's detail was superb and transformed the audience into the mindset of the era for the setting. Upper class people within the play were well distinguished with their bright and fancy attire wearing wigs and shoes with buckles while the lower class was easily depicted with their earthly colors of brown, black, cream and white with plain shoes and no wigs.
The scene design by Topaz Cooks made the set feel like an actual theater with the upper balcony seating within the set to emphasize the play within a play within a play. It really brought the focus and imagination of when the characters were other characters for certain scenes. It added height to shift the viewer's focus throughout the production.
There is no doubt this production was controversial but well done nonetheless. Kudos to the cast in doing a brilliant job with each role, not everyone would feel comfortable portraying the characters like they did. It takes a lot of talent to be as convincing as they were during the sexual scenes.
Introduction to Theatre Arts
On December 5 at UMD’s Marshall Performing Arts Center, the curtain drew on the true story of a man named Edward Kynaston (Erin Miller), a young actor during the 1600s that, like many men at the time, played primarily female roles onstage. Compleat Female Stage Beauty, written by Jeffrey Hatcher and directed by UMD’s Kate Ufema, is a hilarious and heartwarming rendition of the trial and triumph that Kynaston experienced in his acting career when King Charles II of England banned male actors playing female roles in London in the mid-17th century. The plot of the play has a bitter-sweet mood as it is not only the end to men playing women’s roles but also the beginning of women being able to act onstage.
The performance takes off with Kynaston in his favorite role, Desdemona, in the play Othello. Kynaston’s mood changes dramatically throughout the entire performance as he goes from confidence in playing a woman, to despair as his lifelong career is pulled from beneath him, to confusion and emptiness as he tries to make a living, to pure elation as he is once again allowed to act onstage: not as a female role, but nevertheless, he is onstage. Miller was at his best in Stage Beauty, representing one of the most honorable actors of that century with both elegance and strength.
With women taking over the stage, enters the first woman actress on stage in London, Margaret Hughes (Amanda Sjodahl). Hughes envies Kynsaston and copies his every move. She later feels guilt over Kynaston losing his career and drive but ends up looking to him for guidance as she plays Kynaston’s favorite role, Desdemona. With a vigorous coaching session from Kynaston, as well as a close run-in with suffocation, Hughes makes her best performance yet as Desdemona. It is this performance that leads King Charles II to allow Kynaston to return to the stage.
Other superb roles in the performance included Maria the stage hand (Kayla Peters) and Nell Gwynn, the spitfire of a young actress (Chelsea Lin Reller). Peters performs a very difficult role for a freshman student and in no way disappoints: she gave light to one of the typically overlooked characters that really is an essential part of Kynaston’s life. Reller was the source of much of the humor in the play with her interesting accent and witty rule over the King’s affairs.
The set of Stage Beauty , designed by UMD senior Topaz Cooks, was very well designed with spinning backdrops, to moving stage platforms, and even to a bathtub that had actual steam rising from it. The versatile design made transitions from scene to scene smooth and fast, which kept the play moving along with no distracting interruptions, and the close, thrust stage allowed a more intimate connection between the audience and actors onstage.
The lighting (designed by Dylan Lee) and sound (designed by Jake Davis, associate sound designer for Cirque de Soleil), along with the costume designs (created by Laura Piotrowski) also tied the entire design of the play into one magnificent production. The perfection of these elements brought the audience right back into the 1600s when the actual events took place.
Compleat Female Stage Beauty was well-rehearsed and prepared. The entire cast and all involved in production certainly did not disappoint. The historically riveting performance was wildly comedic and entertaining, yet, also romantic and soft. Such a performance is one that you don’t want to miss.
Hayley Lindbeck, Compleat Female Stage Beauty
Compleat Female Stage Beauty, which appeared on the UMD stage the first two weekends in December, provides an informative historical snapshot of what theatre was line in the period of the English Restoration. In addition to this, it is also an intense psychological drama about gender identity and what it means to be a man, when all you’ve ever been is a woman.
The play is based upon excerpts from the diaries of noted British writer Samuel Pepys, played in this production by Joe Cramer. Historically, Pepys was notorious as a chronicler of the time, and his diaries detail the real-life events of Restoration-era performers Ned Kynaston, played by Erin Miller, and Margaret Hughes, played by Amanda Sjodahl. At the opening of the play we find Kynaston at the height of his theatrical career and romantic tryst with the Duke of Buckingham, portrayed by Pascal Pastrana. Miller and Pastrana’s chemistry in their crackling love scene is very convincing and natural, and informs the emotionally-heightened confrontations between the two in the show’s later scenes.
