University of Rochester

323 Years of Laughter: The Emperor of the Moon

November 19, 2010

Visiting Director Matthew Earnest Brings the Comedy of "The Female Shakespeare" Aphra Behn to University of Rochester's Todd Theatre

The University of Rochester International Theatre Program presents The Emperor of the Moon, a madcap restoration farce by Aphra Behn, in an unrestrained and colorful production by acclaimed visiting director Matthew Earnest. Artistic Director Nigel Maister says, "Matthew Earnest brings an exciting and vividly theatrical energy to this delightful 17th century classic that allows the piece to speak—in fact, to sing—eloquently and entertainingly to the audiences of today." The Emperor of the Moon will debut at the Todd Theatre on Thursday, December 2.

The Emperor of the Moon follows the love stories of members of a moonstruck doctor's household. Doctor Baliardo, an amateur moralist and astronomer, has a mischievous daughter and niece who, in order to get around the doctor's rules, convince him that their respective lovers are visitors from the moon. Behn's script pairs surprisingly contemporary comic dialogue with classical commedia dell'arte antics.

Behn, arguably the first professional English woman playwright, wrote in the period just after Shakespeare. After her career as a royal spy during the Second Anglo-Dutch War, Behn wrote until her death in 1689. The Emperor of the Moon is the last play produced before Behn's death and is one of her most famous and successful works.

According to visiting director Matthew Earnest, "Behn's humor is irresistible, and her intellect vividly colorful and refreshing." Under Earnest's direction, the performance will feature a 12-person chorus—a "delegation from the moon-world"—and an entire proscenium stage built from scratch inside the black box of Todd Theatre. Earnest visits Rochester after 12 years as the founding artistic director of New York City's "deep ellum ensemble," a theatrical collaboration with fellow transplants from Texas. He is the recipient of a Drama League Fellowship and his most recent production, Wanderlust: A History of Walking, was created with an Access to Artistic Excellence grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The scenic design for The Emperor of the Moon is by Sean Tribble, who received his MFA at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, and has worked on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off Broadway, and from Los Angeles to the Czech Republic in opera, film, and television. A seasoned veteran of nearly three decades in numerous art forms, William Bezek designed the production's costumes. Lighting design for the production is by Derek Wright, whose work will be featured in the United States' exhibit at the 2011 Prague Quadrennial. James Kosmatka, company manager for Cleveland State University Summer Stages, designed The Emperor of the Moon's sound. The Emperor of the Moon features extensive music, much of it written especially for the production by composer Patrick Johnson.

The Emperor of the Moon opens Thursday, December 2, and runs through Saturday, December 11. Performances are at Todd Theatre on the University of Rochester's River Campus. Tickets are $7 for students; $10 for Rochester alumni, faculty, and staff, and for senior citizens (55 and over); and $13 for the general public. Tickets may be purchased online at or by calling (585) 275-4088. Tickets may also be purchased at the box office up to an hour before each performance.