Medieval Chester plays receive modern makeover in UT production

April 15, 2010 | Arts, UToday
By Angela Riddel



The University of Toledo Department of Theatre and Film’s 2009-10 season, “Style & Substance,” will conclude with a look back — way back — to the English cycle drama tradition of the medieval era.

The devil, portrayed by Phillipe Taylor, tries to tempt Jesus, played by Pat Miller, to turn stone into bread in the “Creation/Doomsday: Selections From the Chester Mystery Cycle.”

The devil, portrayed by Phillipe Taylor, tries to tempt Jesus, played by Pat Miller, to turn stone into bread in the “Creation/Doomsday: Selections From the Chester Mystery Cycle.”

At that time in England, one of the most popular theatrical forms was the cycle drama, which depicted a series of biblical plays ranging from the creation of the universe to the end of the world.

One of the most famous of these was the Chester Cycle, performed in the English town of Chester. Director Edmund B. Lingan, UT assistant professor of theatre, in collaboration with medieval literature expert Dr. Christina Fitzgerald, UT associate professor of English, has adapted an early 16th-century version of this play titled “Creation/Doomsday: Selections From the Chester Mystery Cycle.”

These plays will be performed in UT’s Center for Performing Arts Center Theatre Friday through Sunday, April 16-18, and Wednesday through Sunday, April 21-25. Performances will be at 7:30 p.m., except Sunday shows, which will be at 2 p.m. Doors open 30 minutes before curtain time.

Playgoers will be treated to an imaginative theatrical experience in which 12 actors use a highly physical style of performing to portray nearly 70 characters and unfold stories from the creation of the world through Judgment Day.

The director’s approach to this production is inspired by the techniques of late 20th-century theatre groups, such as the Open Theatre, the Living Theatre and the Performance Group. This approach differs from the elaborate and heavy staging techniques that would have been used during the medieval era. Lingan believes the simplified staging for this production will add a fluidity and cohesiveness that will help contemporary audiences to better follow the complex language and action that is contained in “Creation/Doomsday.”

“The set reflects the morally simple theology that characterizes the Chester Cycle,” Lingan said. “This is a drama about good doing battle with evil, the confrontation of Christ by Satan, and the separation of the saved from the damned.”

The company appearing in the production will be Jillian Albert, Ahmed Atallah, Megan Beckett, Starr Chellsea Cutino, Lauren Eaton, Elif Erturk, JoEllen Jacob, Pat Miller, Daniel Partin, Phillipe Taylor, Kari Thomas and Emily Wessendarp.

Tickets are $13 for general admission, $11 for faculty, staff, alumni and seniors, and $9 for students. They can be purchased online at www.utoledo.edu/BoxOffice, by calling 419.530.2375, or by visiting the in the Center for Performing Arts Box Office Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The box office also is open 90 minutes prior to show times.