Conasauga Shakespeare Coalition

Monologues Project: Summer 2020

While we at the Conasauga Shakespeare Coalition are disappointed by our inability to present our scheduled 2020 production of Two Gentleman of Verona at Burr Park this summer, we are pleased to present a virtual alternative featuring Company members and guest artists in videotaped performances of monologues from Shakespearean plays. Together with the dramaturgical information provided with each video, this project fulfills one of the basic tenets of our company’s mission: Offering arts events for people of all ages to enhance knowledge and encourage creative experimentation. We thank all those involved in the creation and promotion of this project (including The Creative Arts Guild), and we not only hope that you enjoy the performances, but also, like us, you look forward to our return to presenting live theatre as soon as possible.

“There is Vertue in that Falstaffe”
A monologue from Henry IV Part I featuring Brian Russell as Sir John Falstaff

Henry IV Part I

• Part of the Second Tetralogy of History Plays (Richard II, Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2, and Henry V, written 1595-1599)
• First performed Summer 1596
• First in print 1598
• Possible sources Holinshed’s Chronicles (1587 edition), Halle’s Union (1548) and Samuel Daniel’s verse Civil Wars (1595)

Synopsis
The two plays Henry IV Part I and Henry IV Part II are not so much the story of the reign of Henry IV as they are the story of the making of Henry V (Prince Harry aka Hal). Henry IV (aka Bolingbroke) has recently seized the throne from Richard II, and his tenuous grasp on the crown is made even more so by the decadent behavior of his son, Prince Harry (Hal), whose lowlife companions include a debauched knight named Sir John Falstaff. However, despite his disparaged behavior, Prince Harry proves a hero in battle, saving his father and killing Hotspur, one of the lords plotting against the King in single combat at the Battle of Shrewsbury. But Harry’s transformation is left unfinished as he allows the cowardly Falstaff to take credit for vanquishing Hotspur, thus making way for the sequel, Henry IV Part II.

Analysis
In Henry IV Part I and Henry IV Part II, Shakespeare transforms the history play into a lively, dramatic form. Rather than focus solely on the weighty subject matter of the fragility of kingly authority, Shakespeare liberates his source material (and his audience) with a story of calculated reformation. As Prince Harry tells us in the second scene of the play-

“I’ll so offend to make offence a skill,
Redeeming time when men least think I will.”

The young Prince consorts with his Eastcheap tavern friends in order to act the part of a rowdy and debauched youth, unworthy of the crown because it allows him to both appear a man of the people and make his planned transformation to a mature and respected monarch even more impressive- a show-stealing scene. Part of this transformation will be the disposing of his “loose behavior” by repudiating his lowlife companions or “base contagious clouds,” as he calls them, including Falstaff. After killing Hotspur in battle, Hal sees the body of Falstaff and, believing the old man dead, attempts a character defining reformative farewell only to discover that his outsized companion is alive, only pretending to be dead in order to avoid battle. This means that Hal’s transformation and the rebuke of Falstaff will have to wait (thus, the need for Part II).

Character
Hal’s calculated reformation requires truly depraved lowlife companions, and none is more depraved than the character of Sir John Falstaff. But Falstaff also represents part of the genius of Shakespeare in that while he eats, drinks, and wenches in excess, he knows it will be his undoing but revels in the doing, making him enjoyable and even loveable- larger-than-life, but essentially life itself- human. In fact, Falstaff is at times the most human of all of Shakespeare’s creations. For example, in Act Five of Part I, as the King’s army prepares for battle, Falstaff (in the prose used by Shakespeare’s less highbrow comical characters) questions the motivation for fighting-

“What is honour? A word. What is in that word ‘honour’? Air. A trim reckoning! Who hath it? He that died o’ Wednesday. Doth he feel it? No. Doth he hear it? No. ‘Tis insensible then? Yea, to the dead. But will it not live with the living? No. Why? Detraction will not suffer it. Therefore I’ll none it. Honor is a mere scutcheon.”

