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Modern audience can relate to Chaucer’s tales

Published: Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012 5:30 a.m. CST

An adaptation of Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” will be presented as the next Studio Series production of the Northern Illinois University 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.

An interesting aspect of the play is the use of historical figures from the court of King Richard II as characters who enact Chaucer’s tales. The figures become intriguing stories within the stories. The play also will feature music from the time period.

According to Krueger, there are many parallels between Chaucer’s 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,” Krueger said in a news release.

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. So, 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.

Freshman Rebekah Peltz said she 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. According to Davis, Middle English is very similar to modern written English, so the play will not be difficult to understand.

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

“The Canterbury Tales” will stage in the Stevens Building Corner Theatre on the NIU DeKalb campus today through Sunday. Weeknight and Saturday performances begin at 7:30 p.m. and the Sunday performance at 2 p.m. All general admission tickets cost $6 and are only available one hour before each performance.

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