|Bells, Guard 1
|Bembo, 1st Attendant
|Frapper, Leper 3
|Boutros 1, Viennet
|Boutros 2, Moncriff
|Clement VI, Boneville
|Scarron, Flagellant 1
|Druce, Flagellant 2
|Brodin, Guard 2
||Carolyn A. Palmer
|Camille, Mme. Boneville, Sabine
|Monselet, Mother Metz
|LeFranc, Leper 1
|Pellico, Leper 2
||Jaxon Duff Gwillim
||Sean Branney, Leslie Baldwin
|Props & Furniture
||Lorie Marie Rios
||Jennifer Li Aldridge
|Folk Dance Guru
Peter Barnes (Playwright)
Peter Barnes was born in London, 1931. Among his plays are: The Ruling Class, Leonardos 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)
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, youre 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 isnt making a comparison between present and past epidemics. Rather, Red Noses plays with humanitys 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 Britains 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 were 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. Its a letter wishing you good thoughts, but chiefly, good feelings. We agree.
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 churchs 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 humanitys 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.
Gene and Toni Bull Bua
Kypseli Dance Center
Erika Zucker & Hannah Rose Jabaley
24th Street Theatre
Sharon & Ken Baldwin
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