Lettice
and
Lovage
by
Peter Shaffer



Directed
by
Anna Antaramian
Spring Semester
2009

 
Lettice Duffeet, an expert on Elizabethan cuisine and medieval weaponry, is an indefatigable enthusiast of history and the theatre.  She is a tour guide at Fustian House "one of the least stately and least interesting of Britain's" stately homes.  Lettice begins to embellish its historical past and her lecture gains theatricality and romance as it strays from the facts.  Lotte Schon, an inspector from the Preservation Trust, is not impressed or entertained by these uninhibited history lessons.  She fires Lettice, but gradually becomes fascinated by her unusual past, her romantic world-view and her refusal to accept the mediocre and the second rate.  The two women forge an alliance to awaken their fellow citizens to the dreariness of modern life. (Samuel French, Inc.)

Synopsis

Lettice and Lovage is set in England. The action takes place in three primary locations: the Grand Hall of Fustian House, Wiltshire, England; Miss Schoen's office at the Preservation Trust, Architrave Place, London; and Miss Douffet's basement apartment, Earls Court, London. This synopsis delineates the action of the production seen by American audiences in 1990.

Act One, Scene 1

Lettice Douffet is showing a group of tourists around Fustian House, an old, dreary, and (as the name suggests) fusty sixteenth-century hall. The rain-drenched tourists are clearly bored and miserable. Lettice is reciting a rehearsed monologue pointing out the not-very-interesting history of the hall. As the tourists leave in a kind of stupor, Lettice feels dejected. The scene shifts to several days later at the same spot. Lettice is again reciting her boring monologue, but suddenly becomes filled with inspiration and begins improvising a wildly untrue (yet entertaining) story about the staircase in the hall. The tourists are jolted from their reveries and thoroughly enraptured by her tale.

Some days later, Lettice is once again telling the "history" of the hall, only her tale has become even more fanciful and grandiose. She is filled with confidence and the (larger) audience of excited tourists hangs on her every word. Lettice is challenged by a disagreeable fellow who demands to see her references for the story. She successfully averts his questions, much to the enjoyment of the rest of the crowd.

The next scene reveals Lettice telling an even larger version of the now completely ridiculous yet salacious story to salivating tourists. She is this time interrupted by Lotte Schoen, who dismisses the rest of the crowd, insisting she must speak to Lettice alone. Lotte reveals she works for Preservation Trust, the company that owns Fustian House. She tells Lettice she must report to the Trust the next day to have her position reviewed.

The next afternoon Lettice is shown in to Lotte's office. She defends her embellishment of the facts by stating that the House's architecture and history is too dull. Lettice says she lives her life by a code her mother taught her: "Enlarge! Enliven! Enlighten!". Lotte chafes at the discovery that Lettice's mother was an actress, and sits dumbfounded at Lettice's assertions of her mother's colorful past and its influence on her. Lotte tells Lettice that she has twenty-two letters of complaint about her false recitations at Fustian House. She fires Lettice, who despairs and wonders what a woman of her age can do. She leaves the Trust, but not before telling Lotte a story about Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary had dressed herself in a red dress the day of her execution in order to defy her accusers. As she tells the story, Lettice drops her cloak to reveal a red nightdress.

Act One, Scene 2

It is ten weeks later. Lettice is in her basement flat with her cat, Felina. It is adorned with theatrical posters, furniture, props, and relics. Lotte Schoen unexpectedly arrives at the flat and is dismayed by the sight of the cat, saying she has an aversion to them. Lotte then produces a letter of reference she has written for Lettice to obtain a new position giving tours on boats on the Thames. Lettice is very moved by her gesture and apologizes for behaving rudely. She insists on the two of them having a celebratory drink together. They spend a long scene drinking and talking, where they begin to find similarities in their very different personalities - notably a disgust with modern English architecture, and all things "mere". Inebriated, Lotte begins telling of a man with whom she was once in love, who aspired to be a terrorist by blowing up modern buildings in London to oppose the destruction of historical architecture. Lotte divulges he and she had a secret alliance called E.N.D. - the Eyesore Negation Detachment. She says she ran out on her end of the bargain and did not plant a bomb intended to blow up a wing of the Shell Building. Her betrayal of the agreement ruined the relationship, and consequently, her life. Lettice listens with much sympathy. Lotte invites her to dinner and tells her it is her Mary, Queen of Scots story that really prompted her to come. Lettice tells her the rest of the story - how Mary also wore a wig to her execution, prompting the executioner to grab her wig and not her head after it was detached. Lotte reveals that she is wearing a wig, and requests Lettice to take it off, in an act of solidarity.

