(Via Emily Owens, Emily Owens PR–rehearsal photo from Ladies at Tea.)
First Flight Theatre Company
Shakespeare’s Ladies at Tea or I Thought You’d Never Asp
Written by Kathleen Kirk
Written by the Free Shakespeare Theatre Company of Chicago
Directed by Frank Farrell
Presented as part of the 2023 Little Shakespeare Festival
August 3- 20 at UNDER St. Marks
First Flight Theatre Company will present Shakespeare’s Ladies at Tea or I Thought You’d Never Asp written by Kathleen Kirk and Shakespeare’s Deaths written by the Free Shakespeare Theatre Company of Chicago, both directed by Frank Farrell. This production will be presented as part of the 2023 Little Shakespeare Festival at UNDER St. Marks (94 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10009) with performances on Thu 8/10 at 9pm, Fri 8/11 at 10pm, Sat 8/12 at 5pm, Fri 8/18 at 6pm & Sat 8/19 at 7pm. Tickets ($25 in person) are available for advance purchase at www.frigid.nyc. The performance will run approximately 55 minutes.
Shakespeare’s Ladies at Tea is a sketch of what might happen if eight Shakespearean ladies were to get together for tea. Each character is only able to speak the lines the Bard gave her, and the women are at first embarrassed and uncertain what to say at all, but Cleopatra is fearless and Lady Macbeth keeps things rolling along pretty well: in all the party is a triumph.
Shakespeare’s Deaths To close the marathon, at dinnertime Saturday, the players pratfell through a 10-minute rapid-fire condensation of almost every death scene in Shakespeare’s 37 plays. Over and over, they were shot, stabbed and clubbed, but finally fell recumbent upon the ground, their eyes all closed at last, a great labor done: ‘My gross flesh sinks downward – I can no more – Farewell, friends. This, this be ends.’” Eric Zorn, Chicago Tribune, Monday, April 26, 1982.
There are 74 onstage deaths in the works of William Shakespeare — 75 if you count the black ill-favored fly killed in Titus Andronicus. From the Roman suicides in Julius Caesar to the death fall of Prince Arthur in King John; from the carnage at the end of Hamlet to snakes in a basket in Antony and Cleopatra. And then there’s the pie that Titus serves his guests. Audiences will see all these and more in 15 minutes, updated for 2023 by the founder of Chicago’s Free Shakespeare Theatre Company, Frank Farrell.
The cast will feature Stella Berrettini, Joseph Bowen, Danny Crawford, Claudia Egli, Frank Farrell, Imogen Finlayson, Marsha-Ann Hay and Jennifer Kim with Stage Manager Thomas J. Donohoe II.
KATHLEEN KIRK (Shakespeare’s Ladies at Tea/Playwright) is a widely-published poet, freelance writer, editor, actor, and director who moved back to her hometown in central Illinois after a career in Chicago. She serves on the Board of Heartland Theatre Company, where she has acted, directed, and written short plays for the Young at Heartland acting troupe. She writes history-based scripts for Illinois Voices Theatre, performed in the annual History Makers Gala and Evergreen Cemetery Walk for the McLean County Museum of History. In Chicago, Kathleen acted with the Free Shakespeare Company, for which Shakespeare’s Ladies at Tea was written, as well as the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Court Theatre, and others, and directed in the Organic Theater’s New Plays Festival. She is the poetry editor for Escape Into Life, an online journal, and works part time at a public library.
