Age of Reason

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video The Critic (BBC film adaptation)

BBC Video
Type: Video

Hywel Bennett, Alan Badel, Nigel Hawthorne and John Gielgud star in Sheridan's clever farce on the pretensions of the theatrical world. The Critic: or, a Tragedy Rehearsed is a political and literary satire, following in the vein of George Villiers’ The Rehearsal (1671), which takes jovial aim at the vanities of authors and politicians and at the foibles of the theatre itself.

Credits:

Lord Burleigh: John Gielgud; Mr. King/Mr. Puff: Hywel Bennett; Mr. Sneer: Nigel Hawthorne; Mrs. Dangle: Rosemary Leach; Mr. Dangle: Norman Rodway; Sir Fretful Plagiary: Alan Badel; Tiburina: Anna Massey; Constable: Rodney Bewes; Interpreter: Christopher Biggins; Director: Don Taylor; Writer: Richard B. Sheridan; Producer: Louis Marks; Costume Design: Betty Aldiss.

Distributed under licence from Educational Publishers LLP

Jubilee

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Commissioned by the RSC, Jubilee is a mischievous comedy on the cynical foundation of the Shakespeare industry.

In 1769, the famous actor David Garrick is approached by greedy Stratfordian burghers and talked into staging the first theatre festival to celebrate the life of their town’s most famous son. Garrick is persuaded into arranging the festival by three RSC directions, who point out that founding the cult of Shakespeare will make him even more famous, as well as giving RSC directors something to do.

The Jubilee itself was a soggy catastrophe, providing Barnes with ample material for comic exuberance, but Barnes marks it as the starting point of a cultural obsession that deserves some light-hearted ridicule.

Barnes' ironic and irreverent comedy dissects the cult of the theatrical personality, with guest appearances from the Bard himself, Ben Jonson, David Garrick, Samuel Johnson, Trevor Nunn, Sir Peter Hall and Peter Barnes. Jubilee premiered in 2001 at the Swan Theatre, Stratford.

The Lottery of Love

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

An eligible suitor has been found for Sylvia but, determined to judge him for herself, she swaps roles with her maid. Meanwhile the suitor and his manservant have the same idea. Before long each believes they are fatally attracted to their social opposite. Sylvia’s well-intentioned father looks on as the two couples attempt to make sense of their desires and ultimately lose themselves to love.

From eighteenth-century France, John Fowles transports us to Regency England in this elegant adaptation of Le Jeu de l’amour et du hasard, Marivaux’s greatest comedy. This version of The Lottery of Love premiered at the Orange Tree, Richmond, in March 2017.

audio Mary Stuart

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Elizabeth I of England is threatened by the survival of her Catholic cousin, Mary Stuart. Wrestling with her own conscience, the Queen agonizes over Mary's fate, amidst fears for her own life. Court intrigue has never been more gripping than in this "acute study in the art of double-dealing politics." (The New York Times)

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Sheelagh Cullen, Kenneth Danziger, Seamus Dever, Jill Gascoine, Matt Gaydos, Martin Jarvis, Alex Kingston, Christopher Neame, Alan Shearman, W. Morgan Sheppard and Simon Templeman.

Featuring: Sheelagh Cullen, Kenneth Danziger, Seamus Dever, Jill Gascoine, Matt Gaydos, Martin Jarvis, Alex Kingston, Christopher Neame, Alan Shearman, W. Morgan Sheppard, Simon Templeman

Mary Stuart (trans. Harrower)

Faber and Faber
Type: Text

One of European theatre's major plays, Schiller's masterpiece hinges on a brilliantly imagined meeting between Mary, Queen of Scots – focus of simmering Catholic dissent and her cousin Elizabeth, Queen of England, who has imprisoned her. Isolated by their duplicitous male courtiers, the women collide headlong, each wrestling with the rank, ambition and destiny their births have bestowed, against a thrilling background of intrigue, plot and counter-plot.

David Harrower's version of Mary Stuart premiered at the Citizen's Theatre, Glasgow, in October 2006.

audio The Rivals

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Romantic havoc ensues in the town of Bath when Sir Anthony arrives to arrange the marriage of his son Captain Jack Absolute to the wealthy Lydia Languish. Jack and Lydia are already in love, but because of Lydia’s obsession with romantic novels, Jack has disguised himself as a poor officer named Ensign Beverly – and he is only one of Lydia’s many suitors. The Rivals was Sheridan’s first play, and this charming comedy of manners continues to be widely performed today.

Includes an interview with Linda Kelly, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the author of Richard Brinsley Sheridan: A Life. An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring: Lloyd Owen as Captain Jack Absolute Lucy Davis as Lydia Languish Rosalind Ayres as Mrs. Malaprop Kenneth Danziger as Thomas Neil Dickson as David Sarah Drew as Julia Julian Holloway as Sir Lucius O’Trigger Christopher Neame as Sir Anthony Absolute Moira Quirk as Lucy Alan Shearman as Fag Simon Templeman as Bob Acres Matthew Wolf as Faulkland Directed by Martin Jarvis. Recorded at The Invisible Studios, West Hollywood in 2010.