Intermission

Act Two, Scene 1

Six months later, Lettice is being interviewed in her home by a lawyer, who mentions she is accused of a "peculiarly unpleasant crime". We learn through a series of questions and answers between the two that Lotte and Lettice had become fast friends and taken to enacting famous historical trials and executions in Lettice's flat. It becomes clear that during one of these theatrical displays, Lotte was inadvertently injured, and the lawyer is at Lettice's home informing her of an indictment against her. Lotte again shows up unexpectedly. The lawyer insists on hearing the whole story, claiming Lettice's defense relies upon it. Lotte insists it cannot be spoken at a trial. As Lettice continues her story (acting it out along the way and embellishing it with stories of Lotte's now rather theatrical behavior) Lotte becomes more and more agitated. We learn Lettice's cat startled Lotte in the midst of their performance, causing her to become injured. The lawyer tells them both that they must testify to this in order to get the case against Lettice thrown out. Lotte says if the information gets out it will ruin her life and career. Lotte claims Lettice tricked her into the acting games, and suggests her theatricality is one big act. She cruelly insults Lettice and walks out. Lettice stops her with a heartfelt speech about how the technological, modern age is leaving her behind. Lotte storms back in, outraged at Lettice "giving up". They make up, and decide to re-invent E.N.D., only without bombs. They plan to give tours at the "fifty ugliest new buildings in London", using Lotte's architectural knowledge and Lettice's flair for the dramatic (and propensity for lying). The play ends with the two women toasting the audience.

In Defense of Bombast

 

When Lettice and Lovage opens, we are introduced to the Grand Staircase of Fustian House. Fustian House: Odd name. Fustian like lovage is an old word, but unlike lovage, fustian is never defined in the play. This old word, moreover, is a staple of Elizabethan playwrights. We hear it or read it in Marlowe, Shakespeare, Jonson and Heywood. The word refers to an inflated style of speech: a style more lofty than a situation requires; what Shakespeare, in other contexts, calls uplandish. In short, fustian is a synonym for bombast. Those who use fustian are wise fools, pretentious oafs, and rogues.

As Fustian House is the place where Lettice does injustice to history by making it more interesting, we may assume that playwright Peter Shaffer is calling our attention to the parallel disparities between style and context (in the word) and between historical truth and romantic narrative (in the tour). Both disparities are the center of lamentation in the play.

Lotte is a displaced architect; instead of designing buildings and bridges, she heads the personnel department of an agency that preserves old structures. Lettice, a tour guide in Lotte's agency, is similarly displaced since she, the daughter of a flamboyant actress, is expected to be a staid representative of the Historical Trust. Despite their obvious personality differences, they share a passion for the Past. To them, the Past, in one way or another, is filled with excitement, romance, drama, and beauty—all features which are contrary to the modern world and its architecture.

The Shell Building, in the 1950s and 60s, was a cause celebre. Its initial design went completely beyond the allowances of London city ordinances. When the Shell Company threatened to move its operation to another city, on the continent, the ordinances were stretched or changed—to the chagrin of people like Lotte, who thought the building downright ugly. In its day, the Shell Building was the largest office building in Europe, and like most office buildings of its era its style is plain and practical. It is made of white concrete. It resembles on a huge scale a file cabinet in a library. It is far removed from Fustian House, with its repeated escutcheons and its locally made wooden staircase, geographically and aesthetically. And that's the point.

Lettice likes to tell the origins of words. She likes also to sweeten her sentences with unusual words like endored. She sees the glorious drama of the past and embraces it as part of the present. But words like endored, replaceable with less Latinate synonyms like gilded, seem bombast to the modern world. The critique of modern life by Lettice and Lotte is centered in the word mere, another old word. In its current usage, mere means the essence of something. C.S. Lewis, for example, uses it that way in his title Mere Christianity. But the word also has a pejorative sense in that what is mere is barely more than anything.

So the play posits a dichotomy between the mere and the fustian—these are not exactly philosophical categories. These are poetic choices: a question of style and what style presupposes. Nor are we given a simple either/or solution. Fustian House, a boring estate devoid of romance and mystery, is wrongly named, as it were, because it requires the fustian of Lotte's imagination to become interesting. But what about historical accuracy? And Lotte, up until the time of the play, has been lulled into living by the rules and enforcing them in the mere doing of her job. But she also accepts the tedium of historical accuracy. Then, under the influence of Lettice and lovage, Lotte rediscovers her own personal past and, more importantly, joy.

 

Cast                                                                                          

Lettice Douffet.………………………………………...Bev Sprangler
Lotte Schoen……………………………………………..Lori Grupp
Miss Framer……………………………………………….Lisa Cantwell
Mr. Bardolph…………………………………………….Tom Camacho
Crowd of People……………………………………...Chris Elkiswani, Pearl Paramadilok,
                                                                                                Norma Saldan, Neil Tarrant
Production Staff__________________________
Director…………………………………………………………..Anna Antaramian
Stage Manager………………………………………………Kyle Young
Scenic Designer/Co-Tech. Director………………..Jessica Kuehnau
Lighting Designer/Co-Tech. Director…………….John Rodriguez
Costume Designer…………………………………………..Elizabeth Wislar
Sound Designer……………………………………………….James Mallory
Master Electrion……………………………………………...Eric Senne
Theatre Manager…………………………………………….Sara Moss
Box Office Manager………………………………………..David Mitchell
In House Promotions……………………………………….Laura Gryfinski
House Manager………………………………..……………..Laura Aldmeyer
Theatre Bookkeeper……………………………………….Becca Raven Uminowicz
Poster Designer………………………………………………..Cheryl Lyman
Light Board Operator……………………………………..Greg Goff
Sound Board Operator…………………………………...Paula Short
Set Crew…………………………………Chris Elkiswani, Norma Saldana, Neil Tarrant
Set Construction…………………..…………………………..Theatre Practicum Class


Bev Spangler (Lettice Douffet)  has been a part of the performing arts profession for the last 15 years, whether acting, singing R & B, writing for stage and screen, teaching movement and acting, or managing theatre.  In a new medium for her, Bev can be seen in a cameo in the upcoming independent feature, Hannah Free, premiering in the summer of 2009.  It is a joy and a privilege to be a part of this production and Bev thanks her beautiful family and friends for their enduring support, including the newest of these, the ‘enlivening’ cast and crew of L & L!