When Kynaston is upstaged by brand-new actress Margaret Hughes, and legislature comes down from King Charles II, played by James Goodman, forbidding men from playing female roles on the stage, he suddenly finds himself out of a job and out of luck overall. Kynaston’s degradation from diva-like confidence to hopelessness and desperation is very artfully portrayed by Miller, and his occasional lapses into typically female behavior are quite authentic. The audience feels for and connects with Miller as this character.
Throughout Kynaston’s emotional and mental turmoil trying to adapt to a world that no longer has a place for him, several lighthearted and comedic moments are provided by Goodman’s King Charles and his young mistress Nell Gwynn, portrayed by Chelsea Lin Reller. Goodman and Reller share a chemistry of their own, and play off each other very well and with excellent comedic timing. Much of the comedy of their scenes stems from the extreme height difference, which, if it was on purpose, was some very clever casting.
At the show’s apex, Kynaston teaches Hughes the subtler art of realism acting. Though historically this method of performance is an anachronism of the time, this is possibly Miller and Sjodahl’s most memorable scene. When Kynaston playing Othello smothers Hughes playing Desdemona, the audience in their seats were just as intrigued, thrilled, and prickling with suspense as the fake audience onstage. Miller and Sjodahl not only make for an excellent Kynaston and Hughes, but a powerful Othello and Desdemona as well.
Brought to life on an elaborate set designed by Topaz Cooks, this show is a true, gritty representation of the tumult theater life in England was experiencing at the time of the Restoration. And this tumult is reflected in the performances of all the actors on stage, whose complex characters struggle to survive in an ever-shifting society. In short, as a historical account of the English Restoration, and as an emotional piece on character adaptation and gender identity, Compleat Female Stage Beauty is a triumph.
"Exile is a dreadful thing for one who knows his rightful place,” said by King Charles in Compleat Female Stage Beauty. A play set in the 17th century, opened up in the Marshall Performing Arts Center at The University of Minnesota Duluth on December 5th. In this play, Edward, a well-known actor, plays women’s role in Shakespeare’s plays. Back in the early ages, they were strict with the idea of women performing on stages. They had seen men to be more superior to women rather than see them equal, but then King Charles had a change of heart and allowed women to perform on stage. As this may seem like a positive change to one kind, it was a negative for another one. Since King Charles allowed women to play women roles on stage, Edward soon became jobless, but agrees to help the newcomer whose name is Margaret, a woman and is a horrible actress, for a big show coming up. Margaret is happy for the role, but does feel bad for Edward losing his manhood and not being able to play a male’s role. After being kicked to the curb, Edward’s old stage dresser helps him find himself again. Throughout the play, we watch Edward go through many obstacles with him and his sexuality and helping him find his identity.
The set for Compleat Female Stage Beauty was phenomenal and did a great job with not only designing it to fit with the certain act they were in, but also making the scene fit the time period as well. The wooden floors and balconies made me feel as I was in the time when Shakespeare was around. They also did a good job with adding an elevator in. It helped having to center it sometimes be the main focus and cutting out distractions from the outside. The lightening also help set the mood for when the romantic scenes came up. Transitions were simple enough to where it isn’t a hassle or enough to lose the audience’s attention, but was a little noisy for some parts.. Cast did an excellent job with playing challenging character roles and staying in character. For example, Edward, played by Erin Miller, role was a male who had a feminine side due to his variety plays of portraying a woman. He had to play the role as a male, which wasn’t hard because he is one, but one who has had experience with being a woman in many plays and show a feminine side that he may not have had.
I believe this was one of the best plays Marshall Performing Arts Center has held this year so far. This play never had a dull movement for me and kept me wanting to know what was going to happen next. The company took an extra step with the scenery and establishing it to making it feel like we are in the 1700s and having the cast wear wigs and clothing that helped the audience establish the social status and kind of the person each person portrayed as the character. Also, with the cast, they felt comfortable enough to add a little nudity and use explicit language when it came to simple scenes and even the romance scene to help make the play a little more live and exotic and going down a different route to wowing the audience. I believe this grabbed the audience’s attention a little more and made them feel as if they were watching a movie. They went out of their comfort zone to something a little different, yet appropriate in a professional sense.
Compleat Female Stage Beauty, written by Jeffrey Hatcher based on real events that occurred in 17th century England, opened on Thursday, December 5th at Marshal Performing Arts Center.
