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Mission San Luis Stages Dramatic Death Match for Dead Writers

Theatre With a Mission

Imagine a dramatic literary wrestling match between two of the greatest writers in Western civilization. That’s the basis of this coming weekend (10/1-10/2) at Tallahassee’s Mission San Luis.

The writers in question are Miguel de Cervantes, the great Spanish writer and William Shakespeare, the great English playwright. At first, you might think they didn’t have much in common. But Ben Gunter, Artistic Director of Theater with a Mission and theater Assistant Director Idy Coddington, said you’d be mistaken.

“The one literary connection between Cervantes and Shakespeare,” said Gunter….“Who both died 400 years ago within one day apart from each other in 1616,” added Coddington.

But here’s more about the literary connection. In Cervantes’ immortal “Don Quixote”, there’s a character named “Cardenio” whose best friend steals away his fiancée and Cardenio goes a bit off his rocker in response. Gunter and Coddington revealed that saga then resurfaced in an unexpected place.

“In 1613 right after an English translation of ‘Don Quixote’ was published, Shakespeare and John Fletcher collaborated on Shakespeare’s last play called, ‘The History of Cardenio,’” noted Gunter. “The last, lost and most mysterious play,” added Coddington.

So, said Gunter, Theater with a Mission took on the mission of bringing this historic saga to a contemporary conclusion.

“What a God-given opportunity to connect two authors who have influenced the way we think about life and sanity and love and connect them in the 400th anniversary of their death and to bring them back to life on stage,” he said.

Thus, this week’s double premiere of the play “Loco for Love” at Mission San Luis. But it’s not simply a tale of some poor guy flipping out over lost love. Coddington said it’s also a post-death death match between two great authors who’ll be vying for the title of “World Champion Storyteller” as determined by the audience.

“Supporters of Shakespeare will shout, ‘Huzzah!’ and the supporters of Cervantes shout, ‘Viva!’, so that we can have an utter confusion on the vote,” she laughed.

Certainly a timely way to mark election season in Florida, right? Anyway, Gunter said there will also be a number of celebrated speakers to expand upon that Cervantes/Shakespeare link.

“Dr Leah Lowe from Vanderbilt University, Dr, Ian Borden from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and Dr. Keith Howard from Florida State University are going to be talking every hour on the hour about topics that range from swordplay as a character in Spanish plays, along with the possibility of doing a hands-on workshop with some Mission San Luis wooden swords.”

Also aired will be the topic “Who’s That Girl?”; strong women back in the day of the writers and “Stranger than Fiction”; Quixotic Characters in Spanish Florida. Plus the daily stagings of the play, “Loco for Love”. It all happens this Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. both days at Tallahassee’s Mission San Luis.

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Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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