Falstaff’s loveable nature and human frailty make Harry’s essential denunciation of him in Part II even more painful for us to watch. Nevertheless, Falstaff was one of Shakespeare’s most popular characters, and legend has it that Queen Elizabeth enjoyed the character so much in the Henry IV plays that she asked Shakespeare to write a romantic comedy for Falstaff, which he did by penning The Merry Wives of Windsor, probably performed as an entertainment for the Queen in April 1597.

Scene and monologue
In this scene from Act Two of Part I, Hal is directing a role-play at Eastcheap in which Falstaff impersonates the King interrogating the young Prince about his lowlife adventures. When the roles are reversed and Hal (as King Henry) accuses his son of cavorting with “that villainous, abominable misleader of youth… that old white-bearded Satan,” Falstaff is moved to defend himself against banishment as only Falstaff can.

Actor Bio
BRIAN WEBB RUSSELL Brian played the role of Pistol (another of Hal’s lowlife confederates) in the Conasuaga Shakespeare Coalition’s 2019 inaugural production of HENRY V. No stranger to Shakespeare, Brian has acted in over 50 productions of the Bard, including multiple shows of MACBETH, THE TEMPEST, HAMLET, TWELFTH NIGHT, MERCHANT OF VENICE and COMEDY OF ERRORS. An accomplished regional performer, a sampling of Brian's work includes: THE SEAFARER, STONES IN HIS POCKET, MY NAME IS ASHER LEV (American Stage), GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, INHERIT THE WIND, SUPERIOR DONUTS, (Nashville Repertory Theatre), ROMEO AND JULIET, GOD'S MAN IN TEXAS (Arkansas Repertory Theatre), JULIUS CAESAR, SHAKESPEARE'S CASE (Nashville Shakespeare Festival), THE CRADLE WILL ROCK, DIE FLEDERMAUS (Nashville Opera), AMADEUS, THE CRUCIBLE (Blackbird Theatre), THE DRAWER BOY, CRIME AND PUNISHMENT (Kentucky Repertory Theatre). Brian has been seen in the SyFy movie "The Cursed", in music videos for Jeff Foxworthy, Shooter Jennings, and Toby Keith, and was just recently seen as a featured performer in the Adult Swim series "Tropical Cop Tales". Brian has won awards for his work in Nashville and St Petersburg and was the 2001 recipient of the Ingram Theatre Fellowship, awarded by the Tennessee Arts Commission. Brian is a member of Actors Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

“This above all; to thine owne self be true”
A monologue from Hamlet featuring Bob Boudreaux as Polonius

Hamlet
• Original publication date is unknown. Registered to be printed 1602, but other evidence suggests the play was published not long after Julius Caesar in 1599. One version was printed 1603 but seems to have been assembled from the memory of an actor playing bit parts; a longer more authoritative version appeared in 1604.
• First performed 1600
• Possible sources include an earlier play of the same name (possibly written by Thomas Kyd) which scholars call the “ur-Hamlet” (original Hamlet) which has since disappeared, and the 16th century translation of the Norse tale of Amleth included in Saxo Grammaticus’s Historiae Danicae (c. 1200).

Synopsis
Prince Hamlet of Denmark is visited by the ghost of his recently deceased father, the King, who reveals that the King’s brother Claudius killed him, usurped his throne, and married his Queen, Hamlet’s mother. Hamlet vows to avenge his father and bring Claudius to justice, but seeks greater proof of his uncle’s crime through an elaborate scheme that includes behaving as though he has been driven insane and testing his uncle’s guilt by arranging for the performance of play which mirrors the killing of King Hamlet. Though Claudius’ reaction to the play’s performance cements his guilt in Hamlet’s mind, the Prince’s plans go awry when he mistakenly kills the spying Polonius, the King’s Lord Chamberlain, setting off a series of events that result in the suicide of Polonius’ daughter (and Hamlet’s love interest) Ophelia, and a vow of revenge against Hamlet by Polonius’ son Laertes. Claudius arranges a weighted duel between Hamlet and Laertes in order to rid himself of his avenging nephew, and while the contest goes amiss and results in the inadvertent death of the Queen and Laertes, a poisoned and dying Hamlet avenges his father and kills Claudius.

