Friday, March 31, 2017

The Gender of Shakespeare

“Oh, that I were a man for his sake! . . . I cannot be a man with wishing, therefore I will die a woman with grieving.”
Much Ado About Nothing IV. 1
Shakespeare wrote for a company of men. Though he did pen many dynamic, intelligent, magnetic women, these female characters are few in number. Many current Shakespeare companies are beginning to alter, cross, and/or neutralize the intended gender of Shakespeare’s characters to give female actors the opportunity to play any part throughout the canon. 

To wrap up Women’s History Month, I sat down with the directors for this season's Shakespeare On The Green to talk about women in Shakespeare and the agenda of gender. 

BA in Theatre from UNO,
MA in British Literature from UNO (May 2017)

18 years

Artistic Director for Nebraska Shakespeare
Resident Fight Director for Nebraska Shakespeare

A Comedy of Errors, Titus Andronicus, As You Like It, Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing On Tour, Julius Caesar On Tour, Twelfth Night On Tour, Hamlet On Tour.

B.S. in Theatre: East Tennessee State University;
MFA in Directing: The University of Alabama;
Ph.D. in Playwriting: Texas Tech University




Freelance Director, Actor.

Recently worked at: The Barter Players; The Omaha Theatre Company; Nebraska Shakespeare; The Duke City Repertory Theatre; touring original or adapted one-man plays, Rattlesnake and A Christmas Carol.

What part does gender play in storytelling? 

"Gender can play as big a part as it needs to. It can be as prominent and foregrounded as a production sets it up to be. With Shakespeare, I think, that becomes a put-on quality, which is not necessarily a bad thing, only that it is an idea not intrinsic to the text. But with Shakespeare, the plays can bring a lot of interpretive opportunity to any idea, gender attention included. 

Conversely, I don't think gender can yet play as small as some may want. I think theatre is still trying to figure out what gender, and age, and race mean onstage. There are different viewpoints on gender and casting, and what that means for storytelling. Some directors are thinking about these qualities in terms of being "blind" in casting. They say that it doesn't matter if someone is old or young, black, brown, or white, female, male, something else, tall or short- if the idea fits the role, go for it. 

However, I think there is always some discriminatory look at actor and role. When you cast someone for a performance, everything that that person is, is brought onstage and can be read, whether you intend it or not. We have to remember that an audience may not have the same blindness as you. So I think actually 'awareness' or 'agenda' casting is more accurate or appropriate. If I want more diversity, whether in terms of age or race or gender, then I have to set out to do that. And then my choices are read and judged and analyzed. 

So, for me, it's important to set out rules of the world, and they don't necessarily have to be the rules of the real world. But they have to be believable within your given context, and they have to be consistent. A white character and a black character can have a son who is neither, and it can be played by an elderly female for that matter, as long as it is understood by the production to be what it is- and a major part of that understanding is the audience's reception. Clarity for the audience is paramount. Do you acknowledge race and gender, state it, ignore it, assume it to be understood? Whatever you decide to do- those choices affect a rendering that should be as intentional as the lines spoken. I think this issue is a particularly Shakespearean or Classic Drama contention, where newer plays are (or should be) written with intentional diversity and/or explicitly stated openness about casting."

"Gender and, therefore, sexuality play as big a part in the human experience as anything and, therefore, it plays an equally large part in storytelling. Here is a little-known fact about telling a story in a dramatic work (theatre, film, television): 'story,' that is to say, 'a series of events' is always compelled by a character making a choice; choosing to do one thing rather than another. When a character makes a choice, that choice compels a change of direction, which is also known as an 'event.' A series of events is a 'story.' Therefore, in its most basic form, 'story' is compelled by character. 'Character,' in the best sense of the word, is only known to an audience by way of what that character 'does;' what 'action' they engage in. The more an audience knows about a character, the more involved in the action they become. It is my belief that 'character' is primarily compelled by the inner life.

In other words, what they 'do' is generated by the deepest part of that character. The deepest part of a character always has to do with gender and sexuality. And therefore, gender and sexuality have everything to do with telling a 'story.'”

What Shakespeare roles are the best candidates for cross-gendering?

"I am starting to explore roles in Shakespeare that could be played by either gender, the sex of the character is not germane to the story. So right now I like looking at female soldiers and warriors. Or female authority. What if the religious leader, typically male, is played by a female actor? What about mayor or King?  And it is not just for females. Cross-gendering should be open to males. I cast a play last fall where the female witch was played by a male, which was interesting."

