Directed by Richard Ziman
Running Time: TBD

ESP is bringing a great comic barber back to the dramatic stage. The Barber of Seville is a famous title, though Rossini's comic opera is more often produced nowadays than the play. But The Barber of Seville, or All That Trouble for Nothing, was a commedia romp from its second performance. We say second performance because its first was something of a legendary disaster, until the author reconstructed it over two days, cutting it from five to four acts, and voila—European hit status! Join us for a scintillating 18th Century frolic, a terrific farce about true love and its bumpy courses, featuring Trick Danneker, Allen Fitzpatrick, David Gehrman, Basil Harris, Hana Lass, John Patrick Lowrie, Joseph P. McCarthy, and Connor Toms.

Part of the series: Endangered Species Project

Endangered Species Project is an organization of distinguished Seattle theatre artists dedicated to presenting plays that seldom get full productions. While it is an essential duty of theatres to read and develop new work, there’s a parallel need to bring older neglected plays back to the stage. Through our simply staged readings, we lend live voices to plays that are now silent on our bookshelves.  

Founded in February of 2011, Endangered Species Project has consistently mounted monthly readings. Expanding from our core group of eleven, dozens of Seattle’s best and bravest actors have been instrumental in bringing new life to these plays. We strive to do nothing that gets between the audience and the play. We want to give full scope to those two most powerful forces in the theatre: a playwright’s ideas and the audience’s imagination.

Learn more at www.endangeredspeciesproject.org.

Figaro, Figaro, Figaro!  

In the supposedly cruel month of April, ESP brings a great comic barber back to the dramatic stage! 

Yes, The Barber of Seville is a famous title - Rossini's comic opera is more often produced than the play nowadays - but The Barber of Seville, or All That Trouble for Nothing, (in French Le Barbier de Séville ou la Précaution inutile) was a commedia romp from its second performance. We say second performance, because its first was something of a legendary disaster until the author reconstructed it over two days, cutting it from five to four acts, and voila—European hit status!

The Barber is actually just the beginning. There are three plays about Figaro and his friends. The second one, where Figaro gets married (you might have heard of that opera too, by some genius named Mozart), is just as funny but has a more serious theme; the third, A Mother's Guilt, is the most serious of all, revealing several secrets about the main characters, which are only hinted at in the first two plays. (ESP has plans to eventually read all three!) 

Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais was born in 1732 and died in 1799; in his 67 years, he packed enough life in for a particularly active man of 120. His individual activities make the collective Enlightenment seem slightly dimmer by comparison. He was, among many other things, a watchmaker, an inventor, a diplomat, a sometime playwright, a publisher, a spy, a revolutionary, an arms dealer, and a notorious lover. He helped fund the American Revolution. He tried to support the French Revolution as well, but wound up a fugitive from Robespierre. He married thrice and had to suffer the suspicions of his enemies that he poisoned his first two wives, though no one ever seriously brought these charges; at all events, he was famous for adoring his family and friends. 

His father, a man named André-Charles Caron, was a watchmaker (a lucrative business calling during the Enlightenment, and an excellent metaphor for building plays, we think!) and his son invented several improvements to the clockwork. He mounted a watch on a ring that adorned the hand of the infamous Madame de Pompadour, for which he became famous after he won a notorious court case that proved that he and not a rival created the watch. He became a celebrity and a friend to many of the rich and famous, whom he later satirized in his works.  

At one point he went to Spain to get a fellow to honor his promise to marry his sister; the fellow turned out to be a thoroughgoing cad, and the marriage was called off. Beaumarchais, however, had found the setting for his major plays. (The adventure with the cad became a play too - but Goethe wrote it.) 

Barber is somewhat autobiographical. The wily title character, who has dabbled in playwriting, is certainly a stand-in for the author. It's been pointed out that even his name, Figaro, may be a pun on Beaumarchais' birth name: fils Caron or "son of Caron." The play's plot is uncomplicated—the servant who helps his master overcome obstacles to win his beloved—but the details are sophisticated and very funny indeed. The play's commedia dell'arte origins were here made more realistic: Beaumarchais was very proud that the villain of the piece is never merely an antagonist, but has hopes and dreams of his own, however absurd.  

But you need know none of this to enjoy this terrific farce about true love and its bumpy courses. Even if all you know about The Barber of Seville are bits of Rossini's overture—well, lucky you. But get your ticket because, to borrow a phrase from our friend Speight Jenkins, it's going to be a great show! 

From Beaumarchais' introduction to this play

Works for the theatre, Sir, are like children are for women: conceived with a thrill of intense pleasure, rounded out with some exhaustion, delivered in agony, and rarely surviving long enough to repay the parents for their trouble: more of a grief than a pleasure. Follow them in their career: they hardly see the light of day than they are accused of being trouble-makers, and censors are applied: as a result, any further development is often stunted. Instead of gently watching them play, the cruel denizens of the pit handle them roughly, and often drop them: sometimes the actor employed to make them presentable lets them fall so flat they never walk again. Let them out of your sight for a moment, and you find them, sad to say, playing anywhere, but in rags, unrecognisable, hideously cut about and crawling with critics. If they escape all those calamities, and shine for a moment in the world, they fall victims to the greatest of them all, and die a lingering death from being forgotten: their life is over, they are allowed to sink back into oblivion, lost forever in the vast immensity of books.