Marie and the Werewolf

Among Marie de France’s works were twelve fables collected in the Lais de Marie de France. Several of these fables are woven throughout EPIMYTHIUM, stories about animals, trees, betrayed lovers, and passionate knights.

In Daniel McCoy’s script, these fables are told through a wide variety of methods, including puppets, actors, and animation.

In that spirit, we here present a few versions of one of Marie’s stories, Bisclavret. Now, don’t worry, this story doesn’t appear in EPIMYTHIUM, so no spoilers here. But it’s a phenomenal story that we want to share with you.

Click here to read the full text of Marie’s fable, translated into English. You’ll notice that Marie introduces the story by saying she heard it from someone else, a claim that begs the question of where she heard all of her wonderful stories.

This short Belgian film by Emilie Mercier was made in 2011. It tells Marie’s fable through an animation style that looks like stained-glass windows come to life.

Storyteller John Edgar performs the story in 2010.

Check out this comic book version of Bisclavret by Kel McDonald.

And don’t forget to come to the reading to hear more stories from Marie de France.


August 24, 2014 @ 4PM

Charlestown Working Theater
442 Bunker Hill St., Charlestown, MA


Epimythium Workshop Day 3

Today is the third and final day of our first round of workshops for Epimythium. We begin the day with 64 pages of revisions from playwright Daniel McCoy. (I should note here that the full script is only around 84 pages long.)

After shuffling the new pages into place in their scripts, the actors pick up following one of the many plots in this sprawling story, that of a crippled old woman who has come to Marie’s abbey looking for a miracle. The old woman’s faith is incredibly strong, and it challenges Marie to examine her own. For Marie, faith is a persistent daily question that remains parallel but distinct from her duties as the Abbess of Shaftsbury and custodian of the Shrine to St. Edward.

We move on to one of Marie’s stories that the play returns to again and again. It tells of a maiden in a tower, married to a cruel and jealous old man. When she sings a song of hope and adventure, it summons a prince from a magical kingdom. The prince takes the shape of a hawk and visits the maiden time and again in her tower. Predictably, their love does not go smoothly. More surprisingly, the story links back to Marie’s life in some unexpected ways.

The fables and poems featured in Epimythium are Daniel’s reinterpretations of the works of the real Marie de France. While the play doesn’t change the content of these stories, it does play with how these stories are told. What’s the best way to tell this story to connect to a modern audience? Or to connect to the story of Marie? From illuminated text in the middle ages to video games in the 21st century, there’s no storytelling opportunity that’s not on the table.

Much of the evening is spent on the last dozen or so pages of the script. I won’t give anything away here, but I will say that things have changed a lot for Marie by the end of the play. There are surprising reunions and bittersweet separations, and Marie is left with an opportunity to redefine who she is. She has the opportunity, at long last, to write her own story.

An epimythium is a short epilogue, a lesson or a moral. Marie de France included one in most of her fables, but not all. Perhaps, in those instances, she didn’t want to give her readers an easy answer. Or perhaps she didn’t want to give her stories an ending, preferring to let them continue in our imaginations.

For now, we take a break for the next two weeks. Daniel will continue working on the script, and then we begin another round of workshops and rehearsals, culminating in a public reading on August 24th. We hope you’ll join us to hear the latest version of the play, and to celebrate Marie and the eternal power of storytelling.


August 24, 2014 @ 4PM

Charlestown Working Theater
442 Bunker Hill St., Charlestown, MA


Epimythium Workshop Day 2

We’re starting off our blog on the second day of workshopping the script of Epimythium. Day 1 was filled with hellos and how-do-you-dos, a full read-through of the existing draft of the script, questions, and feedback.

Today was a productive day for playwright Daniel McCoy. Between our first and second rehearsal, we have 50 new pages to play with. Epimythium combines threads of multiple different stories, overlapping the life of Marie de France as the Abbess of Shaftsbury with the tales she wrote of imprisoned maidens, shape-shifting princes, betrayed lovers, birds, bees, bears, foxes, flies, flowers, and a rooster rooting through a pile of dung. The first two days have focused on Marie’s life, as she navigates the politics of the medieval church and balances her mysterious past with her hopes for her future.

