Director Richard Romagnoli Continues His Exploration of Playwright Howard Barker’s Work
Middlebury, VT—The Middlebury College Theatre Program finishes up its mainstage season on May 2–4 with “The Castle” by contemporary British playwright Howard Barker. Director Richard Romagnoli may be North America’s foremost authority on Barker’s often controversial work. Set in the 13th century, “The Castle” follows a group of Crusaders who return home to find their world utterly changed. This epic work is filled with dark humor, bawdiness, and violence, and is for mature audiences only.
The play’s plot follows a group of English Crusaders returning to their homeland, only to find everything turned on its head. The civic, agricultural, and religious practices are radically changed; the women they left behind have turned government and religion upside down, creating an egalitarian culture. Questions of power manifest themselves in gender, sexuality, race, age, and more. Through it all, the reigning lord struggles to regain control as his engineer plans the largest castle in the region. On its broadest level, the play is a serious and comic exploration of the “battle of the sexes” told through a deep and moving love story. The content, however, is anything but saccharine—its themes are very mature, with strong adult language and imagery. Art critic Bob Mondello of National Public Radio called this play “Barker’s visceral explosion of sex and armaments… It’s pure oxygen time again. Prepare to be wowed.”
Like many of Howard Barker’s plays, “The Castle” is a historical drama that also reflects contemporary themes. Though the play takes place in or around the 13th century, its connection to that period is only implied, so its action feels modern. Barker bridges time periods to create fiction from history, exploring moral speculations and choices made under pressure.
Director Richard Romagnoli, the Isabel Riexinger Mettler Professor of Theatre at Middlebury College, has become an authority on the work of Howard Barker. He is the American associate of Barker’s company in London, the Wrestling School, and has directed many of Barker’s plays during the course of his career, both at Middlebury and at the College’s professional affiliated company Potomac Theatre Project (now known as PTP/NYC), including “Scenes from an Execution,” “Victory: Choices in Reaction,” “The Europeans,” “Judith: A Parting from the Body,” and “No End of Blame.”
“The Castle” stars Christina Fox ’13.5 as Skinner the witch, Meghan Leathers ’13.5 as Ann, and Noah Berman ’13 as her husband Stucley, embattled lord of the land. The cast also includes student actors Matt Ball ’14, Arnav Adhikari ’16, Stephen Mrowiec ’13, Sarah Lusche ’13, Adam Milano ’15, Josh Mallin ’13, Kevin Cammarn ’16, Boone McCoy-Crisp ’16, Meredith Messier ’15, Becky Van Dercook ’16. Aashna Aggarwal ’16 is the stage manager. The design team includes several members of the Middlebury College Theatre Program faculty and staff: the set is designed by Jon Craine ’97.5, with lighting by Hallie Zieselman, and costumes by Jule Emerson. New York-based designer Cormac Bluestone provides sound design, with Middlebury’s Allison Rimmer. Guest artist Paul Ugalde is the fight director.
A Behind-the-Scenes Lunch and Discussion about “The Castle” will take place on Tuesday, April 30, 2013, at 12:30 P.M., at the Mahaney Center for the Arts, Seeler Studio Theatre. The directors, designers, and cast will share their experiences in the creation of this production. Lunch is provided free of charge to Middlebury College ID card holders; community donations are welcomed.
Performances of “The Castle” will take place on Thursday, May 2; Friday, May 3; and Saturday, May 4, 2013, at 8:00 P.M. each evening, at the Mahaney Center for the Arts, Seeler Studio Theatre. The Mahaney Center for the Arts is located at 72 Porter Field Road in Middlebury, just off Route 30 south/Main Street. Ample free parking is available, and the facility is handicap-accessible. The running time is approximately two hours and 20 minutes, including one intermission. Please note that “The Castle” is for mature audiences only; no one under age 16 will be admitted. Tickets are priced at $12 for the general public; $10 for Middlebury College faculty, staff, alumni, emeriti, and other ID card holders; and $6 for Middlebury College students. For tickets or information, call (802) 443-MIDD (6433) or go to http://go.middlebury.edu/arts.