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Jason Jung's PANIC! to Explore Censorship, Politics and History at the Secret Theatre

Jason Jung's PANIC! to Explore Censorship, Politics and History at the Secret Theatre

Mother of Invention Theatre Company who last staged well received productions of Tennessee Williams Small Craft Warnings and Look Homeward, Angel, has announced that it will stage PANIC! a new play written and directed by Jason Jung about censorship during Shakespeare's lifetime that eerily resembles censorship that takes place today, August 10th through August 30th at the Secret Theatre (4402 23rd St, Long Island City).

In PANIC! Shakespeare is the rock star of the Elizabethan age and at the height of his popularity but like every writer in Elizabethan England, Shakespeare is bound by the rules of censorship, so when there is an opportunity to produce his play, Richard the Second, uncensored Shakespeare grabs it, but he doesn't realize that it is part of plot to incite a rebellion.

One of the central themes of PANIC! is censorship. In the play, as in modern life, censorship is both overt and covert. On the overt side, foreign governments are increasingly restricting freedom of speech while in America corporate entities withdraw funding from plays that are deemed too political. More covertly, there is an assumption by many, that artists and performers should stay away from anything political, which effectively silences them.

One of the parallels between Elizabethan England and Modern America is the religious bigotry that is woven through the cultures. By the time Elizabeth became Queen, the rift between the Vatican and the Church of England had grown vicious and the people of England were caught in the middle. The Pope had issued a decree that was a thinly veiled death threat, similar to a Fatawa that might be issued by an extremist Muslim cleric today. Some Catholics at the time turned to violence. Their violence tainted the peaceful and law abiding Catholics living in England in the same way Islamic terrorism taints the mostly law abiding Muslims living in modern America.

In PANIC!, it is revealed that Shakespeare fears being tainted as a Catholic because his cousin, Robert Southwell, was a Catholic Jesuit Priest who secretly held mass and communion throughout England. Southwell was eventually hung and gutted for his faith after being tortured and raped by Richard Topcliffe. In the play, a fictional version of Topcliffe, named Highcliffe, hunts Shakespeare believing him to be a Catholic like his cousin, Southwell.

Shakespeare wrote some twenty-eight sonnets about his 'dark lady', but no one can seem to say definitively who she was, or what Shakespeare meant by 'dark'. In Elizabethan England, a Moor was essentially anyone who was dark skinned and not from Europe. In London a large Moorish community sprang up in the area of Aldgate (pronounced Old Gate). These Moors had a range of backgrounds some had Indian backgrounds while others were of African descent, but these Moors were not slaves. They were free citizens of England, and many had been slaves in Spanish ships but were freed when captured by English ships. Queen Elizabeth even opened up diplomatic channels between England and Morocco in order to fight their common enemy, Spain.

In PANIC!, Shakespeare's Dark Lady is portrayed as a light-skinned Moorish woman who is also the mistress of the Lord Chamberlain. While she lives comfortably, Amy Thomas has sacrificed living with her family and even her name to live at higher standard. She lives by the name Amalia Donnascura and must call herself Italian, so that she may be accepted in polite Elizabethan society. Despite living well by her wits, in the end, Amy is essentially alone. A dark woman living a lie constructed by White men.

The cast of PANIC! Features Gina Stahlneker, Ryan Tramont, Adam Delia, Robert McEvily, Kristin Patton, Ginger Grace, Kevin Mckenzie Mejia, Teresa Settanni Reynolds, Will Warren and Arden Nicoletta.

PANIC! Features costume design by Michael Piatkowski.

Jason Jung is a New York City based writer of Chinese and European descent. He began writing as a way to overcome dyslexia. His short play, In Naked Time, was a finalist at the 37th Annual Samuel French Off Off Broadway Festival. His play, ABOMINATION, received a workshop production at HB Studios through a grant from the NYS Council on the Arts. His short film Bedtime Story was acquired and distributed by MiniMovie. His short story Saving Face, was published in Hardboiled Magazine. His other works include the plays Forbidden City, Eulogy, and Excessive Measures. In addition to his writing, Jason Jung has worked in publishing, public relations, and politics. He received a BA in English from SUNY Purchase.

Performances of PANIC! are on Aug 10, Aug 15, Aug 20, Aug 25 and Aug 30. Tickets are $18 and can be purchased online.

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Jason Jung's PANIC! to Explore Censorship, Politics and History at the Secret Theatre

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