Analysis
The longest (4,024 lines) and arguably greatest of Shakespeare’s plays, Hamlet is considered a pinnacle of Renaissance culture and a forerunner of modern drama and storytelling. Praised by most critics as Shakespeare’s masterpiece, this thrilling drama transposes an unsophisticated 12th century story of brutal Norse revenge to a more complex “sublime work of intellect and art” in a Renaissance setting. However, it is the story’s hero- the most compelling, beguiling, frustrating, and ultimately unknowable of Shakespeare’s creations- that appeals to the imaginations of audiences (“it is we who are Hamlet,” wrote Romantic critic William Hazlett) and presents challenges to performers. As far as we know, the play has never been off the stage in the four centuries since it was first introduced to audiences, and the role of the Dane (originally created by Richard Burbage) has been played by an endless list of some of the world’s finest actors, including David Garrick, Sarah Bernhardt, John Barrymore, Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole, Kenneth Branagh, and in recent 21st century productions by David Tennant, Jude Law and Benedict Cumberbatch. In 2017, London-born Papaa Essiedu became the first black actor to play Hamlet in the 61-year history of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Character
One of the reasons for the play’s popularity may be the universality of its numerous themes, which include the impossibility of certainty, the complexity and reverberations of action, and the often-inconclusive contemplation of the meaning of life and death. Interwoven into these larger themes are themes of political corruption, the futility of revenge, the power of drama, and the theme of the complexity of love and relationships, including the challenging relationship between parents and children. Indeed, this may have been the theme that drew Shakespeare to the story, as the 1596 death of his eleven-year-old son Hamnet provided a yearning to produce a work haunted as much by fathers and sons as by unfinished grieving and mortality. This parent-child relationship is explored not only through the interactions of Hamlet and his parents, but also through the exchanges of Polonius and his children, Ophelia and Laertes.
A verbose and somewhat bumbling counselor to Claudius, Polonius is also a verbose, somewhat bumbling parent to his offspring, qualities that make him exemplary of many parents. But he also proves to be a self-serving, manipulative, hovering Renaissance “helicopter” parent. He does not approve of Hamlet’s courtship of his daughter, and uses Ophelia to spy on Hamlet in the first scene of Act III. He also sends a spy to check on his son Laertes after Laertes returns to France following the celebration of the marriage of Claudius and Gertrude. These actions are less admirable and ultimately lead to and leave us less mournful for his death at the hands of Hamlet in the final scene of Act III.

Scene and monologue
In Act I, Scene 3, Shakespeare gives us a glimpse of a more admirable if still verbose Polonius. As his son departs for his return to France, Polonius imparts fatherly advice to Laertes in one of the plays many often-quoted speeches, a speech that unknown to both- will be the father’s last words to his son.

