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Apocryphal Shakespeare Company

New Company Stages Apocrypha Readings

The Apocryphal Shakespeare Company logoThe former Dead Playwrights Repertory in Haddonfield, New Jersey, has been resurrected by Artistic Director Douglas L. Overtoom as the Apocryphal Shakespeare Company presenting dramatic readings of plays linked to William Shakespeare.

"The rehearsal schedule became too much for many of my actors in Dead Playwrights Repertory," Overtoom wrote in an email. "So, I started a new venture—The Apocryphal Shakespeare Company. We put on staged readings and therefore need much less rehearsal time. We are dedicated to exploring and presenting plays that have been, at some time by someone, attributed to William Shakespeare."

Last March, the company presented Mucedorus and Amadine, a play "attributed in part to William Shakespeare, Robert Greene, Anonymous, Unknown, Forgotten, the Earl of Oxford, and others." The company presented The Life, Troublesome Reign, and Death of King John in June (with George Peele, Christopher Marlowe, and Anonymous listed along with Shakespeare as authors), and The Spanish Tragedie in October (Thomas Kyd, Shakespeare "& others").

Coming up April 7 is A Yorkshire Tragedy, credited to Thomas Middleton, Shakespeare and others, and Virtue Preserved, excerpts from Edward III (Marlowe, Kyd, Shakespeare, and others). These readings will be at 2 p.m. at the Haddonfield Public Library, 60 Haddon Ave., Haddonfield, NJ 08033. Admission is free.

Just as today's television audience has a voracious appetite for "true crime" stories, many Elizabethan theater-goers also lusted for a lurid tale of murder, rape, and mayhem—especially if it involved their neighbors. Early Modern playwrights filled this need with a genre called "domestic tragedy," meant to titillate the audiences' sense of moral indignation and provide an appropriate ending in which the wrongdoers are apprehended and punished, and order is restored to the world.

"We at The Apocryphal Shakespeare Company are proud to present Law & Order AVU (Ancient Victims Unit) where the plots are ripped from the headlines (the 16th century headlines) and the names are not changed to protect the innocent," says the company's flyer.

A Yorkshire Tragedy tells the real-life story of Walter Calverley, a degenerate gambler and drunkard, who in 1605 was apprehended and pressed to death for a homicidal rampage brought on by his mounting debts. When first printed, the play was attributed to W. Shakespeare on its title page; however, most scholars now believe it to be the work of Thomas Middleton. Perhaps Shakespeare had an editorial hand in the process, or maybe he tinkered with the comic servant scenes.

Virtue Preserved is a one-act play Overtoom created by lifting and editing together the scenes most scholars believe Shakespeare wrote in Edward III dealing with the king's attempted seduction of the Countess of Salisbury. "In this way, it is hoped, the audience receives the maximum amount of apocryphal Shakespeare with the minimum amount of Bacon, Marlowe, Kyd, and Anonymous," Overtoom writes.

March 27, 2019

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