It’s that very mystery we’re trying to get a better hold of. What was Marie’s life before her time as a nun? Where did she gain her gift and her passion for storytelling? And what is the nature of her relationships within the Abbey that has served as her home, her refuge, and her prison?

Part of the process is fleshing out and giving depth to backgrounds, and part of the process is paring away the superfluous. We say goodbye to some favorite lines and hello to some new ones. It’s an exciting thing to see a script as a fluid, growing organism. The dialogue shapes the actors’ performances, which influence the next round of edits. Intentions become sharper, stories become richer, and a whole new play starts to come into focus.

Director Hondo Weiss-Richmond has known Daniel and Epimythium for a long time. He directed a reading of the play last year and has been a key part of bringing about this second workshop and reading with Simple Machine. The workshop has been unfolding like a table read, with Hondo encouraging the actors to try different tactics in their readings of the lines. He’s very careful to give every scene and every beat a lot of time and consideration so Daniel can get a real sense of how they land before he makes any changes.

One of the truly phenomenal things about this script is the way it makes use of different storytelling modes to bring Marie’s fables and poems to life. The action of the play might be interrupted by projected animation, shadow puppets, or a silent film. It means that sometimes in the middle of rehearsal, we’re singing as insects to the tune of “Sandra Dee.” But soon, we shift to a lonely gravesite by the side of the road on the way to an unnamed pagan village. We travel across kingdoms and through time at a moment’s notice to visit whole new worlds in Marie’s imagination.

These fables and stories collide with the events of Marie’s life in unexpected ways. By the end of the play, the fantasy becomes truer than the reality. We won’t spoil the story here, except to say that it’s an ending that honors and celebrates what theatre, what art, can do. It answers some questions for the characters, but raises more questions for the audience. Questions that can never be definitively answered. But it is in the asking of these kinds of questions that we learn most about ourselves.

“There are so many greater things than miracles.”

Marie, Epimythium


August 24, 2014 @ 4PM

Charlestown Working Theater
442 Bunker Hill St., Charlestown, MA


Four Questions with Costume Designer Emily Woods Hogue

Turn of the Screw Costume Designer Emily Woods Hogue tells us about her days working with historical costumes…and her own run in with historical ghosts. 

What drew you to this project?

I was drawn to this project because I think “The Turn of the Screw” is a fantastic ghost story. I am also eager to tackle the late nineteenth-century both in terms of costume design and clothing construction.

What is the biggest challenge for you of working in spaces like the Gibson and Taylor House that aren’t normally used for theatre performances?

As a former museum worker and as someone who delights in old buildings, I am positively tickled by the idea of working in both of these historical spaces! I am not yet sure as to what kind of challenges will be presented… I guess I can say that I hope no scrappy poltergeists play “Hide-The-Costumes”!

What are you most excited about this process?

I am most excited about building a full late nineteenth-century dress for Anna as the Woman, but I am also very intrigued by figuring out changes from character to character for Stephen as the Man (hint: a top hat will be involved)!

What’s your favorite ghost story and/or have you ever had a personal ghost story?

When I was interning at Colonial Williamsburg, we were shooting a short feature on the site of the Jamestown Settlement at around midnight one night. I was sent out to my supervisor’s car to fetch something and as I was returning to the shoot, I could swear that something was watching me…and this feeling shook me directly to my core. So I bolted, like a five-year-old afraid of the dark.

Now, I’m usually the friend who watches horror movies on Netflix late at night with the lights off for funzies, so everyone I told this story to decided that I was actually a big chicken, regardless of my Romero-lovin’ bravado. However! When it broke this past year that the Jamestown Settlement had to resort to cannibalism in their most desperate hours in the winter of 1609-1610, I felt a little vindicated… maybe I had just passed through a pocket of hungry ghosts!

Four Questions with Director M. Bevin O’Gara

We asked Turn of the Screw Director M. Bevin O’Gara about working with Simple Machine and her favorite ghost stories.