Lori Grupp (Lotte Schoen) is a native of Pittsburgh, though Chicago audiences have seen Lori in the world premiere of Denise Druczweski’s Inferno with Backstage Theatre Company, the Midwest permiere of Red Herring, as Ester in Today I am a Fountain Pen for Chicago Jewish Theatre, Helen in the Artistic Home Ensemble’s production of In the Boom Boom Room, Sarah in Harold Pinter’s The Lover, improvising Shakespeare in As We Like it for The Free Associates, and as a suburban dominatrix in Terrance McNally’s Noon.


Lisa Cantwell (Miss Framer) is deliriously happy to be working with the amazing cast and crew of Lettice and Lovage.  She is currently a graduate student in the department of Communication, Media, and Theatre at NEIU.  Recent roles include Dog in Wiley and the Hairy Man, Henderson/Banghart in It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman!, and Miss Lynch in Grease.  Thanks to Mom and Dad for making me eat my spinach, to Anna for her kindness and wisdom, and to my boys, Brad and McCoy, for their love and laughter.


Tom Camacho (Mr. Bardolph) is grateful for being part of this talented cast in this fantastic opportunistic role. This is his sixth production at Northeastern Illinois University as he continues his second year as a graduate student in the Communication, Media and Theater Department.  Tom founded, developed and directs The Serendipity Youth Theatre which brings theater to underprivileged Chicago Public Schools.


Artistic Staff Profiles                                                      

Anna Antaramian (Director) has been a member of NEIU’s theatre family for the past nineteen years. She is the Managing and Artistic Director of the Stage Center Theatre, Thymely Theatre and is a past president of the Illinois Theatre Association. She holds an M.F.A. from New York University and has worked in various theatrical venues across the country, the most recent being the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theatre. Special thanks to H-S-A-N-T and, as always, Mr. McGuire.

Kyle Young (Stage Manager) is a recent truant graduate who was unable to fall into the ne’er-do-well status he dreamed of after school.  Kyle’s agoraphobia defines him now.  Kyle would like to thank all of those he has thanked in the past.

Elizabeth Powell Wislar (Costume Designer) has been designing in the Chicago area for over 6 years. Her designs have been seen in collaboration with Lifeline Theatre, Roosevelt University, Bailiwick Arts Center, L'Opera Piccola, Northeastern Illinois University, Reverie Theatre Company, Townsquare Players, The Griffin, Chicago Jewish Theatre, Opera Theatre Highland Park, Loyola University, Northwestern University Opera Department, The Metropolis, Appletree Theatre, Opera Moda, Circle Theatre, Theatre Building Chicago, One Theatre Company, Chicago Chamber Opera, Theatre at the Center, Remy Bumppo, and Light Opera Works.   A few memorable productions: Queen Lucia (Chicago After Dark Award for Costume Design and a Jeff Citation Nomination for Costume Design), Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging (Jeff Citation Nomination for Costume Design), The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, The Silver Chair, Lucia del' Lammermoor, La Traviata, The Barber of Seville, The Marriage of Figaro, The Three Penny Opera, Die Fledermaus, Cosi Fan Tutte, Kiss of the Spiderwoman, A Room With A View, Die Zauberfloete (The Magic Flute), Sweeney Todd, Carnival, Design for Living, and The Mikado.   Elizabeth is the 2004 recipient of the Michael Maggio Emerging Designer Award.

John Rodriguez (Lighting Designer/Co-Tech Director) joined the theatre faculty at Northeastern a few years ago and has been teaching courses in technical theatre as well as working as a designer on Stage Center productions.  This past year he designed lights for Charley’s Aunt, Electra, The Illusion, and for the two Thymely Theatre productions last summer: Stage Door and Taking Steps.

Jessica Kuehnau (Scenic Designer/Co-Tech Director) is pleased to be designing sets for the Stage Center Theatre. Since completing her MFA in Scenic and Costume Design at Northwestern University, she has been designing sets and costumes for such notable theatres as Lifeline Theatre, MPAACT, The Griffin, Vittum Theatre, Light Opera Works and Metropolis Performing Arts Center. Ms. Kuehnau is also the resident set designer at North Park University.



























Special Thanks………….

The Department of Communication, Media and Theatre Faculty and Staff,
Lisa Cantwell, Colleen McCready, Sara Moss, Tom Camacho,
and
the departments of  Accounts Payable, Budget, Purchasing