Stage Beauty is about a man named Edward Kynaston, played by Erin Miller, who performs the roles of women in the early 1660’s. Kynaston’s most recent role as Shakespeare’s Desdemona was also at the attention of one of the first female actresses in England, Margaret Hughes, played by Amanda Sjodahl. Miller and Sjodahl’s acting in the show, and not to mention a very low personal bubble, was absolutely impressive. They continuously had the audience grasped in their hands and did not disappoint.
Scenic Designer Topaz Cookes successfully used the MPAC stage to her advantage. Using the different levels of the stage and providing columns which rotated during the scene changes clearly showed the audience what was occurring in Othello and what was happening off of the stage.
Director Kate Ufema gave the R-rated play the correct push it needed without being distasteful. She properly executed showing 17th century humor and vulgar by casting actors and actresses who seemed to be able to handle the responsibility of playing characters who had to make love to members of the cast onstage and also expose themselves in front of an audience. If approached any other way, the play could have been awkward rather than intriguing.
Compleat Female Stage Beauty written by Jeffrey Hatcher has been another stepping stone at UMD in a more diverse theatre atmosphere and did not disappoint.
The UMD production of Jeffrey Hatcher’s Compleat Female Stage Beauty effectively recreates the time in 1660‘s England during a historical turning point for English theatre, when women were allowed to perform on the stage alongside men for the first time. Up to that time only men performed on stage, whether the character was a man or a woman. Jeffrey Hatcher’s brilliantly written story takes us into this history, witnessing the changes from the male and female perspective.
The actors on stage all played their roles well and brought their characters to life. The most striking performance came from Erin Miller in the lead role as Edward Kynaston. Miller evoked the full range of emotion of a man happy and famous performing women’s roles on stage, to the devastating loneliness of losing his livelihood, his friendships, and his love life as the rules of his world are changed. Miller made the audience feel this devastation and loss of identity and was masterful in bringing the audience along on Kynaston’s journey of rediscovery. The last scene stole the show with Kynaston confronting his rival, Margaret Hughes, the woman who stole his job, and then teaching her the ways of a true actor. Erin Miller’s performance was spectacular, keeping the audience on the edge of their seat until the very end.
The scenery design was very effective, creating the simple tones of the King’s Theatre, the luscious gardens in London, and the grand estates of King Charles himself. The scaffolding provided multiple levels used for multiple settings, while also creating small alcoves for side scenes to take place. The front of the stage rose and fell as needed and removed the need for major prop adjustments in between scenes. While this proved helpful in set changes, several actors seemed to have trouble when the stage level changed with shoes getting caught in the gaps and nearly causing several falls. The actors handled themselves professionally with the small flaw going unnoticed by most in the audience.
Costume design was beautiful and intricate with an attention to detail seen in the costume for even the meanest street ruffians. The outfits came with multiple pieces and the actors should be applauded for their ability to get in and out of them quickly with the many costume changes taking place on stage. The dresses of the aristocratic ladies were bright and flowing with corsets creating the desirable feminine shapes of the time. The nobleman’s costumes reflected their high birth in an elegant way. Designed to give the character of Sir Charles Sedley a cartoonish appearance, his costume was actually quite stunning.
Compleat Female Stage Beauty is a play about self identity and one man’s journey to find who he is when everything he thought he was had been stripped away. It is moving to watch Kynaston’s journey of self discovery, and many of the audience members could certainly relate on the subject. There is some vulgarity and nudity in the production that adds to the atmosphere of the play without being gratuitous. In our modern age the extraordinary themes of this play seem ordinary, but they were new and taboo territory in 1660’s England. It does not take a “wit” to see the universal theme of this play. The UMD theatre department can be proud of this moving and thought provoking production.
Introduction to Theater
Complete Female Stage Beauty
Duluth’s final theater performance of the semester, Complete Female Stage Beauty, was a jaw dropping experience. Written by Jeffrey Hatcher and directed by Kate Ufema, Stage Beauty takes the audience back to the early 1660’s where men played women in the theater. The play follows a man by the name of Edward Kynaston, played by Erin Miller, who finds himself questioning his purpose on this earth. Kynaston is a well-known male actor who plays the role of females in numerous productions. When the crown gets in the way of his career, he finds himself lost and without meaning. He has known nothing but playing females in the theater and falls apart when that is taken from him.
Since the play took place in the early 17th century, the scenic designer Topaz Cooks had quite a challenge ahead of her. When all was said and done, she did a wonderful job of capturing the essence of the play. The stage was set up in a way to mimic an older theater from the 1600's. It was if a play was taking place inside of a play. At times during the performance there would be actors that would take place in an upper booth to watch someone perform. This concept alone was very well done and gave the play a unique feel.
