Below you’ll find Cordelia Ross’ introduction to Saturday’s reading of two York Corpus Cristi Plays, along with photos from the production courtesy of Michelle Dowd, the director of the Hudson Strode Program. Special thanks go to Dr. Chester N. Scoville and Dr. Kimberley M. Yates, who adapted the texts we performed.
(Also, if you’re wondering why the photos all look a bit purple, it’s the lighting at First Christian Church in Tuscaloosa!)
Good morning. I’m Cordelia Ross, an instructor at the University of Alabama. Welcome to the Improbable Fictions staged reading of two York Corpus Cristi plays “The Resurrection and Christ’s Appearance to Mary Magdalen.” Improbable Fictions is a project of the Hudson-Strode Program in Renaissance Studies, Department of English at the University of Alabama. Its mission is to present staged readings of plays to make them more accessible to students and to the community. Although Improbable Fictions principally performs works of Shakespeare, their work has ranged from modern adaptations to ancient Greek tragedies. A staged reading means that the actors have rehearsed a limited number of times and will be performing with scripts in hand. “The Resurrection” and “Christ’s Appearance to Mary Magdalen” are medieval dramas that would have been performed by a local guild on a traveling wagon that went to designated spots in town. Guilds took great pride in their productions and were carefully regulated in when and where they could perform. Each performance had a designated feast day when it should be performed, and the town leaders would choose locations around town for the carts to go for their performance. They even levied rather steep fines when guilds disregarded these regulations. The “Resurrection Play” and “Christ’s Appearance” were the domain of the carpenter’s and winedrawer’s guilds. A winedrawer worked in a vineyard and acted as professional tasters.
Like other medieval dramas, “The Resurrection Play,” and “Christ’s Appearance to Mary Magdalene” dramatizes a particular Christian narrative: in this case, two, Christ’s resurrection and his appearance to Mary Magdalene. Like many medieval dramas, the plays contain a bit of humor that in some ways pokes fun at other guilds. In the first play, we see the soldiers panic when Christ’s body disappears and come up with a rather ridiculous explanation to avoid discipline. Despite the humor we also see a careful reflection of one of the most important holy days of year, Easter. Today’s performers are a combination of members of Tuscaloosa’s Shakespeare troupe, The Rude Mechanicals, and students and faculty from the University of Alabama. We hope you enjoy the plays as much as we do.
The spring rushes on apace, and Improbable Fictions has two Shakespeare-adjacent offerings for you in April:
First, onSaturday, April 7th at 1:00 pm, Improbable Fictions will present a staged reading of “The Resurrection Play” from the medieval York Cycle of plays. Directed by Nic Helms, dramaturged by Cordelia Ross, and hosted by First Christian Church of Tuscaloosa. This short play will be performed with commentary by Cordelia Ross and Reverend Tim Trussell-Smith.
Second, on Thursday, April 19th at 7:30 pm, at the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center, Improbable Fictions will present a staged reading of Edward Bond’s Bingo (Scenes of Money and Death), a 1973 play about Shakespeare’s final years: retired in Stratford, unable to connect with his family and community, burned out by the inhumanity he witnessed daily in London and now back home, Shakespeare ponders his past and present, only to keep asking, “Was anything done?” Written by the acclaimed playwright Edward Bond (Saved, The Sea, Lear), this is a remarkably insightful look at our greatest writer. Directed by Steve Burch.
Both events are free and open to the public. Sponsored by the Hudson Strode Program in Renaissance Studies.
On Thursday, Feb 15, 7:30pm at the Tuscaloosa Cultural Arts Center (http://cac.tuscarts.org/contactus.php), Improbable Fictions will present a staged reading of Shakespeare’s Henry IV part 2, Shakespearean Boogaloo, directed by Richard LeComte, (firstname.lastname@example.org). Free and open to the public.
We’re still casting for this reading, so if you’re interested in participating, contact Richard soon!
We’re still casting for all shows, so feel free to reach out to Nic Helms (email@example.com) or any of our directors if you’d like to participate!
Thursday, Jan 18, 7:30pm at 205 Gorgas Library, a staged reading of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, directed by Mark Hulse (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Thursday, Feb 15, 7:30pm at the Tuscaloosa Cultural Arts Center (http://cac.tuscarts.org/contactus.php), a staged reading of Shakespeare’s Henry IV part 2, Electric Boogaloo, directed by Richard LeComte, dramaturgy by Austin Whitver (email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org).
Late March or early April, an Easter-themed Medieval staged reading, venue TBA, directed by Deborah Parker, dramaturgy by Cordelia Ross (email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org).
Thursday, Apr 19, 7:30pm at the Tuscaloosa Cultural Arts Center (http://cac.tuscarts.org/contactus.php), a staged reading of Edward Bond’s Bingo, a play about the last years of Shakespeare’s life, directed by Steve Burch (email@example.com).
On Monday, Oct 9th at 7:30pm, Improbable Fictions will present a staged reading of John Milton’s Samson Agonistes. The reading will be held in 301 Morgan Hall on UA’s campus. Free and open to the public. Seating is limited: first come, first seated!
Stephan Wolfert’s work with veterans and Shakespeare is worth talking about for many reasons, but one stands out as relevant to my own work on Shakespeare and mindreading. Wolfert notes that in decades of work with Shakespeare’s plays, he’s never heard a veteran question why Othello would believe the things Iago says about Desdemona. Iago and Othello served together in combat, and for former soldiers that bond serves as the ultimate foundation for trust. Don Pedro, Don John, and Claudio are in a very similar situation (if we can assume they all fought together before the start of Much Ado). So much language in the play talks about the transition from war to home life! I’ll have to keep military service in mind as I continue to work through misread minds in Shakespeare..