The Muskingum University Theatre Department performed “Arden of Feversham: A Classic, With Puppets” on Oct. 28-29 at Caldwell Hall’s Thompson Theatre.
The play was presented with human figure puppets donated to the Theatre Department in 2022 by Assistant Professor of Communication Rachel Pollock and Lecturer Tim Pollock. The complete puppet collection includes both human and animal figures. During the Spring 2023 semester, theatre major Emma Jimison ’23 inventoried the collection and performed reconditioning work.
An Elizabethan play, “Arden of Feversham” depicts the real-life murder of Thomas Arden by his wife Alice Arden and her lover, and their subsequent discovery and punishment.
Professor of Theatre Diane Rao described the selection of the play. “Every four years, we offer a ‘classic play,’ so that our students can explore this art form. ‘Arden of Feversham’ is exciting to perform for three main reasons. First, it is considered the first ‘domestic tragedy’ in English. Second, even though the playwright is unknown, there is a lot of speculation that it is a collaborative endeavor, and that Shakespeare had a hand in writing it. Third, it is a ‘true crime’ play, telling the story of an actual murder in England in 1551.
“When we received the donations of puppets, I knew we could use them right away in an ‘Arden of Feversham’ production,” Dr. Rao commented. “It was a very popular marionette show for traveling theatre companies starting as far back as the early eighteenth century, continuing throughout the nineteenth century. Additionally, puppets are having a ‘moment’ in the theatre right now, and this was a great opportunity to train our students in using them.”
Dr. Rao has created a companion “true crime” podcast series about the play, which explores the story and context in more depth: “A Killing in Kent: The Fascinating Life and Confounding death of Thomas Arden of Feversham.”