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Theatre to stage ‘The Canterbury Tales’

October 31, 2012

Photo of a knight in armor holding a swordAn adaptation of Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” will be presented as the next Studio Series production of the NIU School of Theatre and Dance.

“The Canterbury Tales” originally consisted of 24 stories written by Chaucer at the end of the 14th century. Eight of these stories have been adapted for the stage by visiting assistant professor Luke Krueger, and the play is directed by Stanton Davis.

NIU’s production of “The Canterbury Tales” runs from Thursday, Nov. 8, though Sunday, Nov. 11, in the Stevens Building Corner Theatre.

An interesting aspect of the play is the use of historical figures as characters who enact Chaucer’s tales. The figures become intriguing stories within the stories.

“The tales are set as if they’re being told in the court of King Richard II,” Davis said.

Krueger said there are many parallels between these stories and the greater plot involving King Richard II and his court. “Lady Joan Bohun is there, who is Henry IV’s mother-in-law and a suspected spy for Henry, who is suspected of attempting to overthrow the crown,” he said.

As the king waits for news of a war and looks for entertainment, Chaucer enters and asks to tell his tales. The king requests that Chaucer perform them instead.

Photo of a dirt road winding through the woodsSo, Chaucer presents the tales of travelers on the road to the village of Canterbury.

Though their journeys connect them, these travelers all have adventures to share. Everyone watching at the court is pulled into the stories, and they all eventually have a role to play in the telling, even the knights and the king himself.

In addition to great storytelling, the play also will feature music. Davis and Krueger researched songs from the time period to keep the setting consistent.

The cast consists of mostly freshman BFA in acting students, which gives audience members a chance to see the future of the NIU school, Davis said.

Freshman BFA in acting candidate Rebekah Peltz said she has enjoyed forming closer relationships with her classmates through the rehearsal process. As the play is a work in progress, she said it has been a unique and gratifying experience.

“I enjoy having the playwright in rehearsal, because then we can know what his intentions are,” she said.

Using elements of beauty and humor in the writing of Middle English, the script comically expresses anti-violence and anti-war sentiments. Middle English is very similar to modern written English, Davis said, so the play will not be difficult to understand. The cast and crew put a lot of work into turning Chaucer’s poetry into a relatable and comical play, he added.

“Audience members should not come expecting high-brow literature and text,” Davis said. “It is about everyday people.”

“The Canterbury Tales” will stage in the Stevens Building Corner Theatre on the NIU DeKalb campus. Weeknight and Saturday performances begin at 7:30 p.m. with a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m.

Tickets for “The Canterbury Tales” are $6 and are only available one hour before each performance. Call (815) 753-1600 or email [email protected] for more information.