One of the second conflicts of the play was with Kynaston battling with his sexuality. Being in the position that he was in, it can only be assumed that he was bisexual. During the play, he is found to be making love with another man. A little while later, he starts to get close to his assistant Maria, played by Kayla Peters. They are found in a hotel and come very close to making love. It was impressive to see each actor putting in so much dedication to their characters. Having the ability to put sexual preferences aside to give an outstanding performance is magnificent. Each moment was heated and seemed to send an uncomfortable vibe throughout the theater. Another actress by the name of Amanda Sjodahl, who played Margaret Hughes, had to expose her breast to the audience. She showed much bravery that night and gave a wonderful performance. Due to the controversial nature of the play, the audience seemed uneasy at times.
The atmosphere of Stage Beauty felt unmatched to any other play. Each member of the audience found themselves turning to each other in unease, wonder just what was going on. If it wasn't the controversial nature of the play that got the audience, it was the solid story line and acting. Each actor/actress put their all to get into character and kept the audience wondering what would happen next. With an age restriction of seventeen and older, the play was intended for a more mature audience. Stage beauty would be a perfect replacement for a night out to the movies. Love, lust, and laughter, the play keeps its viewers interested the entire way.
Compleat Female Stage Beauty
Intro to Theatre Class
Compleat Female Stage Beauty opened on December 5th, at the University of Minnesota- Duluth in the Marshall Performing Arts Center main theatre. Directed by Kate Ufema a professor at the University, written by Jeffrey Hatcher, it took place in the early 1660’s. Stage Beauty is about a man, Kynaston (Erin Miller), who gets knocked down when he is at the top of his acting career and loses the girl. When the king, Charles II (James Goodman), denotes Kynaston he must rebuild his life from the bottom up. Now, he has to learn how to act like a man; he played a woman in his other plays as this was normal back then due to the fact that women weren’t allowed to act. Kynaston must also must deal with his sexuality.
The scenic designer, Topaz Cooks, reflected the 1660’s in a very successful way. It was easy to tell she spent an extreme amount of time on her research and model that reflected the stage. As it is sort of a play about a play, she effectively showed that the scenic design was also an “audience” watching by effectively using balconies built out of wood. During the play within a play, cast members would be sitting in the balcony area.
While this play took place in the 1660’s lighting, designed by Dylan Lee, a senior at the University, was also effectively used. Very minimal lighting was used as most of the lighting used now, was not available back in that time period. The lighting was not very bright as it was supposed to reflect the candlelight that was used back then. Spotlights were also used to show importance on certain characters or certain scenes.
This play was very controversial in the 1660’s as there is nudity and a male sex scene. While these scenes left many in an awkward state, the cast handled the scenes very well. Kynaston is found with another man in bed having intercourse. Kynaston and Maria also share an intimate scene with one on top of the other. While nothing happens, this scene seems a little drawn out and ends with Maria running off. At another point, a woman’s breast is shown. While these acts aren’t long, it left the audience uneasy in their seats. However, the cast was very believable throughout the whole play and it was easy to tell these parts had been rehearsed many times to get rid of any uneasiness with the cast during these “scandalous” scenes.
While men, specifically Kynaston in this play, must learn to cope with “sharing the stage” they must learn to act as a normal man. Kynaston finds this difficult as he’s ever really only played women’s roles. At one point, Kynaston is having difficulty talking/sounding like a gentleman. Women are also learning how to act as this is now allowed due to King Charles’ rule. In order to pursue in their careers, both men and women must learn new lessons in life and both must learn how to cope with the challenges that come with these lessons.
“Women playing women, where’s the sense in that?” If it wasn’t for the Restoration of England, this phrase may have never been considered to bring to life. Until the 17th century, women portraying women onstage was illegal, but when King Charles II returned from exile, he said “out with the old, in with the new.” A new law was ordered that let women act on the stage, making the “boy players”—men who were specifically trained to act as women in the theatre—fear for their jobs. This fear rang full force in the early 1660s when King Charles II outlawed boy players from acting as women at all.
In Jeffery Hatcher’s Compleat Female Stage Beauty, we follow the story of one of the more famous boy players, Edward Kynaston, one of the most highly regarded boy players of the time. Throughout the entire show, Kynaston, marvelously played by Erin Miller, struggles with his identity and who he is. During his entire career as a boy player, he was seen as a woman onstage, and many people preferred seeing him as a woman offstage as well. When that was no longer a possibility, his world folded in on itself. He was ridiculed for being who he believed himself to be, and it would have led to his demise if he had not taken the chance at helping out Margaret Hughes, superbly played by Amanda Sjodahl, the actress that forced him from the stage in the first place.