Actor Bio
BOB BOUDREAUX played the role of Captain Fluellen in the inaugural Conasauga Shakespeare Coalition production of Henry V in 2019. He started with the Houston Shakespeare Festival while employed full time as TV Anchor for the local Disney owned station. He performed in 40 productions over 21 seasons. Since retiring from TV News, Bob studied with such notables as famed Pulitzer Prize winner Edward Albee, and US trustee of the famed Globe Theater of London, Dr. Sidney Berger. In the Houston festival, he met fellow actor, Texan, and entrepreneur Guy Roberts, founder of Prague Shakespeare Company who brought him to Europe to perform. Bob has since been a trans-Atlantic member of the Prague Shakespeare Company for 8 seasons, He initiated the role of President Woodrow Wilson in the original history based work “ Masaryk in America”, commissioned by the US Embassy ,which premiered at the Estates Theater in Prague, the conducting home of Mozart. He also appeared in the PSC epic “Trojan War” as Spartan King Menelaus, husband of Helen of Troy. Not to be type cast, he later played “Frothy”, a transvestite prostitute, in Shakespeare's “Measure for Measure”, at Prague Castle's summer program. Bob performed in the title role of “Julius Caesar”, and supporting roles in “Richard 3rd” (with Lane Davies), “ Into the Woods”, “Hamlet” ( directed by Tina Packer, the Royal Shakespeare Company), “ Amadeus”, “ Complete Works of Wm. Shakespeare Abridged”, and the touring productions of “As You Like It”, “ King Lear”, “Twelfth Night”, and “Much Ado About Nothing”. In 2017, in Prague, he produced the first English language version of the musical, “Man of La Mancha”, (starring Lane Davies), where he played the role of Governor/ Innkeeper. On screen, Bob stars in three films debuting on the festival circuit in 2019 and is in the Norwegian film “Search for the Golden Castle” coming out in the fall. In Feb. 2020 he appears as the Swedish foreign minister in the international TV Series “Atlantic Crossing”. Other screen appearances include roles in “ “Borg” (with Shia Labeouf) , “Gangster Ka, African”, and the American TV series “Genius” ( directed by Ron Howard), “ Crossing Lines” ( with William Fichtner), “ Walker, Texas Ranger” ( with Chuck Norris), and HBO's “ Banshee”. Bob was featured in the international Xerox Superbowl commercial and he provides voice characterizations and can be seen as the Grand Inquisitor and Capt. Bernard in the hit video game : “Kingdom Come : Deliverance” . Bob spent a quarter century as an Anchorman/Reporter in Houston and is a 2-time recipient of the Emmy Award for broadcasting excellence. After college at UMASS./Amherst , Bob was an Officer in the United States Army and was a decorated combat veteran of Vietnam where he received two awards of the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze star, the South Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, the Air Medal for Valor, and a Purple Heart for wounds sustained in action as a helicopter pilot. He concluded his military tour as a Flight Instructor at the Army's primary helicopter school with the rank of Captain. Bob divides time between his beloved Prague ,where is a permanent resident of the Czech Republic, while maintaining US residence in Houston where he holds an active Texas Real Estate Broker's license.

“How happy some, ore othersome can be?”
A monologue from A Midsummer Night’s Dream featuring Courtenay Cholovich as Helena

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
• Probably written 1595-96, towards the end of a group of plays that included Love’s Labour’s Lost, Richard II, Romeo and Juliet and The Merchant of Venice
• First published 1600 in quarto (book in which printed pages are folded into four leaves or eight pages) typeset from the dramatist’s papers; reprinted 1619. By comparison, Folio edition (1623) suggests that Shakespeare may have tinkered with Act Five
• Shakespeare combines the wedding narrative of Chaucer’s “Knight’s Tale” (c. 1388) with a myriad of other sources (more than any other play), including Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Golding’s 1567 translation) and Apuleius’s Golden Ass (translation 1566). A long-standing theory posits that Shakespeare drew upon recollections of royal festivities held in Warwickshire (Shakespeare’s county of birth) for certain plot points and in the creation of his mischievous sprites.

Synopsis
At the preparations for the celebration of the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens, the nobleman Egeus asks the Duke to compel his daughter Hermia to marry Demetrius. But Hermia loves Lysander, and despite the Duke’s warning that she must marry her father’s chosen suitor, Hermia and Lysander plot to elope. Hermia reveals her plan to her friend Helena, who loves Demetrius, who jilted Helena for Hermia. When Helena reveals the plan to Demetrius in hopes of winning him back, Demetrius follows Hermia and Lysander and Helena follows Demetrius into the woods, where Oberon and Titania, the fairy king and queen, quarrel. Seeking revenge, Oberon tells his servant Puck to sprinkle the juice of a magical flower in Titania’s eyes while she sleeps so she will fancy the first creature she sees when she wakes. After viewing the lovers in the woods, Oberon tells Puck to sprinkle Demetrius as well so that he will fall in love with Helena. But Puck mistakenly sprinkles Lysander, then tries to correct his blunder by sprinkling Demetrius, who then fights Lysander for Helena. When Puck comes upon a group of craftsmen/amateur players rehearsing a play for the wedding celebration near the site of Titania’s repose, he transforms the head of the boastful laborer/player Bottom into the head of an ass, and Titania awakens to fall in love with him. Satisfied with this, Oberon orders Puck to undo the spells. All ends happily and the reunited couples attend the wedding celebration, where the players perform a highly amateurish production of the story of Pyramus and Thisbe (part of Ovid’s Metamorphoses).

