March 22 – April 6, 2017

Everybody loves the fair maid, Phillis – or maybe it’s just the three smitten Golding brothers. Anthony, Ferdinand, and Frank must battle it out to win her love, and they’re not above underhanded tricks and disguises to get her attention. This wickedly witty city comedy pits brother against brother, and shows even in sibling rivalries, somebody has to come out on top.

ASC veteran actor René Thornton, Jr. steps into the director/manager chair like Peter Quince in Midsummer to lead the troupe in reviving this show for (we think) the first time in over 400 years.

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Stuff that Happens
Stuff that Happens before the play
  • Anthony and Ferdinand, the eldest two of the three Golding brothers, see Phyllis Flower, a fair maid, at The Exchange, and fall in love with her.
Stuff that happens during the play
  • Phyllis and her woman, Ursula, are accosted and robbed by two outlaws. Cripple, a patternmaker, attempts to aid them, but is himself attacked. Frank Golding, the youngest of the Golding brothers, intervenes and protects the women.
  • Frank, who didn’t understand Anthony’s and Ferdinand’s love for Phyllis, kisses her hand and immediately falls in love with her.
  • Frank devises a plan to trick Ferdinand and Anthony into thinking Phyllis has rejected them. With the help of Cripple, who had pledged him a favor, Frank cleverly intercepts their love letters to Phyllis.
  • Upon speaking to Phyllis, Ferdinand and Anthony realize they’d been deceived. They go separately to Phyllis’s parents, one to her father and one to her mother, asking for her hand. Phyllis’s parents unknowingly pledge her to both brothers.
  • Meanwhile, Phyllis has fallen for the Cripple, who has realized her feelings. Frank, disguised as the Cripple, goes to woo Phyllis.
  • More letters, tricks, and confused family members ensue.
Notes from the Director

A year and a half ago our Artistic Director, Jim Warren, came to me with two scripts and asked me to pick one, cast myself in it, and “direct” it for the Actors’ Renaissance Season.

After wrestling with the shock and surprise, I dove in, read both plays, and weighed the pros and cons — that’s how we ended up with The Fair Maid of the Exchange, a play that we don’t believe has been performed for nearly 400 years, in the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s indoor theatre, the Blackfriars Playhouse.

I’ve been involved with the experiment of the Renaissance Season since its inception in 2005 and have performed in all of them except two. Over the years, it’s been interesting to see how our season of experimentation changes and develops with each new group of people and plays. Having one of the company members straddle the director/actor line seemed like the next logical step, and I’m honored to be the guinea pig for it.

This production marks my professional directing debut, but having performed in over 100 productions on the Blackfriars stage, I feel ready to give it a go. Often during the Renaissance Season, the actor playing the largest role in any given production guides the rehearsal process. We believe, based on what we’ve catchily titled the “Peter Quince Principle” after the actor-in-charge of A Midsummer Night’s Dream’s Rude Mechanicals, that Shakespeare’s company may have had an actor-as-director to help shape their performances.

There are actors in the company who are not unfamiliar with me putting my fingers in their process while I was playing Faustus, Brutus, Prospero and a few others (including Coriolanus in this year’s season). This season, I hope they are armed and ready for me to steer this Fair Maid ship.

It’s an interesting play with delights and dilemmas for a modern audience, and I hope that together we have created a dynamic and entertaining piece of theater for you to enjoy.