Featuring: Rosalind Ayres, Kenneth Danziger, Lucy Davis, Neil Dickson, Sarah Drew, Julian Holloway, Christopher Neame, Lloyd Owen, Moira Quirk, Alan Shearman, Simon Templeman, Matthew Wolf

The Rivals

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The Rivals is a witty, pleasant and satirical comedy about love and foolishness.

Lydia Languish, whose view on life is shaped entirely by the romantic novels she reads, has fallen in love with a penniless soldier, Ensign Beverley. Beverley is in fact Captain Jack Absolute, son of a baronet, disguised to satisfy Lydia’s desires for an impoverished romantic hero. Enraged at this attachment, Lydia’s linguistically anarchic aunt, Mrs Malaprop, has arranged a match with an eligible bachelor: Captain Jack Absolute. He is thus his own rival; a sticky situation for Jack, but a brilliantly comic one for the play’s audience.

The various entanglements, fights and confusions of Lydia’s other suitors – the country bumpkin Bob Acres and the belligerent Irishman Sir Lucius – combined with the subplot of troubled romance between the earnest Julia and the flighty Faulkland, make The Rivals a delightful satire of manners and a supreme comedy.

Unlike other contemporary sentimental plays, The Rivals recalls Restoration theatre, though with an added whimsicality, charity and moral tone; whether it constitutes a complete rejection of sentimentality is a debate prolonged by the contrasting tones of the main plot and subplot.

audio The School for Scandal

LA Theatre Works
Type: Audio

Beware the gossips! Lady Sneerwell and her hireling Snake are certainly up to no good in this timeless send-up of hypocritical manners. Thanks to their scandal-mongering, the comely Lady Teazle must fend off the slanderous barbs that have caught the ear of her elderly husband - as well as every other gossip in London! What follows is a torrent of mistaken identities and sex-crazed scheming in which the upper classes have never looked so low class.

Includes an interview with Michael Hackett, the Chair of the Department of Theater in the School of Theater, Film and Television at the University of California-Los Angeles. An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring: Stuart Bunce as Charles Surface Jane Carr as Mrs. Candour John H. Francis as Rowley and others Henri Lubatti as Snake, Moses and others Christopher Neame as Sir Oliver Surface Moira Quirk as Maria and Maid Julian Sands as Joseph Surface Susan Sullivan as Lady Sneerwell Tara Summers as Lady Teazle Simon Templeman as Sir Peter Teazle James Warwick as Crabtree and others Matthew Wolf as Sir Benjamin Backbite Directed by Michael Hackett. Recorded before a live audience at the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles.

Featuring: Stuart Bunce, Jane Carr, John Francis Harries, Henri Lubatti, Christopher Neame, Moira Quirk, Julian Sands, Susan Sullivan, Tara Summers, Simon Templeman, James Warwick, Matthew Wolf

The School for Scandal

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Sheridan’s play mixes comic situations and tender feeling with brilliant repartee and a sharp satirical edge, in a smart, witty play about the pleasures and perils of scandal.

Lady Sneerwell, experienced scandal-monger, is conspiring with the smooth Joseph Surface to break up the match between Charles (Joseph’s brother) and a young lady named Maria. Joseph wants to marry Maria for her money; Lady Sneerwell wants Charles to herself. They send out whispers of an affair between Charles and Lady Teazle, the extravagant young woman married to Sir Peter Teazle. Meanwhile, Joseph and Charles’s uncle returns from abroad, and decides to test the respective characters of his nephews by visiting them in disguise.

The plots, scandals and disguises result in brilliantly contrived comic scenes, sometimes connecting with moments of human pain and happiness, before returning to the splendid artificial world of heightened wit and heightened folly.

The School for Scandal was first performed in 1777 at the Drury Lane theatre, London.

video The School for Scandal

Stage on Screen
Type: Video

The School for Scandal was written by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, with a prologue by the famous actor David Garrick, and was first performed in 1777.
It's the story of two brothers, one apparently a model citizen, the other a dissolute ne'er-do-well. But as the play progresses and the scandal-mongering backfires, the tables are turned on the siblings.
An enduring classic that still hits home today
With its themes of deceit, pride, love, gossip and capriciousness, The School for Scandal is one of the most enduring of all theatre classics. It showcases Sheridan's mastery of farce, witty dialogue and delight in satirising upper-class pretension and affectation. Above all, it shows how appearances can be deceptive, and provides much else in terms of revelation and enjoyment along the way.
Often hailed as the best comedy of manners in English, The School for Scandal has been a crowd-pleaser for centuries. As a set text for students, it has the advantage over some older plays of language that's more accessible (though exquisitely crafted).
In addition, its themes resonate even (or perhaps especially) today. As The New York Times said about one 2001 production: 'The classy antidote one needs in a celebrity-crazed world where the invasion of privacy is out of control, but the art of gossip is nonexistent.'
Director: Elizabeth Freestone.
Featuring: Joanna Christie, Beatrice Curnew, Amy Rockson, Harvey Virdi, Jonathan Battersby, Guy Burgess, Samuel Collings, Mark Extance, Gareth Kennerley, Adam Redmore, Tim Treloar, Conrad Westmaas

