Our final late-night show of the conference came to us courtesy of Sweet Wag Shakespeare, the Mary Baldwin University MFA company that graduated in 2016.
Written by Merlyn Sell and directed by Marshall Garrett, Sweet Are the Uses is a new play composed almost entirely of Shakespeare’s text, but rearranged to create a new story. The play consists of language from about twenty plays, with some of the heavy hitters being As You Like It, Hamlet, Measure for Measure and Henry VI, Part 3. The cast consisted of Lia Wallace as Kate Percy, Aubrey Whitlock as the Princess, Merlyn Sell as the Clown and Paulina, Adrienne Johnson as Celia, current MFA member Mary Finch as Rosalind, Maria Hart as Isabelle, Molly Harper as Pheobe, and Jorden Zwick as the Queen. With only three days of rehearsal in the middle of conference week, the company had a prompter on hand, but she was rarely called upon.
The evil Duke Angelo has banished five women to the Forest of Arden, where they try to muster a force to counter the duke. But the biggest obstacle to overcome before that can be accomplished is the broken friendship between Celia and Rosalind, another casualty of Angelo’s ambition. The characters adopt roles that recall other Shakespeare characters to create something that feels encompassing. Much of Rosalind’s language comes from Jaques, allowing Finch to reprise her role from Motley’s recently debuted education show, while Isabelle has been driven mad by her misfortunes, resulting in her becoming an Ophelia figure.
It’s been a full week of joining together to further our scholarship. We’ve had incredible keynote speakers, brilliant plenary sessions, and engaging colloquies. But perhaps even better than that has been seeing such exciting new work being done in these late night shows, and Sweet Are the Uses served as a perfect cap to the conference week.