US Premiere of Keats' THE DARK AGES: OTHO THE GREAT Opens 6/11

By: Apr. 17, 2016
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Frank Farrell presents his adaptation of John Keats's only full-length play, retitled The Dark Ages: Otho the Great, based on the life of Otto I, German king in 936 CE and Holy Roman Emperor from 962 until his death in 973. The production depicts the tragic fate of Otho's valiant but hotheaded son Ludolph, whose unfaithful lover and her scheming brother induce him to rebel against his father and persecute his innocent cousin. The show runs 2 ½ hours with one intermission.

Written in 1819, two years before the great British poet's untimely death at age 26 due to tuberculosis, the play was intended for the renowned Shakespearean actor Edmund Kean to perform at Drury Lane in London. Keats was convinced that this play would have made both his name as a poet and a tidy sum if it were ever performed. However, Otho the Great was never performed in Keats' lifetime, and was first produced at the St. Martin's Lane Theatre, London, on November 26, 1950.

WHEN: Public Opening: Saturday, June 11, 2016, at 8 p.m. (reception following)
Preview Opening: Friday, June 10 at 8 p.m.
Runs on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. through June 25

WHERE: Unity Lutheran Church, 1212 W. Balmoral Ave., Chicago, IL 60640 Free street parking on Balmoral and nearby streets; CTA: #151 bus, Berwyn Red Line stop

TICKETS: 773-293-1358 and $10 on Fridays, June 10, 17, 24$15 on Saturdays, June 11, 18, 25

CAST: Douglas Bryan Bean (Otho), Marshal Bean (The Captain), Nick Bryant (Ludolph), Morgan Alyse Burkey (Erminia), Nathaniel Crosby Fishburn (Albert), Johnny Garcia (Gonfred), Gary Grenholm (Ethelbert), Jhaid Hall (The Page), Jason Lacombe (Conrad), Krista Leland (Auranthe), Ross Magyar (Sigifred), Joshua Messick (Theodore), Julie Mitre (The Physician), and Luke Van Marter (Gersa). Staff includes Frank Farrell (Producer) and Julia Farrell Diefenbach (Director).

Frank Farrell calls his version of Keats' play The Dark Ages: Otho the Great because the longer title will help audiences understand the irony. "I see this work as Vikings putting on a play by Shakespeare," Farrell said. "Audiences should see the play as a depiction of human transition into a more civilized society." Director Julia Farrell is no relation to Frank Farrell except that they co-directed last summer's outdoor production of As You Like It for Citadel Theatre in Lake Forest, IL

In 1983, Frank Farrell staged a reading of Otho the Great at Piper's Alley with the Free Shakespeare Company, Chicago's first theater to produce Shakespeare year-round. As the company's founder and artistic director, Farrell also produced a John Keats festival with the participation of Keats' scholars from local universities to read and discuss Keats' poems as well as the play. The festival also included the performance art piece There Was a Naughty Boy, featuring Farrell as Keats, playwright Scott McPherson as artist Joseph Severn, and Elizabeth Kelly as Keats' lover-in-letters, Fanny Brawne.

Several years later, Farrell was frequently featured in the Green Mill's Uptown Poetry Slams as Rap Master Johnnie Keats, which was later included in his one-man show Homeboy, performed in Chicago and New York City in the early 90s. Farrell adapted Joan Rees' novel Bright Star for the stage in 2000, and, in 2001, several scenes were performed as part of Theatre-Hikes' outdoor production Scenes of Romance. The Jane Campion film Bright Star, based on the life of Keats, was released in September 2009. On the coattails of that film's release, Farrell's stage version was first performed in late 2009 and early 2010 at Chicago's North Lakeside Cultural Center.


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