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Lilli Cooper and Santino Fontana to Star in Benefit Reading of THE BELLE'S STRATAGEM

Red Bull Theater will be presenting the reading on Monday, February 22nd at 7:30PM EST.

Lilli Cooper and Santino Fontana to Star in Benefit Reading of THE BELLE'S STRATAGEM

RED BULL THEATER today announced that its 2020-21 offerings will continue later this month with a FREE benefit reading of Hannah Cowley's The Belle's Stratagem, directed by Gaye Taylor Upchurch.

The event will star Tony Award nominee Lilli Cooper (Tootsie, Wicked, Spring Awakening, SpongeBob Squarepants) and Tony Award winner Santino Fontana (Broadway: Tootsie; Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella; "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend"). The reading will also feature Cecil Baldwin (Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind - New York Neo-Futurists), Jasmine Batchelor (Measure for Measure - Public Theater's Mobile Unit, Continuity - Manhattan Theatre Club), Mark Bedard (Promenade - City Center Encores!, Fashions for Men - Mint Theater, Julius Caesar - Theatre for a New Audience/Oregon Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors - Folger Theatre), Neal Bledsoe (Broadway: Impressionism, The Pride - Wallis Annenberg Center), Peter Jay Fernandez (Broadway: All the Way, Cyrano de Bergerac, Julius Caesar, Henry IV; Socrates, Othello, Father Comes Home From the Wars [Parts 1, 2 & 3], Julius Caesar, Henry VIII, As You Like It - Public Theater), Tony Jenkins (Twelfth Night - Dumb Theatre Co, Black Magic - NY Fringe Festival), Lauren Karaman (Theatre for One - Madison Square Park, When I Started Dating Men - Dixon Place; TV: "Project Runway" seasons 16 & 17: series regular), Aaron Krohn (Red Bull Theater: Coriolanus, Henry IV; Broadway: The Lehman Trilogy, Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, Cabaret, Macbeth, The Farnsworth Invention, The Coast of Utopia, Julius Caesar, Henry IV), Heather Alicia Simms (Broadway: Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, A Raisin in the Sun, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom; By the Way, Meet Vera Stark - Signature Theatre; Fairview - Soho Rep/Theatre for a New Audience/Berkeley Rep), and Chauncy Thomas (To Kill a Mockingbird - Bay Street Theatre; Stick Fly, Ruined, On Golden Pond, Pericles - St. Louis Black Repertory).

In this light-hearted comedy of courtship, the knife-sharp belle Letitia has been betrothed to the foppish Doricourt since childhood, but fears she is soon to be trapped in a loveless marriage. With the help of the sly Mrs. Racket, the saucy Mrs. Ogle, and country Lady Frances Touchwood - whose sniveling husband is terrified of her discovering city life - Letitia hatches a plan to fascinate her fiancé, ensuring that he knows he is soon to be wed to an equal partner. The women conspire to open the eyes of the men - dancing rings around them at a masquerade ball where mistaken identities ensure joyous resolution.

The online reading will premiere LIVE on Monday February 22nd at 7:30 PM EST. A recording of the livestream will be available until 7PM EST on Friday, February 26th - then it disappears. This event is a benefit for Red Bull Theater. Tickets are Pay What You Can. Advance reservations are recommended.

On Thursday February 25th at 7:30 PM EST, there will be a free Bull Session, an interactive discussion of the play and its themes with director Gaye Taylor Upchurch, scholar Dustin D. Stewart, and members of the company. Registrants will receive a link to participate.

"Written in 1780, The Belle's Stratagem is a timeless and triumphant cry for love, decency, and equality. We're thrilled to continue our online offerings with this under-performed great classic play by yet another talented female playwright, Hannah Cowley. With the inspired direction of Gaye Taylor Upchurch and this fantastically talented company, this rom-com romp is certain to be something special - a delightful diversion from the Februaries." said Managing Director Bredeson.

Scholar Dustin D. Stewart explains, "The Belle's Stratagem (1780) is a sparkling comedy about the interconnectedness of the country with the city and authenticity with artifice. The playwright's life illustrates these themes of her art. Yet this strict separation between city and country-one imagined as a space for art and the other a space for morality, one fake and the other genuine-is just the sort of arrangement that The Belle's Stratagem rejects. In the play's subplot, it's because Lady Frances retains her homespun virtue that she needs to remain in town, shining as an example at court. In the main plot, the delightful masquerade scene allows Letitia to put off her traditional English modesty, which her suitor Doricourt has mistaken for blandness, and don a different mask. Her native femininity proves an act, a graceful veil but still a veil, and her true self appears in whatever performance she commits to next. She can, she exults, 'be anything-and all!' City values and country values need one another, but both people and nations might become more authentically themselves by deciding to change roles. Given our own nation's ongoing clash between urban and rural sensibilities, now is a propitious time to bring Hannah Cowley back to the big city after her long retirement in the country. But maybe that's not the right way to put it. Perhaps she also took the London stage and its masks, truthful because playful, with her as she went back home."

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