Part of the series, “…by Nancy”
TPT Commentary: This work succeeds in demonstrating an artist at the height of a playwright’s skills. The Beard of Avon tells a story, presents several messages, and challenge actors, audiences and creative teams. This all occurs while everyone has fun, forgetting that we might have suffered a little preaching along the way. Furthermore, Ms. Freed succeeds in giving her audiences a work that that is by “A” playwright, regardless of gender. I am sure that I will read several more such works as I continue my hopefully endless journey into playwrights who happen to be women. This work, however, succeeds admirably in presenting that with the restriction from the theatre and continuing to the hopefully expanding yet still reduced prominence of women we have been deprived of an important voice. That voice is unique to the chief cook, bottle washer, child-rearer, van driver, motivation coach, craftsperson, executive and artist that is the modern woman. Ms. Freed succeeds in giving us both truly complicated male characters that are central to the work and period, and thankfully two women, Queen Elizabeth and Anne Hathaway who represent the “glass ceiling” from opposing perspectives. Anne is both brilliant, passionate, beautiful, and talented…and trapped and illiterate. Elizabeth literally rules the world …but can’t get a play staged under her own name. If you’ve got the money, the creative team and cast, and an audience and board of directors who accept actors saying shit and prick several times in 2 hours, we have a winner.
Recommendation: Strong, but only for College and Professional productions: Speedy and effortless scene changes suggesting multiple locations, well-choreographed physical comedy, constant use of verse and the necessary mastery of same, and a dozen or more of Elizabethan costumes.
Summary: A fast-moving bawdy comedy wherein the playwright “William Shakespeare” is made manifest from a patchwork of fortunate accidents, aristocratic wit, restrictive cultural mores, and one man’s innate gift to polish, refine, focus and ornament the “almost perfect” work of a mélange of strange bedfellows.
Themes: Talent is innate regardless of education or circumstances. Social culture creates restrictions that prohibit expression and self-realization. Theatre is a collaborative art. Which is most important to art, intellectual property, renown, or public access?
Cast: Minimum: 7/8m, 2f with significant doubling; Maximum 11+ (speaking roles and ensemble); 2 excellent roles for women
Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes https://www.goodmantheatre.org/season/0203/The-Beard-of-Avon/
Royalties (professional): by written request
Sets: Single set capable of morphing quickly and seamlessly into several English Renaissance locations: barn, backstage, simple home, theatre, lavish bed chamber, tavern, etc.
Costumes: (12-20) Elizabethan Renaissance, from commoners to royalty (Queen, Earl), several built for quick changes, “stage costumes” from the era including a 3 for a man as a beautiful young woman
Props: Highly Important: period pieces that quickly indicate a change in locale as stated above
Nominated for the 1999 Pulitzer Prize, Drama
Joseph Kesselring Prize
Charles MacArthur Award
Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award (several times)
South Coast Repertory 2009 Steinberg Commission
Arena Stage, American Voices New Play Institute
Play: Outstanding New Play, 2002 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle
New York 2003:
Drinking: Possible and appropriate in several scenes (artistic discretion)
Smoking: None noted (artistic discretion)
Sex: Implication that characters have recently been in and are routinely involved in heterosexual and homosexual coital relations, implication of and comedic representation of extramarital coital relations (artistic discretion), implication of prostitution, bawdy talk (that’s not a sausage it’s my…), short song/limerick with the punchline “I took my liberty and she said nothing,” implied sadomasochism for comic effect, “Do it again. She likes it! (in the middle of a man hitting a woman in fight choreography),” other implications from classic literature and mythology if one might be informed enough to interpret them as intended
Language: “It’s my prick, thou wilt kiss it,” shithead, “popping whatnots” (breasts), “shit beat out of you,” frequent use of “prick,” “stupid-ass, shit-heel, retarded tinker,” “the beautiful and effeminate Third Earl of Southampton” (several times), “sodomies and buggeries, and rapes and divers pederastic flings,” “raping, murdering, polygamous father,” more “shit,” “bulges there under your Moorish cloak,” “whorehouse,” “pussy,” asses are everywhere (referring to buttocks and persons),” “hell,” “sluttish fashion,” “slut,” “hot bitch,” “whore,” “whoreson”
Violence: Comic fight choreography where a man hits a woman several times
Other possibly controversial subject matter: Possible theater marquees with suggestive titles (artistic discretion)
Rating: If this were a movie, it would be rated PG. Some subject matter, however may only be appropriate for those 14 years of age and older.
Format inspired by the sadly suspended operations of the Arkansas Repertory Theatre (then enhanced by TPT)