Analysis
One of the Bard’s most popular comedies and his first mature masterpiece, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is probably the most widely performed play in the Shakespearean canon. One of the reasons for the play’s popularity is that it offers so much to so many. It is a comedy of love and lyrical lovers and a festive celebration of marriage set during the ancient festival of midsummer, celebrating fertility and fecundity. At the same time, it is a farcical collision of the human and fairy world, and a satirical take on amateur theatricals that still makes audiences laugh out loud, four centuries on. In a deeper consideration of the collision of worlds element, we can see the symbolism of Athens as the lawful, orderly part of existence as opposed to the ungoverned forest, as well as Shakespeare’s use of language to create three distinct worlds. Without access to elaborate costumes and sets, Shakespeare helps us distinguish between nobility, fairies, and common laborers through characteristic speech. The laborers speak in prose, often garble images and use malapropisms. The nobility (including the lovers) speak in measured, balanced verse (iambic pentameter), a stately form that suggests status, control, and decorum. The lovers rhyme when they are particularly heated or emotional. The fairies also speak in verse, but whereas the lovers rhyme every ten syllables, the fairies speak in short lines that rhyme at every seven or eight syllables, suggesting great energy and animation. Without sound or lighting, poetry was Shakespeare’s greatest special effect.

Among the vast number of notable productions, the most revelatory was Peter Brook’s 1970 Royal Shakespeare production at Stratford. Celebrating “the theme of theatre,” Brooks set the action of the play in a three-sided white box hung with trapezes. The actors playing Theseus and Hippolyta doubled as Oberon and Titania, suggesting continuity between the couples, the young lovers were portrayed as “flower children,” and the nature of Titania and Bottom’s relationship was far-from-innocent. These elements helped Brooks’ production became the coequal of the text. While not the first to reimagine Shakespeare, Brooks’ Midsummer became standard for doing so and helped to alter popular notions of what “classics” could be.

Character
Although we can discern minor differences (Helena is taller than Hermia), the lovers are essentially indistinguishable and interchangeable. But this is intentional as Shakespeare wishes to suggest that love is arbitrary. Even in the forest, love is not a reliable quality bound up in essential characteristics, but a passing fancy; an external force acting on our heroes, not an extension of their selves, and spellbound love resembles real world romance. The male lovers are fickle in their affections, the only ones to fall under the flower’s spell. In contrast, the females love consistently, and, once out of the forest, are willing to overlook their male counterparts’ filial fluctuations.

Scene and monologue
In Act I, Helena shares her frustration over Demetrius’ capriciousness with Hermia and Lysander (who have just plotted their elopement), saying that she wishes she could be more like her friend so that Demetrius will again fall in love with her. Hermia and Lysander comfort the lovesick Helena and reveal their plan to run away. This they promise will resolve all her issues, and make everything as it was before. The two leave and Helena resolves to share her friends’ secret with Demetrius in order to try and win back his affections.