FRANK FARRELL (Director & Artistic Director of the First Flight Theatre Company) has recently directed three short films and one full length; Walt Kelly’s Songs of the Pogo, The Leaves Were Falling, Salvador and In the Garden of Live Flowers. He was an actor in Chicago for 40 years receiving three Joseph Jefferson acting nominations and recently returned to NYC where he was born. While in Chicago he directed and produced plays for Free Shakespeare Theatre Company, Temporary Theatre, Shakespeare’s Herd, Steppenwolf Theater, Raven Theatre, Equity Library Theater Chicago, the North Lakeside Players and Theatre-Hikes. For Citadel Theatre in Lake Forest, IL he directed outdoor productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, Spoon River Anthology, Romeo and Juliet and Scapin. Frank has formed six theater companies along the way including Theatre-Hikes in Chicago and, in Grand Haven, Michigan, the Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company. In NYC he wrote, directed and produced Forgotten Soldiers from Our Forgotten War for the First Flight Theatre Company, the seventh theatre group he has formed. For First Flight he also coordinated several stage readings of Maxwell Anderson’s plays in New York City and Chicago. Frank directed and produced last summer’s production of Maxwell Anderson’s play Valley Forge and this summer’s production of Little Women for First Flight at The Hermitage Mansion in Bergen County, New Jersey. His Zoom film In the Garden of Live Flowers recently won Best Biopic at the Green Academy Awards Film Festival. Since 2015 he has published seven books including Forgotten Soldiers from Our Forgotten War, all available at Amazon.com.
THE FREE SHAKESPEARE THEATRE COMPANY (Shakespeare’s Deaths/Playwright) had its beginnings in October 1980 when Frank Farrell assembled a group of Chicagoans to explore Shakespeare’s plays and try to make them more accessible to modern audiences. The book Free Shakespeare by John Russell Brown served as a guide for the new company. Brown hoped a group of actors would get together and with no rehearsal and no director put on Shakespeare’s plays for the public. In this way he theorized that the actors and the audience would discover the plays together. For its first season the company presented 12 Plays by Shakespeare in late night weekend performances at a new theatre space at the time behind Chicago’s Second City Theatre. In April of 1982 for Shakespeare’s birthday Free Shakespeare presented a 24-hour marathon of plays and sonnets by the Bard. This marathon included the two short plays Shakespeare’s Ladies at Tea and Shakespeare’s Deaths. The Free Shakespeare Theatre Company was Chicago’s first year-round Shakespeare company and continued producing plays by Shakespeare for many years. It proved to be a valuable training ground for young actors during Chicago’s burgeoning theatre growth in the final decades of the 20th century.
FIRST FLIGHT THEATRE COMPANY is a not-for-profit founded by Frank Farrell in 2018 is devoted to presenting the plays of 20th century American playwright Maxwell Anderson as well as other playwrights who instill poetry in their writing. Since its start the company has performed live stage readings of Anderson’s plays in New Jersey, New York City and Chicago including Valley Forge, Elizabeth the Queen, Mary of Scotland, Sea-Wife, The Masque of Queens, White Desert and The Eve of St. Mark. In addition, the company presented live presentations in New York City of Frank Farrell’s play Forgotten Soldiers from Our Forgotten War, Maxwell Anderson’s first Broadway play White Desert in Chicago and Dickens by Candlelight: A Christmas Carol at the Hermitage in New Jersey. During the pandemic First Flight presented play readings on Zoom for the public. These were benefits featuring actors from all over the United States and England and they benefited various not-for-profits. Productions streamed included Maxwell Anderson’s one-act plays The Feast of Ortolans, Second Overture, The Miracle of the Danube and Letter to Jackie. Also streamed were A Vampire Kiss in the Plague of 1666 written by James Fitzmaurice, which went on to win many awards on the film festival circuit, Salvador, a play about Salvador Dalí by Richard Young, another film festival winner, and a streaming version of Anderson’s White Desert. Post-pandemic the company presented at The Hermitage in New Jersey outdoor productions of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Maxwell Anderson’s Valley Forge followed by indoor performances of Mina, based on Dracula and a reprise of Dickens by Candlelight: A Christmas Carol. For this past Earth Day in April the First Flight Theatre Company presented streaming performances of In the Garden of Live Flowers, a play about Rachel Carson, which went on to be a winner at this year’s Green Academy Award Film Festival. Most recently the company and the Instant Shakespeare Company have joined forces presenting play readings at New York City’s various public libraries including Anderson’s White Desert and Sea-Wife and upcoming in December Maxwell Anderson’s 1924 play What Price Glory. www.firstflighttheatreco.com