“Burbage ... or The Man Who Made Shakespeare Famous” at Cotuit Center for the Arts
"Burbage” a new one-man play by Nicholas Minella and directed by Christopher James Webb, will be presented February 8th through the 24th at the Black Box Theater at Cotuit Center for the Arts. Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 PM and Sunday afternoon at 2 PM.
Neil McGarry plays Richard Burbage, a leading actor in William Shakespeare’s time and the man who first performed many of Shakespeare’s lead characters, including Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, Richard III, and King Lear.
“Richard Burbage was the Daniel Day Lewis” of his time—someone who was known to immerse himself in whatever part he was playing. He, and the company he led, were a tremendous box office draw, as popular as the Beatles were in their heyday—and Shakespeare’s plays were the “Raiders of the Lost Ark’ of their time” said McGarry. “The plays show a deep understanding of people, most especially those in society we might call ‘the other,’ and they ask us as an audience—as people—to behave better than we often do.”
“Burbage” is set in 1610, in Burbage’s dressing room, following a performance of “Hamlet.” As Richard Burbage prepares to leave for the summer tour, he talks to an unseen young apprentice about acting, his accomplishments, and he indirectly grapples with the questions “How do we matter?” and “In what ways do we leave our mark?”
Burbage looks back on the roles he has played, and theatrical experience itself. He also reflects on his relationship with Shakespeare, with his family, his passion for his fellow actors, and his love of the stage.
Reviewer Ross MacDonald called the play “an engaging, sincere, and sensitive portrayal of one of the great actors of all time, who was fortunate to be at the very start of professional theater, who performed some of the greatest Shakespeare leads in their debut performances, and left a legacy of myth and legend.”
Minella wrote “Burbage” for McGarry, after seeing him in a production of “The Winter’s Tale” performed by the New York Classical Theatre in Central Park. The first draft was completed in 2004 and Minella has refined it over the years. The play premiered at Arts On The Beach in Sagamore in August of 2010. A revised version of that play was presented at the Arlington Film Festival in September of 2012, and at the Boston Playwright’s Theater in January 2013.
A native of Hyannis, McGarry now lives in Marshfield. He knew at a very young age that he wanted to be an actor, and, by the time he was a freshman at Barnstable High School, he knew he wanted to be a classical actor. He was one of the first of the very large group of students to come through the BHS Drama Club when the club was led by drama director, John Sullivan. McGarry is a graduate of the National Shakespeare Conservatory, and his credits include New York Classical Theatre, Philadelphia Shakespeare Festival, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Actors’ Shakespeare Project, Stoneham Theatre, Cape Rep, and many others. He has also appeared in numerous films and in the soap opera, “All My Children.” McGarry recently founded the Bay Colony Shakespeare Company, whose first production is this play.
“My director, Christopher Webb,” McGarry said, “describes the play ‘Burbage’ as ‘a story of legacy, family, honor, and art. It blurs the lines between anecdote and history and helps to shed new light on Shakespeare, through the eyes of one of history’s forgotten heroes.’ I like that description quite a bit.
“I think, I hope, that ‘Burbage’ will appeal not only to Shakespeare fans and those with an interest in the theater but to others as well” said McGarry. “The play is also about the unsung craftsman; it speaks to the satisfaction of a job well done, and the honor in doing that job.”
Deeply impressed with the growth and quality of Cape Cod theater since he left and the number of accomplished actors who live here, McGarry said he was pleased and excited to perform the play at Cotuit Center for the Arts and particularly appreciates efforts to keep ticket prices affordable so that more people can experience live theater.
Tickets are $15, $12 for members. To purchase tickets, go to artsonthecape.org or call the box office at 508-428-0669.
Cotuit Center for the Arts is at 4404 Route 28 in Cotuit. Performances are in the Black Box Theater. Please note that latecomers cannot be seated.