4615 Theater Company Presents ‘Twelfth Night’ and ”Tis Pity She’s a Whore’ In Rep

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It is easy to become lost in the thriving theater scene of the Washington DC area. With all of the major houses producing top-notch works, it is hard to look past the grandeur of their product and remember how they started. It takes work to get to the position of success that a place such as 4615 Theater Company Presents Twelfth Night and Tis Pity She’s a Whore, or Shakespeare Theatre Company might hold. However, all of these theaters had to begin somewhere and for 4615 Theater Company, that “somewhere” was a suburban home in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Viola (Maggie Thompson) attempts to reason with Olivia (Morgan Sendek) in 'Twelfth Night.' Photo by Claire Lockhart.
Viola (Maggie Thompson) attempts to reason with Olivia (Morgan Sendek) in ‘Twelfth Night.’ Photo by Clare Lockhart.

The company began with an ambitious idea to mount a production of John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi in the summer of 2013. This group of actors and designers transformed the suburban home into a stage, utilizing different rooms and areas to create a whole new experience for their audience. The show was a hit, and the group had so much fun that Director Jordan Friend decided to continue the company with the intention of bringing both classic pieces and new work to the DC area through inventive staging and visions. This summer, Friend chose to tackle two productions in repertory: Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, and John Ford’s ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore.

Producing the two plays in repertory stemmed from an interest in exploring not only the classical texts, but also the original rehearsal processes.

Jordan Friend.
Jordan Friend.

“Back then, they had a fraction of the rehearsal time we did, and would perform a large variety of different shows every week,” said Friend. “Companies of actors would have several plays memorized at any given time. I find this idea absolutely thrilling, as it means the audience is coming back to see the same group as completely different characters.”

That is exactly what he did. Twelfth Night was part of the season for about a year, but the idea for ‘Tis Pity stemmed from Friend’s desire to explore opposing ends to the theme of romance and sexuality, and act as mirrors to each other.

“The characters in both plays find themselves pining for people they did not expect to love,” said Friend. “But Twelfth Night celebrates such passions, and lets them run free, whereas ‘Tis Pity portrays the forced repression of the same feelings, and the tragic effects of being taught that such desire is unnatural.”

Friend has had a blast directing both plays side by side in large part due to the learning experience. He felt that understanding the themes of one opened new thought processes and enlightening ideas for the other. However, directing two plays in reparatory does not happen without some challenges, and Friend feels that he has thrived in them.

“It has also been hugely gratifying to work on creating two separate, distinctive worlds, held together by the same actors,” said Friend.

The actors seem to feel the same way. Playing roles in two different plays has provided a welcomed challenge that helped them grow. Margaret Anne Murphy, who plays Maria in Twelfth Night and Philotis in ‘Tis Pity has personally found the acting test exciting.

“This has been a very artistically fulfilling experience that truly puts my acting chops to the test,” said Murphy. “I go from working on an upbeat comedy, where I play the ever so witty, sexy, and fun-loving Maria, to rehearsing a true Jacobean tragedy as Philotis, the play’s one true innocent.”

Morgan Sendek, who plays Olivia in Twelfth Night and Poggio in ‘Tis Pity, has enjoyed playing “polar opposites,” but more than that, realizes the opportunities that performing two plays in reparatory can provide.

“I think it is really cool for audiences to see one cast of actors perform two plays,” said Sendek. “Seeing an actor transform from an ensemble member in the matinee to a lead by the evening performance is a unique treat.”

 Florio (John Burghardt) marries off his daughter, Annabella (Caroline McQuaig) to Soranzo (Mark Ashin), while her brother, Giovanni (Nick Byron) looks on in ''Tis Pity She's a Whore.' Photo by Clare Lockhart.
Florio (John Burghardt) marries off his daughter, Annabella (Caroline McQuaig) to Soranzo (Mark Ashin), while her brother, Giovanni (Nick Byron) looks on in ”Tis Pity She’s a Whore.’ Photo by Clare Lockhart.

Friend has granted his actors the unique opportunity to explore a wide range of skills, and for that, they are grateful.

“I’m lucky enough that I get to be a part of these incredibly moving plays,” said said Mark Ashin, Duke Orsino in Twelfth Night and Sorzano in ‘Tis Pity. “One is filled with utter joy and the other has left audiences cringing at its twisted plot.”

One weekend of performances has passed, but there is still time! Contrasting worlds and conflicted lovers make this a weekend of theater you would not want to miss.

Twelfth Night plays through July 25th Tis Pity She’s a Whore through July 26 at 4615 Theater Company performing at 4615 Langdrum Lane in Chevy Chase, MD. For tickets purchase them online.