College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Oxford Shakespeare Festival Opens with ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’

A man down on both luck and cash hatches a scheme to seduce the wives of rich men and get at their husbands’ money. Things get complicated, however, when the two women compare their letters and – finding them identical – hatch a plan of their own.

Sound like a plot from “Days of Our Lives”? No, it’s Shakespeare.

The Bard’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” part of the 2010 Oxford Shakespeare Festival’s “A Royal Season,” opens at 8 p.m. Friday (June 11) in Meek Hall Auditorium at the University of Mississippi. This production is the first of seven for “Merry Wives.”

Tickets are $14 for adults and $11 for seniors/students/youth. For more information on purchasing OSF season subscriptions or single-performance tickets, contact the UM Ticket Office at 662-915-7411.

Oxford High School teacher Peter Pinnow is featured in the lead role of Sir John Falstaff, Shakespeare’s misguided but good-hearted knight. This is Pinnow’s third appearance in the annual Shakespeare Festival, and he is honored to be featured as one of Shakespeare’s most loved characters.

“I’m incredibly flattered,” Pinnow said. “I haven’t been acting for very long, so to get offered a lead role is stunning. Shakespeare is almost like a secular religion; this is the man who taught us all how to think and be, and to have a chance to share his words with other people and interpret his work in a way that other people get is a transcendent experience. You try to do the best you possibly can with the fantastic language and scenes he provided.”

Pinnow said one of his favorite experiences is getting to work with a talented cast, including Dex Edwards, director and UM associate professor of theatre arts.

“‘Merry Wives’ has such a big cast, and the people I work with have all kinds of talent,” he said. “The chance to be around them is beautiful as I grow slowly as an actor. Dex is doing a fantastic job of pulling out every gag and nuance you could possibly think of. I’ve never seen a production of ‘Merry Wives of Windsor,’ but if I wasn’t performing, I’d want to be sitting in the audience watching this one.”

Dustin Gibson is cast as Pistol, one of Falstaff’s cohorts. Like Pinnow, he said the talent level of the cast alone is worth coming to see a production of the comedy.

“It’s great getting to do Shakespeare’s material with people I consider to be true professionals in the area,” Gibson said. “Dex is always on, trying to make the audience understand and love what we as actors have grown to love over our lives. It’s been a pleasure to work with people like him and Peter who have this very central passion for the words and for lost art.”

“The Merry Wives of Windsor” is the first of three productions for the 2010 Oxford Shakespeare Festival, which also includes Shakespeare’s great tragedy “Hamlet, Prince of Denmark,” opening June 19, and Rodger and Hammerstein’s musical “The King and I,” opening June 24.