The Bates Theater Department’s production of The Swaggering Damsel opens in Gannett Theater this weekend. The show’s director is Dr. Matteo Pangallo, Visiting Assistant Professor of English, who sat down with The Bates Student to give Batesies an exciting preview of what is to come.
The Bates Student: What is The Swaggering Damsel about, for those not familiar with the show?
Dr. Matteo Pangallo: Robert Chamberlain’s 1640 comedy is about Sabina (played by Sarah Wainshal, 2016) and Valentine (played by Gunnar Manchester, 2015), who are a young couple in love and engaged to get married. Because he just can’t wait, however, Valentine convinces Sabina to sleep with him before they’re wed; after their night together, however, he fears that she’s sexually promiscuous because she agreed to sleep with him. He therefore resorts to an elaborate plot to try to get out of marrying her, but she comes up with an equally elaborate plot to make sure he sticks to his promise.
TBS: What are you most excited about in this show as its director?
DMP: I think the humor is quite sharp (Chamberlain was, by profession, a joke-book writer), the characters wonderfully ridiculous, and the issues very much of relevance for modern audiences (particularly young people, who might find a few familiar situations in the characters’ predicaments over parental authority, social pressure, and sexual desire).
TBS: As a professor of English, do you think Swag Dam (as it has been affectionately nicknamed) has much to offer in terms of its historical importance in the literary world?
DMP: As a scholar and teacher of early modern drama, I’m especially excited to see this play staged because it’s one of only a handful of plays from the period that were written by audience members rather than professional playwrights, like Shakespeare. These peculiar plays are a kind of early modern “fan fiction” that can tell us how playgoers in the period saw the stage and what they thought about it. Chamberlain, for example, borrows much from Shakespeare (particularly the comedies Much Ado About Nothing, Taming of the Shrew, As You Like It, and The Two Gentlemen of Verona), but he also seems to lampoon the ridiculous and implausible romantic comedies that were extremely popular in the theaters of the 1620s and 1630s, after Shakespeare’s death.
TBS: What challenges have you and/or the actors faced in the production of this show?
DMP: Developing a command over the language and spirit of an early modern play is always a challenge, especially when it’s a play by someone other than Shakespeare. Most actors and audience members are comfortably familiar with most plays by Shakespeare, but works by other writers from the period can often seem daunting at first. What makes Chamberlain’s play relatively easy to get a handle on in this regard, though, is how remarkably relevant and contemporary many of his insights are about sex, youth, and love–especially young love.
TBS: Since we can’t give too much away in this interview, when and where can we come see The Swaggering Damsel?
DMP: The show goes up in Gannett Theater on Thursday, March 21 and Friday, March 22 at 7:30pm, as well as Saturday, March 23 and Sunday, March 24 at 2:00pm. Admission is free, but reservations are recommended because seating is limited. For reservations or more information, people can call 207-786-6161 or visit batestickets.com.