What drew you to this project?

Well basically Anna and Stephen. They’re both fun and talented. Who wouldn’t want to be in a rehearsal room with those two crazy kids! Also I love ghost stories and SCREW is one of the ultimate ghost stories of all time.

What is the biggest challenge for you of working in spaces like the Gibson and Taylor House that aren’t normally used for theatre performances?

Well it’s more of a challenge to think about the play in two very different places. We will basically be blocking the show twice. The focus of rehearsal is going to be about distance/proximity of characters more then it will be about “move to the chaise on this line”. This way there is a similar structure to the show in both locations for the actors to rely on and still allow for us to maximize the benefits of both of the locations.

What are you most excited about this process?

Working with Anna and Stephen…isn’t that enough? But I said that already. I’ve never actually done a site specific work quite like this, so that’s exciting, especially to do it at two different sites. And the potential to see a ghost at the Gibson house…that would be cool…I hope.

What’s your favorite ghost story and/or have you ever had a personal ghost story?

Call me a traditionalist but I’ve always loved Sleepy Hollow. I remember watching the Disney cartoon of it dozens of times as a kid. I remember reading all the Bruce Coville ghosts stories as a kid, those are pretty great if you’re a 13 year old girl.

Simple Machine Presents “The Turn of the Screw”


Classic ghost story staged in two historic Boston homes

(BOSTON)-From November 8 through November 23, 2013, Simple Machine proudly presents Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, adapted for the stage by Jeffrey Hatcher and directed by M. Bevin O’Gara.

James’ classic story of a young governess charged with caring for two orphaned children at a lonely English country estate is one of the most famous Victorian ghost stories ever written. Hatcher’s adaptation ratchets up the psychological suspense and intimacy of the story with two actors playing all the roles.

The Turn of the Screw will be staged in two historic houses in Boston. The Gibson House Museum in Boston’s famous Back Bay is a beautifully preserved 19th century home that has served as a museum for over 40 years. The Taylor House Bed & Breakfast was built as a residence in the 1850s at the height of Jamaica Plain’s golden age and has been lovingly restored in recent years to its former glory. Although both houses are from the same era, the staging in each will be unique to that location; these remarkable settings will give audiences an authentic and exhilarating atmosphere in which to experience this classic Gothic thriller.

Last March, Simple Machine launched with the New England premiere of the meta-theatrical comedy rogerandtom by Julian Schwab (a play about a play within a play). The Turn of the Screw is Simple Machine’s second venture. The company’s mission is simple: Simple Machine makes theatre that is engaging, accessible, and affordable. Productions focus on the basic elements of, and the necessity of, storytelling. By bringing the audience into the intimate spaces at the Taylor House and the Gibson House, Simple Machine co-founder Stephen Libby hopes to “bring this story to life in a way that no medium other than live theatre ever could. We create work that proves that live theatre is as vital and immediate as ever.”

The story takes place at a secluded English country estate, where a young woman takes a job as a governess to a pair of recently orphaned children. But soon after her arrival, ghostly visions and strange occurrences reveal a sinister presence around her young charges. Is the estate haunted by restless spirits? Are the children somehow complicit? Or has her fear and imagination taken hold of her?

Simple Machine co-founder Anna Waldron plays the eager young governess, determined to protect the children in her care at all costs. Stephen Libby takes on the rest of the characters of the story, from the children’s distant uncle, to the estate’s housekeeper, to the troubled 10-year-old boy.

Director M. Bevin O’Gara says “The Turn of the Screw is the ultimate ghost story. I’ve never done a site-specific show quite like this, so it’s very exciting. It’s a challenge because these are two very different locations. And the potential to see a ghost in these houses…that would be cool…I hope.”

The design team for The Turn of the Screw includes costume design by Emily Woods Hogue and Lighting Design by Ian King. Elizabeth Ramirez will be the Stage Manager.

