October 21, 2015

Behind the Curtain: Christopher Moore (Compleat Female Stage Beauty)

Today, we talk to the artistic director of Persephone Productions who will be wearing multiple hats in his upcoming production of Compleat Female Stage Beauty . He is the co-director and an actor in the show as he maintains his role of AD during the year. We discuss his show that runs until October 25, 2015. The play is about Ned Kynaston who is celebrated for his portrayal of female roles in 1661. As a boy player, he has trained from a young age to do so. With King Charles II’s restoration comes a new law stating that women are now legally allowed to act upon the English stage. Enter Margaret Hughes, the first woman to legally perform in English theatre. As her stardom rises, Kynaston must find a new voice in order to keep his own from fading.

QDF: Why is this play relevant for today?

Chris: For Gabrielle Soskin, codirector and founding director of Persephone Productions, and I, it speaks to equality and gender issues. We thought it said a lot about how far we may or may not have come. This play, as a whole, shows a step towards equality but it doesn’t reflect the reality. It’s not a happy an entirely ending is what I am trying to say, despite how the play may resolve. Women in that time went on stage and became sex symbols, which was obviously unfortunate because they were pigeonholed in this separate form of oppression. There are only one or two scenes that address that in a very subtle way. Another reality of the time was that actors put on makeup to play a character of color. These are what drew me to the play. It is very funny and very beautiful, and it deals with equality, oppression, and progression, which is all positive but there were these few missteps. It is not a perfect solution and it is not a perfect reality. It is unfortunate that that is true, but that is what I like about the play.

QDF: What are the challenges of having a large cast?

Chris: We have a cast of 14. We’ve never shied away from large casts; we’ve done several shows with that many actors before. I actually like big casts because it adds all kinds of energy and passion in the rehearsal room and on stage. It is a lot harder to schedule, it’s harder to get everyone together but I think these kinds of shows are better for it .

QDF: Since you are also acting in the show, how do you manage all of your roles within the production?

Chris: It is also something I’ve done in the past. Because Gabrielle is codirecting, it makes a lot easier. I can step on the stage, perform my part in the show and step back out to take notes. So that makes it easy. I wouldn’t do it for every show and I don’t think I’d direct a show solo and be in it. I’ve always loved this story and I am happy to be a part of it.

QDF: What makes Gabrielle and you a complimentary directing duo?

Chris: Gabrielle has a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to theatre. She comes with a very good and specific eye on how staging works and how characters should interact. She also comes from an acting background. That’s very helpful, because I’m still a very new director and certainly trying to find my voice. I’m still discovering what works and what doesn’t, so she has been a great mentor for me. Hopefully the dynamics are that a bit of new blood with some experience coming together. And that’s what we like about it, well that’s what I like about it and I believe it is the same for Gabrielle.

QDF: On your events page, it says the play is hilarious and heartbreaking, how can it be both of those very different emotions?

Chris: It does it quite well actually. It is very funny, especially the first act. Every time I watch it, never ceased to make me laugh, but it deals with a very traumatic moment in this person’s life. What he goes through, to me, that’s what makes it heartbreaking. It is someone who loses everything he knows; he has to reevaluate, recalibrate, and refigure what he believes, what he knows, and what he’s capable of. Whether he succeeds or not, that is what I find is so tragic about it. Even though there was this gain for women in England, there was still this tragic loss for this one person, in fact not just this one person, but most of the boy players at the time. Some of them surely found it difficult as he did.

How is it funny? It is a restoration comedy; it is written in that style. It has a lot of great comedic fleshed out characters that all bring with them a certain sensibility that we are allowed to poke fun at. Mostly at the expense of the upper class, with giggling ladies, a lecherous King, and a fop who speaks with an affected lisp, as some of the upper class did. And there are a lot of jokes. It is written with these restoration style oneoffs.

QDF: Any last thing, you would like to share with the readers of Behind the Curtains?

Chris: It has been a great and interesting process. It has been challenging for myself. As well, as for different artists for various reasons, it has been a collective challenge. Obviously, the question of black face became an issue recently. It has been resolved in a way that will not only be inoffensive but also interesting. So, I am interested in how it plays out, and I think it’s what has made it a discussionworthy show. If discussion comes out of it, I will be very happy.

But, as I said it’s very funny, it’s poignant, it’s beautiful and it’s very touching. Its 14
tremendous actors on stage for 2 hours as we navigate the oppressive realities of 17th Century England, while making endless jokes about sex. It’s a great old time!

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