When the curtain rises on Carlisle Floyd’s opera The Prince of Players, you are immediately transported to a 17th-century London theater, and a man – Edward Kynaston – is playing Desdemona in Shakespeare’s Othello.
In Shakespeare’s time and until the 1660s, women were forbidden by law to act on stage. But a king’s edict changed history.
At its core, Prince of Players is an opera about theater. It explores this crisis of identity for Kynaston (his world after all is turned upside down when women are allowed to pursue acting careers) as well as the hard-won opportunity for women to find their voice on stage. By the end of the opera, we see Margaret Hughes playing Desdemona (with a newfound realism in theater) and Kynaston is Othello.
The characters in Prince of Players are based on real historical figures who shaped 17th-century theater in England. Here’s a little more about the history that inspired the opera:
- Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans had closed the theaters in 1642 for their “lascivious Mirth and Levity.” The theaters were closed for 18 years until the monarchy was “restored” under Charles II. Hence, this period of history is known as the Restoration Era.
- This was the era of the famous diarist Samuel Pepys (and England’s first poet Laureate John Dryden) who both knew and wrote about Kynaston. Kynaston was one of the greatest stars of the re-opened London theater scene.
- But Charles II (the Merry Monarch) had new ideas. With his famous mistress Nell Gwynn, he proclaimed that “No He shall ere again upon an English stage play She”…and history was made to Kynaston’s initial detriment.
- Peg Hughes and Nell Gwynn became two of the first famous female actors on the English Stage.
A fun article from The Guardian: “Secret lives of women who broke taboo to act in Shakespeare.”
PRINCE OF PLAYERS
October 12 at 7:30 pm
October 14 at 2:30 pm
Marcus Center for the Performing Arts
Tickets start at $30
Learn more about PRINCE OF PLAYERS and how to purchase tickets here.