Performance dates are as follows:

November 8, 9, 10, 15, 21, & 22
Gibson House Museum
137 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02116

November 14, 16, 17, & 23
Taylor House Bed & Breakfast
50 Burroughs Street
Boston, MA 02130

All performances will start at 7:30 pm. The performance runs approximately 80 minutes with no intermission.
Due to the intimate nature of the venues, there will be no late seating.

Tickets are available here for $25.

The press is invited to attend the performance on November 9th at 7:30 pm at the Gibson House.

There will be a reception after the opening night performance on November 8th at the Gibson House.

Please direct all press inquiries to Stephen Libby at 857-574-0550.

Download full press release >>

Anna Waldron

Anna is the co-found of Simple Machine, and appeared in our inaugural production, “rogerandtom”, last Spring.  Other performances in and around Boston include Tiffany in You For Me For You (Company One), Hero in Much Ado About Nothing (Arts After Hours), Edith in Blithe Spirit (Lyric Stage), Alex in On the Verge (The Nora), Felicity in The Real Inspector Hound (The Publick Theatre), Nell/May in Caryl Churchill’s Fen (Whistler in the Dark), Ruth in Book of Days, Mabel/Mrs. Cheveley in An Ideal Husband, All in the Timing, The Laramie Project (Bad Habit Productions), LutherRhinoceros, The Firebugs, Danny and the Deep Blue Sea and Cooking with Elvis (Apollinaire Theatre), The Comedy of Errors (Imaginary Beasts), Rock n’ Roll, As You Like It, and The Importance of Being Ernest (The Longwood Players).  Directing credits include Stop Kiss (Bad Habit Productions) and Alice in Wonderland (Make/Shift Theatre Co.)  This Spring Anna is directing Kiss Me Kate for The Longwood Players.  Thank you to my whole entire family, near and far, for supporting this endeavor, but most especially Stephen.

Stephen Libby

Stephen is thrilled to be appearing with Simple Machine, having directed our premiere production, rogerandtom, last year.  He has appeared locally playing Dylan Thomas in Boston Playwrights’ Theatre and Boston Children’s Theatre’s production of A Child’s Christmas in Wales. Audiences may remember him as Guildenstern in Bad Habit Productions’ Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, or as Rosencrantz in TheatreZone’s production. He has also appeared with Bad Habit as Rulon Stacey in The Laramie Project and as Milton and Don in All in the Timing. At TheatreZone, he has appeared as the Non-Believer in Anger Box, Dad / Elvis in Cooking with Elvis, Eisenring in The Firebugs, and Berenger in Rhinoceros. With the Publick Theatre, Stephen has appeared as Bunny in Misalliance, Dromio of Ephesus in Comedy of Errors, and Starveling in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He has also appeared locally with Wheelock Family Theatre, Exquisite Corps, Shakespeare Now!, Opera Boston, Makeshift Theatre Co., and on tour with Shakespeare & Company. Stephen has a BFA in Acting from Syracuse University.


M. Bevin O’Gara

Local directing credits include Clybourne Park and Tribes (SpeakEasy Stage); You for Me For You, Love Person, and The Pain and the Itch (Company One); Matt and Ben (Central Square Theater); Two Wives in India and Gary (Boston Playwrights’ Theatre); 2.5 Minute Ride (Downstage @ New Rep); Othello and The Crucible (New Rep On Tour); Melancholy Play (Holland Productions); Bat Boy: The Musical (Metro Stage); Tattoo Girl,Painting You, and Artifacts (Williamstown Theatre Festival Workshop); and ANTI-KISS (3 Monkeys Theatrical Productions). She has also worked with New Repertory Theatre, the Gaiety Theatre of Dublin, and the Actors Centre of Australia. Ms. O’Gara is an Associate Producer at the Huntington Theatre Company where she will be directing Melinda Lopez’s Becoming Cuba this spring. She has a BFA from Boston University in Theatre Studies.

Simple Machine is back online!

Well, if you’re reading this, you’ve discovered our new website. It’s sleeker, easier, and prepped for more news about Simple Machine.

We have some news coming, including our participation in the Boston Theatre Marathon this year. We’ll have a title and artists to announce quite soon. Thanks for checking in and come back soon for more!