campus news and events

Colby-Sawyer College Presents American Premiere of 'The Lady of Pleasure' Adapted to Real Housewives of 1960s London

NEW LONDON, N.H., Oct. 26, 2010 – Colby-Sawyer College will host the American premiere of James Shirley's 1635 play, 'The Lady of Pleasure,' for its fall production, adapting the Jacobean era play for “The Real Housewives of London” and the Mod Era of 1960s England.

The production, “The Lady of Pleasure – the Real Housewives of London” opens Thursday, Nov. 4, at 7 p.m. and will run through Saturday, Nov. 6, at the Sawyer Center Theatre. Tickets may be purchased at the box office or by calling for reservations at (603) 526-3670.

While “The Lady of Pleasure” is considered one of James Shirley's greatest works, it is often overshadowed by events and other plays of the time, including those written by William Shakespeare a few decades earlier. The play revolves around Lady Bornwell, an English aristocrat and the lady of pleasure referenced in the play's title, and her husband's attempts to reform her scandalous behavior. While Lady Bornwell busies herself with the frivolous and promiscuous pastimes of the London aristocracy, Sir Thomas Bornwell seeks to win back her loyalty and affection by pretending to pursue a young widow named Celestina. Ultimately, the plot provides commentary on marriage and sexuality in early 17th-century London.

Although the Colby-Sawyer production is set in modern London, the play's original plot, characters and language have been retained. Theatre Director and Assistant Professor of Fine and Performing Arts Julie Vogt, a new member of the Colby-Sawyer faculty, first saw “The Lady of Pleasure” performed in Cambridge, England, and was immediately impressed with the play, which she describes as a “forgotten gem.” Intrigued by the play's strong female characters and great dialogue, Professor Vogt says “The Lady of Pleasure” was her first choice for her debut as the college's theater director.

The Colby-Sawyer production will feature a cast of students and seasoned actors from the community that was selected during the first week of the fall semester. Professor Vogt is a newcomer to Colby-Sawyer theater productions herself, and brings with her new ideas and experiences to help shape the theatre program.

The cast includes Jay Lambert as Lord Bornwell; Crystal Adams as Aretina Bornwell; Christine Wertz as Bornwellʼs Steward; Jenny Lockerby as Fredwina Bornwell; Mary Ellen Shartzer as the Captain of Aretinaʼs Entourage: Katie OʼConnor and Dan Moir as Aretinaʼs Entourage; Suzanna Brown as Celestina Bellamour; Emily Walters as Bellamourʼs Steward; Kayleigh Flynn as Mariana; Juliette Longvall as Isabella; Brenna La Perle as Celestinaʼs Waiting Woman; Bonnie Lewis and Miles Cota as Captain of Celestinaʼs Entourage; Travis Carlson as Lord A; Eric Driver as Lord Aʼs Secretary; James C. McCarthy as Kickshaw; Charlie Freyberg as Littleworth; Charles Moak as Haircut; and Yulia Petrova as Scentlove; and Linda Lambert as the Decoy.

For the American premiere of "The Lady of Pleasure," the cast and crew share the director's enthusiasm for the play, and they have enjoyed reinventing the 1635 play with a more modern take on wealth, marriage and sexuality. Yet early on, the cast recognized many similarities between the themes in Shirley's play and modern society.

“Although the language is from another era, the major themes and dramatic action are timeless,” Professor Vogt explains. “The play is a satire about excessive consumption and choices individuals must make in a libertine, 'anything goes' culture.” Senior Andrew Francis finds that “[Director Vogt's]immense knowledge and experience with the play provides not only an interesting stage experience, but also a great learning experience for everyone involved.”

By placing “The Lady of Pleasure" in the context of 1960s London, the cast was also able to make Lady Bornwell's life of excess and promiscuity more accessible to the audience. Professor Vogt notes that “[the 1960s] were a good fit for the play because it was a time when youth culture flourished, consumers had greater access to luxury goods and a sexual revolution was formenting because of the birth control pill and increased financial independence for women.”

Vogt has worked as the assistant director at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, as well as director for other works such as “The Heidi Chronicles” and “Death and the Maiden." Her experience with period pieces allowed her to create a vision for “The Lady of Pleasure” that may not have existed otherwise. She expresses her enthusiasm for working with Colby-Sawyer students for the first time, explaining, “It's exciting to be working with an entirely new cast and crew. The community members who participate set a great professional standard for everyone to emulate.”

The box office is open Tuesday, Nov. 2, and Wednesday, Nov. 3, from 4-6 p.m., and on show nights from 3-7 p.m. Tickets for adults are $10 and student tickets are $5. Colby-Sawyer faculty, staff and students may request one free ticket.

Colby-Sawyer College is a comprehensive college that integrates the liberal arts and sciences with professional preparation. Founded in 1837, Colby-Sawyer is located in the scenic Lake Sunapee Region of central New Hampshire.

Colby-Sawyer College, 541 Main Street, New London, N.H. 03257 (603) 526-3000