Red Noses>Production Info
Theatre Banshee produced Red Noses by Peter Barnes June 6-July 13 of 2003
at the Gene Bua Theatre in Burbank, California.


Cast
Flote Andrew Leman
Toulon Josh Thoemke
Bells, Guard 1 Lance Holt
Grez, Herald John Jabaley
Marguerite Jennifer Taub
LeGrue, Antrechau Barry Lynch
Bembo, 1st Attendant Noah Wagner
Frapper, Leper 3 Rebecca Marcotte
Boutros 1, Viennet Jason McCune
Boutros 2, Moncriff David Pavao
Clement VI, Boneville Matt Foyer
Scarron, Flagellant 1 Gary Ballard
Druce, Flagellant 2 David Mersault
Brodin, Guard 2 Dan Harper
Rochfort John Yelvington
Marie, Evaline Carolyn A. Palmer
Camille, Mme. Boneville, Sabine McKerrin Kelly
Monselet, Mother Metz Chris Neiman
LeFranc, Leper 1 Christopher Spencer
Pellico, Leper 2 Jaxon Duff Gwillim
Production Team
Producers Sean Branney, Leslie Baldwin
Director Sean Branney
Stage Manager Andra Carlson
Scenic Design Arthur MacBride
Costume Design Laura Brody
Lighting Design Bobby Richard
Props & Furniture Fergal Dooley
Makeup Design Andra Carlson
Original Score David O
Sound Design Erik Hockman
Singing Coach Lorie Marie Rios
Choreographer Jennifer Li Aldridge
Dramaturge Peggy Cope
Asst. Director Jeremy Green
Folk Dance Guru Pat Cross
Juggling Guru Todd Merrill

Peter Barnes (Playwright)
Peter Barnes was born in London, 1931. Among his plays are: The Ruling Class, Leonardo’s Last Supper, Noonday Demons, The Bewitched, Laughter! and Red Noses. He has also written numerous films and radio plays. He won the Evening Standard Most Promising Playwright award for The Ruling Class in 1969 and the Olivier Award for Best Play in 1985 for Red Noses. His screenplay for Enchanted April (1992) was nominated for an Academy Award.

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Program (not yet available)

Director's Notes

When we were holding auditions for Red Noses an actor asked me why we were interested in producing the play. In addition to the tremendous challenge and innate fun of the play, I mentioned that I also thought it was topical. He said, “Oh yeah, with SARS and everything, yeah, you’re right”. I was appalled.

Red Noses was written in 1978 and first produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1985. While very well received theatrically, a number of theatre critics heralded the play as a visionary commentary about then-new AIDS epidemic. This appalled me too.

Peter Barnes did not choose the Black Death as the backdrop for his play in order to comment on modern epidemics. While many 20th century diseases have inflicted and continue to inflict terrible suffering, all pale before the utter decimation wrought by the Black Death. Barnes isn’t making a comparison between present and past epidemics. Rather, Red Noses plays with humanity’s response to such an incomprehensible event. When presented with challenges of massive proportion, what do people do?

My mother always held that funerals were a time when people show who they really are. The kind freely comfort the grieving, they greedy cast their eyes on the estate, the cruel bare their fangs. The three years of the Black Death was a kind of protracted funeral, with loved ones dying faster than they could be buried. Barnes characters show their true selves, and therein lies the drama.

Red Noses was written in 1978 but took seven years before its first production by Britain’s Royal Shakespeare Company. In his introduction to the play, written in 1985, Barnes said, “For if Red Noses was written today (1985) it would be much less optimistic. The world has moved on, and not towards the light.”

I suspect the history of Western civilization 1985-2003 would fill Barnes with an even greater sadness as civilization moves further from the light. But the play serves to remind us the moral choices which come when we’re confronted with issues small and great. Do we choose expedience, self-interest, power, or safety? Or do we choose to give ourselves to a greater good and do what is right? As Father Flote says, “…sometimes you have to stand your ground and dance”.

Barnes closes his introduction with the following: “Red Noses is a letter from a transfigured world, much like ours, where statues come to life and human beings turn to stone. It’s a letter wishing you good thoughts, but chiefly, good feelings.” We agree.

Historical Brief

The years 1300-1399 provided western civilization with perhaps its most brutal century in recorded history. Not before, nor since had the biblical Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (War, Famine, Pestilence and Death) raged with such unbridled fury. Protracted wars, starvation, ineffectual government and of course, The Black Death, defined the century as one of unmatched suffering, chaos and human agony.

The Black Death, a plague which struck in the years 1348-1350 (the time frame of Red Noses), killed a third of the population of Europe in three short years. From Iceland to India, the highly infectious epidemic spread, striking all segments of society, particularly the young. The Black Death was the greatest and most profound natural disaster in recorded human history. Wildly infectious, the plague struck all levels of society, although the young and the poor were hardest hit. Infected persons were usually dead within five days, sometimes in less than a day. Plague victims were commonly seen to have the famed buboes, egg-sized swellings in the groin and armpits which ruptured and festered shortly before death.

Europe reeled at the rampant virulence of the plague. Society was thrown into complete upheaval as economic, political, social and moral systems collapsed under the weight of the Black Death. Work virtually ceased; fields were left untilled, bodies of the fallen unburied. The survivors struggled to stay alive and find some kind of meaning in a dying world overseen by a cold and wrathful God. This is the world of Red Noses.

Pope Clement VI – For purely political reasons, in the 14th century the papacy relocated from Rome to Avignon, France. Clement VI was chiefly a politician who wielded the church as an instrument of alliance and influence. He had a taste for opulence and earthly pleasures; spirituality played a minor role during his pragmatic papacy.

The Flagellants – the flagellant movement arose as a response to the church’s inability to meet the spiritual needs of a population confronted with a plague of biblical proportions. Regular people joined these groups of people who would roam the streets publicly performing penance for humanity’s sins. The flagellants were at first encouraged by the church, but as they grew in popularity and began to threaten the churches spiritual authority, they were proclaimed heretics and destroyed.

The Black Ravens – the collectors of corpses had a difficult and dangerous job during the years of the Black Death. Some wore bird-like masks, the beaks of which were filled with cloth and sweet-smelling herbs to overcome the hellish stench of rampant decomposition. Also called sextons, corpse collectors lived by helping themselves to the belongings of the fallen.

The Floties – sadly, Father Flote and his followers are an original creation of the playwright. Groups such as the Beghards and Beghines similarly rejected the Church to pursue a more independent-minded and humanist relationship with the Creator. Their movements were crushed by the church.

Special Thanks
Gene and Toni Bull Bua
Joan Friedberg
Kypseli Dance Center
Louise Bilman
Erik Hockman
Artistry Entertainment
Erika Zucker & Hannah Rose Jabaley
Kevin Wright
24th Street Theatre
Actor’s Co-op
Pat Cross
Hallie Dufresne
Sharon & Ken Baldwin
Suzie Baldwin
Todd Merrill
Aidan Branney
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