Two young souls learn to navigate a new world and discover each other. Seattle Shakespeare Company starts the New Year with Shakespeare’s fairytale of love and war – All’s Well That Ends Well. Victor Pappas returns to the company to direct the production which runs January 8 through February 3. “We love having Victor working with us,” said Seattle Shakespeare Company Artistic Director George Mount. “His delightful productions of The Importance of Being Earnest and Mrs. Warren’s Profession are highlights for the company. All’s Well That Ends Well is a play that he really, really wanted to do. It was on his ‘bucket list!’ So it made perfect sense to bring him on board to stage it for us. I know he’ll bring his thoughtful care to this often challenging work.” “I think it’s a play about the beautifully rich complexity of figuring out who you are in the world and how other people affect that,” said Pappas at the first rehearsal for All’s Well That Ends Well. “For Bertram and Helena it is a journey that’s about love and about how one, as a young person, has to make mistakes in order to move past ego and be able to truly love another.” The world of All’s Well That Ends Well is in decline. Leaders are failing and wars loom large. Smart and unwavering, Helena has pinned her heart to Bertram. He wants nothing to do with her and runs off to the wars for adventure and to escape his newly-arranged marriage. So Helena follows him. Overcoming obstacles and aided by a fantastic collection of comic characters, the two begin separate journeys towards each other, both learning about the paradox of holding love tight as well as letting go. Pappas and his design team have elected to set the play during the Middle Ages. Shakespeare based All’s Well That Ends Well on an original story based during that period. “It was important to me that it be a time and place where going off to war was not a cynical thing, but a way of proving your valor and of achieving your reputation,” said Pappas. “It is also a period in which chastity is genuinely valuable and is connected to valor.” Keiko Green and Conner Brady Neddersen play Helena and Bertram in All’s Well That Ends Welll. They are joined by Suzanne Bouchard as Bertram’s mother the Countess of Rossillion, Michael Winters as the King of France, R. Hamilton Wright as Lord Lafew, George Mount as Parolles, and Christopher Morson and Benjamin McFadden as the Dumaine brothers. Sixteen actors comprise the ensemble of All’s Well That Ends Welll. Set design for the production is by Carol Wolfe Clay, costume design by K.D. Schill, lighting design by Andrew D. Smith, and sound design by Johanna Melamed.
Not familiar with George Bernard Shaw’s comedy Arms and the Man? Don’t worry, we’re here to set you at ease with some fun facts about the show.
A Ghastly Failure?Intending to create an “anti-romantic comedy,” Shaw was shocked by the abundant opening night laughter for Arms and the Man. He later wrote to a friend, “going before the curtain to tremendous applause, [I was] the only person in the theatre who knew that the whole affair was a ghastly failure.”
An “Off” LocationGeography wasn’t Shaw’s strong suit. He wanted to set the play during a recent war, and chose Bulgaria on the advice of friends shortly before the script “was nearly finished.” “I looked up Bulgaria and [Serbia] in an atlas, made all of the characters end in ‘off’, and the play was complete.”
Chocolate SoldiersRaina’s pet name for Captain Bluntschli was inspired by slang for soldiers who are unwilling to fight or otherwise “soft” in the militaries of Australia (as “choco”) and Israel (as “hayal shel shokolad”).
Orwell’s Favorite ShawGeorge Orwell considered Arms and the Man to be “probably the wittiest play [Shaw] ever wrote, the most flawless technically, and in spite of being a very light comedy, the most telling.”
Boss-MuseThe formidable muse and actress Florence Farr commissioned Shaw to write Arms and the Man. Farr embodied the Victorian “New Woman” that Shaw so admired…and they had a brief affair during the writing of the play. Shaw failed to complete the script in time for its intended opening. Farr played Louka when the play premiered the following month, and that was the last of their artistic collaborations.
Alps and BalkansShaw scrapped his original title, Alps and Balkans, in favor of an ironic reference to the opening line of the Roman poet Virgil’s war-glorifying Aeneid, “Of arms and the man I sing . . .”
Late Start, Late FinishArms and the Man marked Shaw’s first commercial success at the age of 37. Shaw continued to write until he was 94 years old, when he died.
This handsome figure of mineIn the summer of 1953 Marlon Brando played Sergius Saranoff in a one-week production of Arms and the Man. It was the last time Brando, who “hated it,” acted in a live theatre production.
Take a glimpse into the rehearsal room for Arms and the Man, directed by David Armstrong. George Bernard Shaw’s sparkling romantic comedy starts Oct. 23 at the Center Theatre.
George Bernard Shaw’s recipe for fun mixes smarts with silliness and adds just a dash of morality. Arms and the Man takes center stage at Seattle Shakespeare Company helmed by David Armstrong, former artistic director of the 5th Avenue Theatre. “This is a really exciting project for Seattle Shakespeare Company,” said Artistic Director George Mount at the first rehearsal for Arms and the Man. “It’s our third show with Shaw, who is fast becoming a friend of the company, and I’m completely pleased and proud to welcome Allen Fitzpatrick and David Armstrong for their Seattle Shakes debuts.” “One of my goals as I stepped down from 18 years at the 5th Avenue was to do some things I hadn’t had a chance to do in a long time. On the top of my list was to do a classic play,” remarked Arms and the Man Director David Armstrong. “I’ve always been drawn to Shaw. I think it’s the language, the big ideas, and the audaciousness. And I like audacious theatre. It’s why I like Shakespeare. It’s why I like musicals.” One of George Bernard Shaw’s earliest successes, Arms and the Man is a comic send-up of the romantic notions of love and war. Raina Petkoff is young, beautiful, and filled with idealistic ideas about love. She’s all set to marry war hero Major Saranoff, but then the combat crashes through her window in the form a soldier fighting for the opposing side. Intrigued, Raina agrees to hide him, but only after learning he carries chocolates instead of bullets. After the war ends, both rival soldiers return for their love, and that’s when the real battle for Raina’s heart begins. A frequent artist at Seattle Shakespeare Company, Brenda Joyner plays Raina Petkoff. Joyner last appeared in Bring Down the House and The Winter’s Tale. Sylvester Kamara plays Captain Bluntschli. Kamara recently appeared in Medea and Titus Andronicus. Major Saranoff will be played by Richard Sloniker who appeared last season in The Merchant of Venice. Joining them will be Allen Fitzpatrick (Major Petkoff), Suzy Hunt (Catherine Petkoff), Jonelle Jordan (Louka), and George Mount (Nicola). The design team for Arms and the Man will invoke the rolling mountainous region of Bulgaria in the late 1880s. Set design for the production is by Julia Hays Welch, costume design by Jocelyne Fowler, lighting design by Tristan Roberson, and sound design by Jay Weinland. Tickets to Arms and the Man are available now through the Seattle Shakespeare Company Box Office at 206-733-8222 as well as online at www.seattleshakespeare.org.