American theatre in the 1870s was much different than what theatregoers, and the actors themselves, experience today.
One influential actor from the 19th Century was Edwin Booth. Considered the father of American acting in theatre circles, Booth was supremely successful in his time. He was a member of the original royal family of American theatre, which included his father Junius and brother, the notorious John Wilkes Booth. Local actress and playwright Angela Iannone has already written and produced three plays about the great 19th Century American actor.
The Seeds of Banquo is the latest in what Iannone is calling her Edwin Booth play cycle, and while she was writing it she was able to work with Edwin Booth's original prompt book from his 1870 production of Macbeth. “I lifted sections of it, and we are performing his production of it in this rehearsal...When we are going to do this scene, we are doing everything the way Edwin specified it in his prompt book," Iannone explains.
For the actors in Angela Iannone's production, the amount of historical research done during the writing of the script is really something special. “It’s because (she) did that work, that (she has) researched this so extensively and then brilliantly worked it into the script, I think is what makes it so exciting for me to be a part of it," actor John Glowvacki says.
"I have enjoyed learning a lot about Edwin Booth in this period of history and in particular Mrs. Bowers. I do say that working with Angela on this play is like a master class in the Booth family and 19th century American theatre history," says Marcee Doherty-Elst, an actress and producing director at Theatre RED. "It’s a really great opportunity to research such an important person at the time. Mrs. Bowers was a force, a very well-known actress, and quite a famous lady of her time.”
One of the crucial aspects of the play that Iannone wanted to focus on is the difference in etiquette in the 19th century compared to what we see today. During rehearsals, the cast decided to follow the accepted etiquette of the 19th century. Things such as men standing when women enter the room, men holding doors and carrying things, as well as a focus on personal space.
“There isn’t that immediate intimacy that we rely on today. That you had to earn an intimacy, a touch, a handshake, any of those things, and that the language is a little more ornamented," Iannone says.
For actors like John Glowvacki, the influence 19th century etiquette into his performance is somewhat of an enjoyable challenge. "I have to perform my etiquette as well as I’m performing Shakespeare. So there’s Edwin, Edwin with certain people in the room, Edwin being formal and Edwin acting," he explains.
Theatre RED’s The Seeds of Banquo is being performed at the Soulstice Theatre in St. Francis. It’s written and directed by Angela Iannone, and stars Marcee Doherty-Elst as Mrs. Bowers and John Glowvacki as Edwin Booth.