PAST PRODUCTIONS

Our opening production in August 2014, The First Actress, served as a kind of touchstone for our theatrical vision.  Featured over a century ago in 1911 as part of the Pioneer Players' inaugural London season, the work realised women's links to their past through the resurrection of historical female figures, namely actresses from British theatre history.

The First Actress

by Christopher St. John

August 2014

London & Kent

More than a century since The First Actress debuted on the London stage, this innovative play still raises questions about the role of women in today's society. The First Actress was initially directed by Edith Craig (1869-1947), daughter of revered actress Ellen Terry (1847-1928), as part of the Pioneer Players' inaugural London season in 1911. This forward-looking work, written by Christopher St. John (Christabel Marshall, 1871-1960), compounded the argument for women's suffrage with the history of women on the stage. Set on the stage of Drury Lane in 1661, the play opens at the curtain call of a production of Othello with Margaret Hughes, possibly the first woman to play Desdemona following Charles II’s edict allowing women to play all female roles instead of boys (standard practice in England prior to the Restoration). Hughes, feeling defeated by her performance, falls fitfully asleep backstage, and the actresses of her future, including Nell Gwyn (1650 - 1687) played by Ellen Terry in the original 1911 production, counter her self-defeat with examples of their own successes.

 

The forty-minute play was complemented by a post-show discussion with the company and audience entitled “Actresses of Today”.

 

The First Actress was a collaboration between the London-based Palindrome Productions and the Department of Theatre at The Ohio State University.

 

Penny Farfan (University of Calgary) moderated the London performance discussion and playwright April De Angelis joined the discussion as a guest speaker. 

Cast & Creatives

Mrs. Margaret Hughes                  

Griffin                                                   

Sir Charles Sedley                           

Lord Hatton                                     

Mrs. Nell Gwyn                           

Mrs. Barry                                           

Mrs. Bracegirdle                               

Mrs. Anne Oldfield                     

Mrs. Peg Woffington                 

Mrs. Kitty Clive                                  

Mrs. Sarah Siddons                        

Mrs. Fanny Abingdon                     

Mrs. Dorothy Jordan                      

Madame Vestris                            

Actress of To-Day                             

 

 

Director                                               

Producer

Assistant Director                                          

Costume Designer                          

Musician    

                                     

Melonie Mazibuko (OSU)

Peter Cutts  (UK)

Sifiso Mazibuko  (OSU)

Michael Carozza  (OSU)

Ruby Richardson  (UK)

Annie McAlpine  (OSU)

Sue Mapp  (UK)

Roxy Knepp  (OSU)

Melissa Lee (OSU)

Manuela Chastelain (UK)

Maroussia Richardson (UK)

Erica Beimesche (OSU)

Jirye Lee (OSU)

Jane Elliott (OSU)

Naomi Paxton (UK)

 

 

Lesley Ferris (OSU)

Phoebe Ferris-Rotman (UK)

Melissa Lee (OSU)

Kristine Kearney (OSU)

Erica Beimesche (OSU)

 

This production of The First Actress was first staged as part of "The First Actresses--1660's-1930's: A Symposium" at The Ohio State University on May 23-24, 2014.  The remount in London and Smallhythe Place took place with half of the original cast and half new company members from the UK.

 

This production was supported by an Arts and Humanities Research Grant from The Ohio State University.

 

Photos by Amie and Phoebe Ferris-Rotman

© 2014 by Palindrome Productions - A Transatlantic Theatre Company.

 

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