Walking Shadow makes the stage a stage in 'Compleat Female Stage Beauty'

Wade A. Vaughn as Edward Kynaston
Wade A. Vaughn as Edward Kynaston
Photo by Dan Norman

A brief mention in Samuel Pepys's diaries led local playwright Jeffrey Hatcher to investigate the story of Edward Kynaston, a 17th-century actor renowned for his performances in women's roles. When the stage was finally made open to females, Kynaston found himself out of work. The story led Hatcher to pen his play, Compleat Female Stage Beauty. While the piece has been around for a number of years -- it was even made into a film in 2004 -- it will be making its local debut this week with a production from Walking Shadow Theatre Company.

City Pages recently chatted with John Heimbuch, the show's director and Walking Shadow'sco-artistic director.

City Pages: What drew you to this piece?

John Heimbuch: I am fascinated by issues of identity in performance, especially as it relates to gender, and Kynaston's journey is a particularly fascinating one, requiring a very intricate and subtle delivery. I was eager to see how a performer would bring that to life. This script is funny, clever, and quite irreverent, which helps keep it accessible and fun. And the Restoration era has a multitude of delightful aspects to explore. It was a real time of major cultural change, and I was eager to see what we could do with that.

Walking Shadow has actually been wanting to do the show for a couple years, but it's a fairly big production, and we wanted to make sure we could do it right before we committed to it. This year seemed right. Also, after working with Wade Vaughn in last year's Drakul [at Walking Shadow], I was eager to see what he could do with the role of Edward Kynaston.

What made Wade right for the role?

I have been following his career for quite a while before then, and was excited to eventually have the opportunity to work together. After Drakul, I had a really good sense of how Wade worked as an actor -- slowing, developing and honing his performance, adding and incorporating layers of meaning into his work. I thought that his style of performance would be ideal for the role of Kynaston, and asked if he would be interested. He agreed, and here we are.

Wade has been great in rehearsal. He has an incredible focus, and his ability to incorporate feedback and direction quickly is impressive. This play also has the particular challenge of occasionally recreating Restoration stage productions, and that grand acting style required
can be counter-intuitive for modern actors. It means acting believably, but much larger than your instincts might tell you. It's a question of listening to those instincts and amplifying them. Wade and Sean Byrd have had to do most of that work, and they quickly rose to the occasion.

Have you been able to work with Jeff Hatcher on this production?

Yes! I wasn't sure at first whether he would be interested in being involved, given how long its been since he wrote it. But Jeff and I went out for lunch when Walking Shadow first secured the rights, and he sent me a number of edits to the published script that we're trying out. Overall, we've found that this has considerably tightened the action, and the script is now telling a leaner, more focused story. Jeff has come to rehearsal a couple times, and we stay in regular email contact, but mostly he's giving us the space to work on the show without interference.

What kind of research did you need to do to bring it to the stage, and did you discover anything you weren't expecting?

The script has a massive number of historical people that it depicts with varying degrees of authenticity, as well as a few play-within-a-play sections that required us to familiarize ourselves with Restoration staging practices. Our dramaturge company member Amy Rummenie, did extensive research on each of the historical figures in the show, as well as the theatrical traditions of the time, which were still very rooted in Elizabethan staging. Of course, most of what we know about those traditions is based on conjecture and reconstruction, so its been exciting to try to piece together what a true Restoration-era production would have felt like. We've taken some liberties, but I think the tone we've captured is rather similar.


Compleat Female Stage Beauty
Friday through June 2
Minneapolis Theatre Garage
711 W Franklin Ave., Minneapolis
For information, call 612.375.0300 or visit online
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Minneapolis Theatre Garage

711 W. Franklin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55405


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