"The more I open myself to this question, the more I find that there are far fewer boundaries in regard to this question than I had previously assumed.  The big discovery when trying to identify the best roles for cross-gendering is this:  All of the roles have the potential to reveal something that would have otherwise remained hidden if not for the cross-gender casting of that role.  In other words: I’ll bet that there isn’t a role in Shakespeare that would not be worth exploring from a cross-gender perspective. 

The obvious answer to this question is: roles that don’t require other roles to be cross-gendered; anything with a romantic angle or a marriage would require the director to address the mate of the cross-gendered role."

What are the challenges and benefits of cross-gendering in a production?

"There is something, thematically, to be said about certain gendered relationships. I think The Tempest is a play about a man and his daughter. Same with King Lear- a male King has three daughters. And Gloucester has two sons. If you change those genders, you change the dynamic of those relationships. But that is assuming that the gender of the actor matches the gender of the character. Which I don't think always needs to be the case, obviously. A female actor can play a male character as male. But when we change the gender of the character, it just needs to be thought through. What does that do for the character? For the relationships? For the play? Are you changing pronouns? What about titles? Does Duke become Duchess? Or can you have a female Duke? What are the rules of your world? And how is that clear and consistent for an audience?
The benefit is obvious to me. If you open up the casting to different genders than are written, you are not excluding great actors from great parts. And when you open up different ideas for the characters it changes the fabric of your play in numerous dramatic and subtle ways which can be very cool for these texts which we've heard about and read and seen so many times."

"I recently directed A Midsummer Night's Dream. It was a small cast of six so everyone had to play multiple roles. A young woman needed to play Puck, simply because of the way the roles fell out.  I have directed Midsummer five times and always had a male actor playing the role of Puck. I thought this was necessary because of the affection that Puck had for Hermia. I thought it was necessary for a male to be attracted to this female. I wanted the attraction to be robust and bursting with sexual desire. What happened was this: not only was this Puck attracted to Hermia, but she was also attracted to anything else that was pumping blood in the forest.  So… there was much, much more sexual desire permeating the forest. Which is exactly what I wanted. The lesson I learned was this:  assume that whatever you think you need, will be more robustly accomplished with cross-gender casting. Therefore, the big 'challenge' is this: releasing myself from pre-conceived notions about gender casting and sexual parameters of character; opening up to cross-gender casting explodes possibilities rather than restricting possibilities.

I also had a recent experience with a production of Julius Caesar that I directed. I wanted to have Brutus, the main character in the play, played by a woman, as a woman. The most interesting part of the cross-gender casting came in a way I had not anticipated. Since Brutus was a woman, I cast a man as her husband, Portia. The dynamic between the two of them revealed something about Brutus and Rome and the culture of Rome that would not have appeared if those roles had been cast traditionally. I won’t list the upside of cross-gender casting in this case because the benefits of it would take up too much space here but I can say that it was only beneficial; there was no downside to it. My big point is this: cross-gender casting compels the entire social and political environment of the play to investigate places that never would have been revealed otherwise. In this case it was not only the main character, Brutus, but rather the way the other characters were compelled to respond to Brutus that made the play more alive and vital than I had ever experienced with that particular play."

Are there any characters in Shakespeare's canon that you feel should not be explored by the opposite gender? (This is a real question, I am not trying to trap you.)

"I haven't yet explored cross-gendered casting in roles that are romantically or sexually involved with another character. I am ready to explore it, but the choice will say something (maybe, hopefully beautiful and tremendous) about a character's sexuality (and a community's reaction) that becomes, at least right now, a major point of the production, perhaps the only thing about that production. I have not found the right opportunity for what I feel would be a pretty strong agenda at this time. It's a risk, and one I am pushing myself to attempt... Soon, hopefully soon. How dynamic would a 2-boys or 2-girls Romeo and Juliet be? Maybe in tandem? Haha, that would get them talking."

"No. Any Shakespeare roles would benefit from cross-gender casting. I may not choose to cast a particular character as cross-gender but that doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be interesting possibilities if I had cast the role cross-gender. Whatever argument I can posit as to why a role should not be cast as cross-gender is exactly the same argument for why it would be worthwhile to cast the role as cross-gender.  In other words: the reasons for 'don’t do this' are the same reasons for 'do this.' "

What male role(s) would you love to see explored by a women? Why?

