Playwright Pugilists To Rumble at Railroad Square

Sep 11, 2018

Even those who love history sometimes admit that just reading about it can be a bit dull.  But history fans can enjoy a fully immersive historical experience at Tallahassee's Railroad Square this weekend.

Members of the Theatre With a Mission troupe in costume.
Credit COCA

The event is hosted by the Theatre With a Mission troupe, of which Ben Gunter is the artistic director. He said it's not the first time the group has staged a make-believe smack-down between history's two top playwrights in England and Spain.

“The fight is between Shakespeare and Cervantes,” he explained. “And it’s a very good-natured fight. Now Shakespeare and Cervantes died on the same calendar date, according to the calendars in use at the time, in April of 1616. And 400 years later – with a little extra – we’re bringing them back from the dead to go head-to-head in a wrestling match in Railroad Square.”

However, this will definitely NOT feature two actors physically battling it out in a 17th Century version of a caged death match. It's actually a production of dramas, penned by both great stage crafters, that have something in common.

“The match is called ‘Loco For Love,’” said Gunter. “Because they’re connected by a character called ‘Cardenio,’ a young man who runs crazy for love when his best friend steals his fiancé. And this story has so many elements in it that still speak to us today that we’re interested in using it as a window to look at how we can explore what life was like in Florida in the 1600s and what that historical background has to say to us about the ways that we live and think and love today.”

Assistant Director and Choreographer Ivy Coddington said there are lots of linkages.

“The difference between how English sword play fights against Spanish sword play because they had different world-views,” she said, citing one example. “Well, they still have different world-views! And how the court dances are different from the playful dances that all the English settlers brought with them when they settled the northern east coast of the U.S.”

Of course, it helps if some real experts are around to help explain all this and put it in a larger context. Director Gunter said one of these comes all the way from Ohio State University.

“Nina Couch is an expert in historical dance. So she’s going to help us show people through lecture/demonstration what dancing was like in the Spanish courts and what dancing was like in English country dances. And then people will be able to pick up some of those moves and try them on for themselves.”

There will even be a horse from Suwannee County that is a spitting-image of the unique mounts the Spanish brought with them to North Florida back in the days of early exploration. And then, Gunter added, there is the food.

“Andre and Cindy Batten have produced expert material for the History Channel about food fusion in Florida. They’re convinced from their research that Florida was the first big food fusion where European foods, African foods and Native American foods were coming together in a fusion cuisine.”

There will also be parades, music...a Renaissance Faire kind of atmosphere that Ivy Coddington said will essentially fill the Capital City's most unique neighborhood.

“Railroad Square Art Park is happy to have us spill all over it. And Mickee Faust is happy for us to rent space in the Mickee Faust complex. If it’s raining out, we can be in and if it’s not raining we can be out in the sculpture park. It’ll be great!”

And Gunter said the event will be a bit of a marathon, continuing over a four-day period.

“Thursday and Friday nights from 6 p.m. until 9:30 p.m., Saturday from 11 in the morning until 10 at night and Sunday from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m.”

A wonderful opportunity to learn how the folks who lived way back in the Seventeenth Century were pretty much the same as those of us around today.