In 1593 the famous playwright Christopher “Kit” Marlowe, a peer of Shakespeare’s, was reportedly murdered in a pub fight over payment of the bill—at least that’s what witnesses attested to in the British courts afterwards. Utah playwright Frances Smeath believes the evidence points to a much more complicated and dangerous scenario than the mere reckoning of a who was paying for the meal. In her play Shaking the Earth, which begins Friday, June 14, at Third Space Studios in Provo, UT, Smeath’s considerable research, intelligence, and writing skill is on full display as she explores the theory that one of England’s most accomplished playwrights was also a spy caught in a dangerous underworld that ultimately led to his death.
The theory, nor the play, is new. Shaking the Earth is a script that has been in Smeath’s repertoire for decades: "Shaking the Earth became the creative offspring of my graduate work in theater in the 1960s and 70s. While a close study of surviving documents reveals that Marlowe's death in 1593 is NOT yet a proven fact, I chose to treat his passing that year as factual because it allowed me to investigate a key theme in Elizabethan studies: that in the midst of a fiercely cruel, combative, dysfunctional and mostly uneducated society, Marlowe, Shakespeare and their associates blessed the world with poetry and drama as high, deep, broad and joyous in its creativity as any artistic effort yet made. It is this paradox that drives Kit to take his stand against those who only use genius for selfish ends, but have no vision of it themselves."
Thus, though the theory is one that has been in circulation for decades, Smeath’s take on it is unique, eloquent, and thematically rich. The play’s director, Jarom Brown, was impressed with the script when he was approached to direct the play. “Shaking the Earth is quite an accessible and intriguing script to work with,” Brown said. “The script’s addressing of politics, speech, conspiracy, and love in a time so long ago allows those who partake an opportunity to not only relate to these iconic figures, but glimpse some of today’s issues in a fresh light. I love it. This is a show for more than just fans of Marlowe’s work.”
Adam Argyle was cast as the play’s lead, and has relished the chance to take on such a meaty and important historical character. “Playing Marlowe has been a unique challenge,” Argyle said. “There is so much packed into this wonderful script as he goes from an ambitious, yet naive, student to world weary poet. I really like Jarom’s vision of minimalistic set and costumes to really showcase the depth of these characters, the talent of the actors and the beauty of the language. I am excited to have share in this great show.”
The play is being produced by the newly minted Prospero Arts and Media, a multimedia company that will delve into many facets of the arts—performance, publishing, film, etc. The company is headed by Mahonri Stewart, a producer, director, and playwright in his own right, but who wanted to showcase the work of other talented writers and theater artists. “I have been trying to produce Shaking the Earth for half a decade, but things kept getting in the way. For example, the space we were scheduled to perform in a couple of years ago literally had its roof cave in. But we had an obligation to do this script, we had a desire to do this script, and we weren’t going to stop until the play was accomplished. Fran’s powerful work needs wider exposure. This is an exciting, tense, powerful, Elizabethan thriller with a brain that has a talented director and cast attached to it.”
The play will perform at Third Space Studios, 247 Center Street, Provo, UT 84606 on June 14, 15, 17, 21, and 22 at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $12 for general admission and $10 for students, military, and seniors. More information about ticketing, etc. can soon be found on www.prosperoarts.weebly.com.