Reading Will Revive Play Once Scorned As Too ‘Salacious’

The English Department’s 14th annual staged reading will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 4, at 5:15 p.m. in Rm. 101 of Linsly-Chittenden Hall, 63 High St.

The event is free and open to the public; it will run for about 75 minutes.

The play is “A School for Greybeards; or, The Mourning Bride,” written in 1786 by Hannah Cowley, one of the leading women playwrights of her day. It was a re-make of Aphra Behn’s “The Lucky Chance” of 1686.

The first performance of Cowley’s play was considered so salacious in plot and language that the author had to withdraw and re-write it — although “the threshold of salaciousness isn’t where it used to be,” notes Murray Biggs, adjunct associate professor of English and theater studies and the play’s director. This first version has never been published, or ever performed again, except in a reading by the Juggernaut Theatre in New York arranged by former Yale English major Melinda Finberg ‘78 B.A., who transcribed it from the Huntington Library manuscript and offered it to Yale for the rehearsed reading on Nov. 4.

Film and television actor Bruce Altman, a 1990 School of Drama graduate, will be a guest actor for the production. Altman and Lawrence Manley, the William R. Kenan Professor of English, will appear in the role of “greybeards” — “both rather before their time,” insists Biggs.

The cast is completed by other members of the English faculty, Stefanie Markovits, Christopher R. Miller and Catherine Nicholson; by English graduate students Christopher Grobe and Sarah Mahurin; and by undergraduates Brian Earp ‘10 and Danielle Frimer ‘10.

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