Shakespeare Program Debuts Fourth Company

September 1, 2015

Sweet Wag Shakespeare, the 2015-16 Master of Fine Arts company for Mary Baldwin University’s Shakespeare and Performance program, opens a season of intrigue, gender politics, statecraft, rumor, and fun with Strange Absence, a devised show illustrating the collaborative nature of Mary Baldwin’s MFA model, now in its fourth year.sweet wag

Written by the entire company and directed by Company Manager and Director of Training for the Shakespeare and Performance program Doreen Bechtol, Strange Absence is both unexpected and unforgettable featuring secrets and spies, killers and ghosts, lovers and the unloved and will give audiences the opportunity to connect with characters from Sweet Wag’s upcoming productions: Hamlet, Shakespeare’s War of the Roses, As You Like It, The City Nightcap, and Cymbeline.

“It’s the perfect introduction to Sweet Wag’s own brand of quirky, snarky, mushy, gushy, lovey-dovey, and disturbing theatre,” said MFA student Merlyn Q. Sell. “Strange Absence allows you to hear the first murmurs of the scandals at Elsinore and Venice, listen in on the secret musings of Richard III and Orlando, and get a sneak peek at the goings-on in Cymbeline’s Britain.”

Starting this fall the 11-member company will tour its 60-minute production of Hamlet, which combines today’s social media with one of Shakespeare’s best-known works. In December, the Wags open two more touring shows, Shakespeare’s War of the Roses and As You Like It. Both productions rely on small casts to tell big stories of treason, love, and family. In the spring, Sweet Wag Shakespeare will perform Robert Davenport’s The City Nightcap, a little-known play that explores the intersection of personal affairs and political allegiances. Sweet Wag’s season will build to a production of Cymbeline at the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s indoor theatre. Guest artist Leslie Riedel of the University of Delaware will direct the show, which promises to be a spectacular end to a season of surprises.

Mary Baldwin’s company model fosters a tight-knit theatrical company that produces a season of five early modern and early-modern-inspired shows. Students are responsible for every aspect of the company from selecting the plays to marketing to performance. During the year-long program, company members continue to hone their skills acquired in the master of letters track, preparing themselves for the job market in the process.

Strange Absence runs at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. September 6, and at 7 p. m. on September 7 and 8. All performances are in the Masonic building at 13 West Beverley St. in Staunton. Admission is free, but due to limited seating, reservations are required. Email sweetwagshakespeare@gmail.com for reservations.