Merry Wives of Windsor: Submerging Andover Into Traditional Shakespearean Theater

The door to the Theatre Classroom opened ceremoniously and Max Beati ’18 swept into the room in a red and gold gown, a luminous crown perched atop the red curls of his wig and face caked in pale makeup: “All rise for the queen!” Breaking out in peals of laughter, the audience all stood as Beati stalked into the room proudly. Scurrying after Beati, Colby Gendron ’18 held up a leather-bound book the size of his torso, engaging in lively banter with Beati as the latter announced the beginning of the play.

“[The queen] was the concept of the designer [Andrew Poleszack]. He just got this flash, and said, ‘With the boy’s size, if he was a stand-in for Queen Elizabeth, that would really be just something.’ He caught me completely by surprise, but it worked and it was wonderful,” said Kevin Heelan, Instructor in Theatre and director of “The Merry Wives of Windsor.”

The Queen was one of the many characters in the all-male rendition of Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” which was performed in the Theatre Classroom last Friday and Sunday. Heelan dedicated the production to an all-male cast to reflect the traditional practices of Shakespearean times, when male actors would play all roles regardless of gender.

“In general, the costumes were really hard for all of the guys playing girls. Our corsets are really tight, our hips are really wide and our heels are high, but it was really fun. Also, I think we struggled because it’s all guys — we tended to joke around a lot, but once we started taking it seriously, it went really smoothly,” said Max Rigby-Hall ’18, who played the role of Mrs. Page.

At first, the male cast encountered challenges when portraying females. According to Heelan, it was easy to default to stereotypically feminine movements, which led to generic characterization. With the help of costume designer and makeup artist Poleszack, however, the cast brought their characters to life, giving them each an individual flair.

“Without the costuming that [Poleszack] did, it would never have worked. Once they got the costumes and the makeup and looked at themselves in the mirror, then they could sort of start doing gestures, but not stereotypical gestures. We could do a couple of comedic things that they never would have imagined had they not had those things available to them,” said Heelan.

The costumes varied in color and complexity to reflect the status and background of each family in the play. With a plethora of different fabrics, hoop skirts, hats, and fine wigs, the costumes allowed the audience to fully engage in the events of the play.

“The costumes are really high-quality and super elaborate. If you look at them, there’s so much thought that was put into them. They were made for the show. The girls have a call that’s like two hours before the show, and the boys have a call that’s an hour before the show. So a lot of time for everybody. It’s a lot of work,” said Zar Cordova-Potter ’20, the dresser for the shows.

Throughout the entirety of the show, chuckles and laughter rang from the audience, echoing in the Theatre Classroom. Audience members like Faith Monahan ’20 were both greatly entertained and impressed by the caliber of the show, including the all-male cast.

“I think that it’s a good way to casually include cross-dressing or something that isn’t necessarily according to gender confines. It just does it in a really welcoming, fun, and inviting way,” said Monahan.