Shakespeare and Performance Adapts Plays for The Byron Project

March 14, 2012

Three performances of The Conspiracy and Tragedy of Charles, Duke of Byron are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on March 18, 19 and 20, 2012 at the Blackfriars Playhouse, 10 S. Market Street, Staunton, as part of The Byron Project.

Mary Baldwin University Shakespeare and Performance faculty member Matt Davies directs this conflation of two George Chapman plays — The Conspiracy of Charles, Duke of Byron and The Tragedy of Charles, Duke of Byron — that caused a stir in the 17th century and have rarely been performed since. The plays were censored, so the texts have come down to us incomplete.

Davies along with a creative team of Shakespeare and Performance students, including dramaturg, David Ashton, choreographer, Doreen Bechtol, and play-patcher, Katy Mulvaney, have concocted new material to fill in the gaps. The acting company includes all third year MFA acting candidates, first and second year students and a program alumnae/adjunct faculty member.

When The Conspiracy and Tragedy of Charles, Duke of Byron was first performed at the original Blackfriars Playhouse in 1608, it so outraged royal audiences that London’s theatres were shut down and the boys imprisoned, enabling Shakespeare’s company to take possession of the Blackfriars playhouse a short while later. The Shakespeare and Performance program brings these plays back to life on the stage of the American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse. The Byron Project is a tour de force of political intrigue and national tragedy that tells the story of the death of a great hero and the rise of a powerful king.

Seldom has history seen a greater soldier than Charles, Duke of Byron. When Byron put away his sword for a life in government, however, he was out of his element. Poisoned by politicians seeking to exploit his valor for their own gain, Byron soon decided the only way to save France was to destroy it. This frighteningly modern story of the corrupting influence of power and ambition witnesses the undoing of a great man who mistakes his own ambition for his country’s good.

You won’t want to miss this modern exploration of an early modern tragedy that paved the way for Shakespeare’s best work.