Actor Bio

COURTENAY GILLEAN CHOLOVICH played the role of Westmoreland in the Conasauga Shakespeare Coalition’s inaugural production of Henry V last summer. After graduating from Dalton High School, Courtenay earned a B.F.A. in Acting from the University of Florida and an M.F.A. in Performance
from Arizona State University before spending seven years as an NYC-based actress, writer, and teaching artist. Past professional acting credits span both stage and film, including: Hermia in A Midsummer Night's Dream (North Carolina Shakespeare Festival), Olga in Three Sisters (NYC Drama League), and a nomination for “Best Supporting Actress” at the NYC Short Film Festival for her role in "The Picnic." Since returning to the South, she continues to perform and direct locally (directing the Chattanooga Theatre Centre's hit production of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Nile, and performing in ACT productions of Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley and The Importance of Being Earnest), and is a regular contributing writer for the internationally-acclaimed horror podcast, Fireside Mystery Theatre (available on Stitcher, Audioboom, and Apple Podcasts). Most importantly, Courtenay is the Theatre Arts teacher at Dalton Middle School (go Cougars!).


May 14, 2020

It is with great sadness but fond recollection that we mourn the loss of one of Dalton's finest ladies, Jeanne Burr.

Ms. Jeanne was our company’s principal benefactor and our favorite supporter. When considering a moniker for our company back in 2018, we initially thought to call ourselves Burr's Men just as Shakespeare’s company was The Lord Chamberlain’s Men and later The King’s Men, but Ms. Jeanne would have none of it, preferring as she always did to play nothing more than a supporting role. But what a supporting role it was! Her generosity and love of the arts touched the lives of so many in this community, ours included, and her legacy will be remembered and celebrated by all for years to come.

Shakespeare in Burr Park will return soon, and when it does, the spirit and vivacity of Jeanne Burr will return with it.

“Flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”

We love you, Ms. Jeanne-
Burr’s Men
(aka The Conasauga Shakespeare Coalition)


“Here’s a marvelous convenient place for our rehearsal. This green plot shall be our stage, this hawthorn-brake our tiring-house.”

                                                                   A Midsummer Night’s Dream III, 1

In the summer of 2018, a small but merry band of local Players and Shakespeare enthusiasts that included Lane Davies, Wes Phinney, Chase Parker, and Jeff Burr began discussing the idea of bringing together a group of 15-20 local actors and fellow Bard-lovers to form the basis of a permanent Company that would present annual Shakespearean productions in Burr Performing Arts Park. In addition to the permanent Company, local high school and college students would be invited to participate in designated productions, and some of the major/title roles might be filled by professional actors, giving Company members and participating students a unique opportunity to work alongside and in collaboration with working actors.

The idea became The Conasauga Shakespeare Coalition (CSC), and, with the help of local attorney Chris Brown and CPA Allen Bentley, the CSC was established as a not-for-profit performing arts organization dedicated primarily to the collected works of William Shakespeare. The Coalition received the blessing and endowment of friend and supporter Jeanne Burr with the plan to perform annual productions at Burr Performing Arts Park in partnership with the Creative Arts Guild and in cooperation with the Dalton Little Theatre and Artistic Civic Theatre.

With all of this in place, The Conasauga Shakespeare Coalition opened with its first production Henry V in summer of 2019, with local and professional actors in place and Lane Davies directing. The first rate production team consisted of local filmmaker, Mark Hannah, who created the special effects for the production, Travis Lynch, who built an outstanding set that can be reconfigured for future productions, local professional musician Adam Burnette, who created an original score for Henry V, and David Pasqua, who oversaw the production’s technical requirements. Professional producer/director Chrystal Ayers oversaw the entire production as Stage Manager.

 

The Conasauga Shakespeare Coalition looks to continue to engage local talent in combination with professional working actors in order to bring to life the works of William Shakespeare for our local communities and fulfill the basic tenets of our mission:   

  • Presenting sponsored productions of the works of William Shakespeare and other worthy dramatists, which works are open and available to the public;
  • Conducting community events, often through partnerships, to generate community participation in the arts;
  • Offering arts events for people of all ages to enhance knowledge and encourage creative experimentation;
  • Providing arts education opportunities for students of all ages;
  • Utilizing the performing and visual arts to enhance the small town environment