In 1784 the philosopher Immanuel Kant penned an essay in response to a question posed in a German periodical of the day (Berlinische Monatsschrift). The question was 'What is Enlightenment?' In his essay, one of many published in response, (including an essay by Moses Mendelssohn) Kant asserted the primacy and power of reason and the necessity for courageous self-determination. 'Dare to know!' – this, Kant declared, was the motto of Enlightenment.

The Age of Enlightenment roughly coincides with what many historians refer to as 'the long eighteenth century' – from the end of the English Restoration to the last cannon fire of the Napoleonic wars and the triumph of Romanticism. It was an age of philosophic exploration and scientific discovery; inspired and shaped by such luminaries as Bayle, Spinoza, Newton and Voltaire. The enthusiasm for knowledge would culminate in the Encyclopédiste movement and the compilation of the Great Encyclopedia. From the salons of Paris to the coffee houses of London and Edinburgh, from the courts of Frederick the Great and Catherine of Russia to Masonic lodges on two continents – rationality, inquiry, conversation and wit were thought to not only to delight, but would, if practiced with tolerance and rigor, make possible the emancipation of mankind from the dark follies of ignorance and superstition. It would set the stage for revolution.

And it was on the stage that the era would find some of its most imaginative expression. The theatre and theatricality were passionately studied and scrutinized; as concepts used to question the nature of reality and illusion, the true (vrai) and that which resembles the true (vraisemblable). Many of the prominent philosophes – Voltaire, Rousseau and Diderot (to name but three of the most famous) – wrote for the theatre. In 1759, Voltaire would take the lead in removing the audience from the stage itself. This ended a long-standing practice of selling seats onstage, which in effect blurred the distinction between performer and audience/reality and illusion. This removal decisively transformed ideas theatrical spectatorship. Rousseau's attack on the theatre in a letter to Jean la Rond D'Alembert questioned the political importance of the art, and arts in general, while at the same time reinforcing its importance. Inspired by George Lillo's seminal play of 1731, The London Merchant, Diderot's own experiments in dramatic form and content (along with the works of the Italian playwright, Carlo Goldoni) would do much to give rise to Naturalism and Realism.

No other theatrical period is so influential and yet so little understood or studied. The salonnières, like Mesdames Geoffrin and d'Épinay, lent a critical ear and monetary support to playwrights. Under their roofs, the works of Voltaire, Marivaux and others were read and debated. In Germany, while aiding in the attempt to create a Hamburg 'National' Theatre, the writer Gotthold Lessing would produce a series of articles, the Hamburgische Dramaturgie. This work would give birth to modern dramaturgy. The English writer Oliver Goldsmith saw the contradiction in an age so committed to reason and yet one so prone to sentimentality and brilliantly sent it up in his comedy, She Stoops to Conquer. Venice was the setting for a great public feud between the playwrights Goldoni and Gozzi. Their vicious battle of egos and Enlightenment philososphy would divide the city, send Goldoni into self-imposed exile, and yet incite both writers to create their greatest works.

For all the plays and playwrights, the eighteenth century is often viewed as being dominated by the actor. David Garrick, Lekain, Talma, Sarah Siddons, and the other members of the Kemble clan, enjoyed a celebrity and social acceptability unknown to previous generations of actors. In mastery and sway, Garrick had no equal in the eighteenth century. He was one of the key figures in the Shakespeare revival and shaping modern attitudes toward the works of the Bard. And Garrick would serve as the example of the quintessential performer in Diderot's profound analysis of the actor's art, Paradoxe sur le comédien, which stated that the actor has the ability to incite and move an audience emotionally, even if that actor, in reality, feels nothing. In fact, the actor should feel nothing. The experience is the audience's. Diderot was aware of the philosophic and political implications of such analysis. For if, by example, a politician could act with the same skill as the best actor, might no that politician be able to touch and play on the people's emotions in the same way that actor does. Can this possibly be the correct use of that power?

The playwright, Jean-François Marmontel, in his entry on 'The Parterre' in the Supplementary Volume Four of the Great Encyclopedia, reflects beautifully on the theatrical experience of his age:

'One cannot calculate what the commonly shared emotions of a crowded multitude adds to each individual's emotional experience. Imagine five hundred mirrors bouncing light back and forth, or five hundred echoes of the same sound; this is the image of a public moved by the ridiculous or the pathetic.'

by Christopher Cartmill, playwright, and Professor of Theatre at Rutgers University and New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study