This Greenville Journal article by Paul Hyde was originally published on May 10th, 2023. Photo: Paul Kwok
Shakespeare’s “Merry Wives of Windsor” will be reborn as a contemporary reality-style show in this year’s Upstate Shakespeare Festival.
Stage director John Fagan is approaching Shakespeare’s 1602 play with the wildly popular “Real Housewives” TV series in mind.
Think of it as “The Real Merry Housewives of Windsor.”
“Those reality shows are fun, silly and over-the-top,” said Fagan. “That spirit lends itself perfectly for this play.”
As in a “Real Housewives” episode, “Merry Wives” focuses on the shenanigans of affluent women. The “merry wives” of the title are Mistress Page and Mistress Ford.
“These are two very wealthy women with time on their hands and mischief on their minds,” said Fagan, who is celebrating his 24th year as the festival’s producing artistic director.
“It’s just going to be a perfect evening of entertainment for everyone,” he said.
In the play, the fat aging knight, Sir John Falstaff, finds himself broke and sets out to woo the rich housewives.
Mistress Page and Mistress Ford play along but only to exact joyful revenge on Falstaff.
Accordingly, this production of “Merry Wives” will be performed in modern costumes.
Tradition has it that “The Merry Wives of Windsor” was written at the request of Queen Elizabeth I. After watching “Henry IV, Part I,” she asked Shakespeare to write a play depicting Falstaff in love.
This summer’s production marks only the second time the Upstate Shakespeare Festival has produced “The Merry Wives of Windsor” in its 28-year history.
Featuring a local cast of 21, “Merry Wives” runs for four weeks outdoors in Falls Park, 7 p.m. Thursday-Sunday, May 25-June 18. Admission is free.
The cast includes Evan Harris as Falstaff, Meghan Todd as Mistress Page, and Cameron Triepper as Mistress Ford.
Next up: ‘Macbeth’
Fagan follows the giddy “Merry Wives” with the bloody tragedy “Macbeth,” running July 6-30 and brought back by popular demand.
“It’s a play everyone wants to see,” Fagan said. “It’s got everything – lust, ambition, violence, witches and even a little bit of comedy.”
With a local cast of 31, “Macbeth” is being produced by the festival for the fourth time in its history.
The play is famously cursed. In previous productions, the Upstate Shakespeare Festival has seen actors getting injured, paint falling off the scenery, sets coming apart and acts of vandalism.
Cursed it may be, but the show must go on.
The Upstate Shakespeare Festival is supported by Warehouse Theatre, Metropolitan Arts Council, City of Greenville, and Family Legacy.
Though performances are admission-free, donations are appreciated.
If you go
What: Upstate Shakespeare Festival: “Merry Wives of Windsor” and “Macbeth”
When: “Merry Wives of Windsor”: 7 p.m. Thursday-Sunday, May 25-June 18 (no performance on June 3); “Macbeth”: 7 p.m. Thursday-Sunday, July 6-30
Where: Falls Park