The Merry Wives … of Florida? Madison Shakespeare Company Presents Comedy with a Twist
Most of us know how to see Shakespeare in Spring Green, but another way to experience the Bard outdoors — right here in the city — is Madison Shakespeare Company’s production of the classic Merry Wives of Windsor, which the troupe presents July 26 – Aug. 3 at Edgewood College’s The Stream Amphitheater.
Adapted by director Francisco C. Torres and Madison Shakespeare veteran Sam D. White, the story revolves around the rotund knave Falstaff and his schemes to seduce two wealthy married women, Mistress Ford and Mistress Page, so he can gain access to their husbands’ money. Meanwhile, three suitors seek the hand of Anne Page, Mistress Page’s daughter. The comedy is full of jealousy and revenge, with themes of class disparity. It ends with a definite comeuppance for the rascal Falstaff.
I discussed the show with producer Emily Morrison Weeks.
Why did you choose Merry Wives for this summer?
We just finished producing Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 over the past two winters, and wanted to continue following Falstaff’s journey. His adventures (or rather misadventures) in Merry Wives are much lighter, and more comedic in tone than in the history plays. That makes it a perfect fit for summertime audiences.
You’re setting the show in 1980s Florida. What inspired that creative choice?
We love playing with the unexpected. Merry Wives director Francisco Torres discovered that there is in fact a Windsor in Florida — it happens to be a wealthy, gated community. This is exactly the type of place where Falstaff might find two rich wives such as Mistress Ford and Mistress Page. It’s a place that could inspire Falstaff to hatch a harebrained scheme to get some money.
Because it is taking place in Florida, our composer/music director, Kierstyn Torres, is adding some Latin-influenced music. We also have the fashion of the 1980s to play with. The wide spectrum of bold trends from the decade will help illustrate the extreme differences in social status and personality between our characters.
What challenges do you have producing shows on the terrace at Edgewood College?
We love working in the amphitheater space during the summer. The natural light, greenery and bird songs make it an extraordinary place to perform. The space offers an intimate feel while still managing to seat a surprising number of audience members. The only challenge, much like any outdoor theater venue, is the weather. We accept that part of getting to work in such a beautiful space is being open to rolling with whatever Mother Nature may throw our way.
Who are you hoping to see in the audience?
Everyone. When we have an audience member arrive with little to no Shakespeare experience and leave with a newfound appreciation and excitement about Shakespeare’s work, we know we’ve had a successful performance. I love when they approach us after a show to say that they had no familiarity with the material beforehand, yet understood and got very into the story as they watched it unfold.
Now, take those audience members and place them next to a group of avid Shakespeare fans — the kind who watch a familiar play with the same enthusiasm they have for a favorite movie. They know when their favorite moments are coming, and they are eager to see how we choose to portray them. I love seeing audience members of diverse backgrounds and mindsets come together to share the experience.
In terms of age groups, everyone is invited. This is a lively, lighthearted comedy full of vibrant personalities, fun costumes and music.
What sets your company apart from others in the Madison area?
Madison Shakespeare Company strives to make Shakespeare accessible. We do that through producing Shakespeare year-round at an affordable price in a variety of formats, including indoor and outdoor productions of plays, fully staged readings, and pop-up events featuring select scenes.