Stage Beauty is a show that takes a talented team of actors and stage crew to get it up and running. Each of the actors, tall and small, took their characters in stride with realism and historical accuracy. These talented actors were surely not afraid to step out of their comfort zone in order to accurately portray their role, performing everything from scenes performing anal intercourse and fellatio to showing their chests and breast to prove that they were definitely men and women. The cast managed to perform these heart-racing scenes with class and dignity, and that is certainly applause-worthy. This cast has more moxie in their acting and within themselves than the audience knows how to deal with, so a second viewing of the show is most advised.
While there were minor technical errors with sound and lighting, and a minor run-in with the scenery and a bed, the overall performance was spectacular. For an example, the audience could feel Kayla Peters’ emotions as she played Maria, the seamstress who pined for Kynaston but almost never put a voice to these feelings. We felt her heartbreak as he traded in a celebratory dinner with her for a dinner with two gentleladies that ended up in brutality, and still she came back to nurse his bruises and ultimately remind Kynaston of who he really was. She dared to take a chance on him, and had the strength to turn away when she needed to. Even though Maria is not too much more than a recurring role, Peters took the role and went where it led her. Peters was the unsung hero of the show, and she deserves a round of applause all her own.
The historical accuracy of the show was confirmed with the costuming and the choice, or rather composing, of music. The costuming of the characters was incredibly historically accurate, from clothing to wigs, thanks to Patricia Dennis. UMD student Graeme Shields brought us back to the 17th century with his accurate composition of music for the show. His use of rhythmic harmonies that nearly resembled the likes of Bach and Mozart made the audience forget that we are still in 2013 for a few more weeks rather than actually in the 1600s. The audience as a whole could agree that if the music could be heard over the actors once or twice as an error, they wouldn’t complain.
Compleat Female Stage Beauty is exactly the kind of show that the public wants, whether they know it or not. It catches your attention, holds onto it for dear life, and lets go when you have finally grasped the lesson behind the production. Hats off to the UMD Department of Theatre for another great performance that almost anyone over the age of 17 could enjoy, as long as they weren’t the squeamish type.
UMD’s production of “Compleat Female Stage Beauty”, written by Jeffrey Hatcher, was an excellent display of raw emotion. Jeffrey Hatcher’s play gives the in depth view of a man who loses it all and has to make his way back to the top. The amount of depth that went into the characters in the play was better than most. Jeffrey Hatcher gave a great inside look into the life of an actor, Edward Kynaston, who had never played a man on the stage. The only parts he went for were as females, and he was very good at them too. Until one day when King Charles II outlawed men playing females. Kynaston couldn’t play his main roles anymore and had to find other ways to make money. He eventually hits the lowest of lows and has to get motivated again by his trusty helper and dresser Maria.
The layout of the theatre really put the audience back into the 17th century. One of the pieces of the set that looked amazing was the rotating walls that could change the setting just by rotating them. They would change the look of the whole stage with each new pattern. They would change from a park with vines, a golden palace, and a plain, older theater with white walls and boards running across them. They really helped set the mood of each scene. Another piece that helped put the audience in the time was the two upper balconies. The balconies gave the audience a better reference of how the actors feel on the stage. It also almost combined the audience in the play with the audience outside of the play. One problem with the setup would be the sounds. The sounds that I did notice coming from the speakers sounded mostly fake. They could almost take away the audience-actor relationship and make the play seem that much more unrealistic. The points where this was the most noticeable was when the speakers would play audiences clapping or booing for that matter.
In the play, Edward Kynaston, Erin Miller, stole the show. His portrayal of a man at his highest of highs and his lowest of lows was one for history. Erin could act so egotistical when needed and heartbroken and lost at others. Last year, Erin starred wonderfully in a play named “Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?” Erin has really outdone himself this time with this character. He is a very promising actor and will probably make a good name for himself in the theatre business. Another actor from “Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?” Jayson Speters, has really improved from his last role. His spastic voice gets one’s attention and his depth even in smaller roles makes him very likable. There was one actress though, that made herself very likable to the audience, without stealing the spotlight, was Kayla Peters as Maria. She was always there for Edward in the play and Kayla herself could untie a corset like nobody’s business.
Overall, the play had many good actors, actresses, and ever actress actors. They gave the audience many different emotions and even taught the audience lessons along the way. The play was very entertaining and very skillfully executed.
This page contains a single entry by Mark Harvey published on December 6, 2013 9:43 AM.
Peter Pan - Duluth Playhouse was the previous entry in this blog.
Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.