"Any of them, all of them. I have seen some Hamlet, but want to see more. Richard 3 sounds interesting. Timon of Athens, King Lear, Titus Andronicus, never seen an Othello or Iago. Macbeth would be fun. A lot of the Kings from the histories: Richard 2, King John, Prince Hal- Henry 5. Shakespeare has great roles. A lot of the men are heroes or warriors or tormented kings, or bastards, or clowns. There are some warrior women in Shakespeare, and mothers, and daughters, but obviously there is more range and diversity written for men, and I think it'd be fun to see women tackle these roles, these moments, these thoughts and actions and words."

"Any and all.  For all of the reasons that I have named in the above answers. It sheds an entirely new light on the play, the role."

What excites you about the cross-gendering for this summer's productions? 

"Some roles, Kent and the soldiers (in King Lear), are un-gendered. We are saying that the character's gender is not important to their story, although, as I've said- it is never meaningless. A lot of their actions are considered more masculine, but playing them as males is not the agenda. The actor's qualities, be they masculine or feminine (or both simultaneously) affect the role, and add to the diversity and flavor of the story. Edgar, however, is a male, and a female actor will be playing Edgar as a male. I am pretty sensitive to (read: aggravated by) 'acting a boy,' so again, it is the actor's individual traits and abilities and characterization that will motivate the choices, so I hope we don't see 'trying to perform boy-ness' onstage (this is me already directing). But that storyline, for me, is explicitly about sons and brothers, so let's see what that means when a female interprets the role."

"I love to see women being as disgusting and idiotic as the average man; scratching their crotch; spitting; being generally oblivious.  That is always fun. I love to see women doing stage combat. The women in my personal life are badass and I am afraid of them. So… it is not a stretch at all for them to have fighting capabilities. I love the adventure of discovery that happens when we cast cross-gender. I have no idea where the role is going to go and that is the fun of it. 

Also… I love making the play so involved, so consciously and sub-consciously engrossing that no one - not one single audience member - is bothered by the non-traditional, cross-gender casting."

“An actress can only play women. I am an actor, I can play anything.”  
–Whoopi Goldberg
Below are just a few of the cross-gendered roles from past Nebraska Shakespeare productions… 
many more to come.
Jill Zmolek as Warwick in A War of Roses: Fire Within in 2016
Ryann Woods as Mentieth in Macbeth 2016
Amy Lane as The Doge in Othello 2015
Mallory Freilich as Duke Senior in As You Like It On Tour 2015
Katlynn Yost as Stephano in The Tempest On Tour 2014

Sarah Carlson-Brown as Antony in Julius Caesar On Tour 2012
Sarah Carlson-Brown and Kersten Haile as Verges and Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing On Tour 2011
Be sure to join us for the Shakespeare On The Green productions of King Lear and The Merry Wives of Winsdor this summer and the Shakespeare On Tour production of Romeo and Juliet to see how gender plays into the stories.

And check out the all-female reading of Richard 3, as part of our Juno's Swans program.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Beware: It is the Ides of March

Happy Ides of March! Whether you are new to this exciting (non)holiday or you have been honoring it for years, we have put together a few ways for you to BEWARE on this March 15th.

5 ways to celebrate the IDES OF MARCH:

1.) Read Julius Caesar.

2.) If you don’t have time to read the whole play, then enjoy this three-panel Shakespeare from

3.) Use some of Shakespeare’s invented words.
Below are five of the thousands of words and phrases coined by Shakespeare:

“If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly: if the assassination could trammel up the consequence, and catch with his surcease success.” – Macbeth

Macbeth 2016
BEDAZZLED: The Taming of the Shrew, Act IV, Scene 5
“Pardon, old father, my mistaking eyes, that have been so bedazzled with the sun that everything I look on seemeth green.” – Katherina
The Taming of the Shrew 2016
COLD-BLOODED: King John, Act III, Scene 1
“Thou cold-blooded slave, hast thou not spoke like thunder on my side, been sworn my soldier, bidding me depend upon thy stars, thy fortune and thy strength, and dost thou now fall over to my foes?”

SCUFFLE: Antony and Cleopatra, Act I, Scene 1
“His captain's heart, which in the scuffles of great fights hath burst the buckles on his breast, reneges all temper, and is become the bellows and the fan to cool a gypsy's lust.”
Antony and Cleopatra 2006
SWAGGER: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act III, Scene 1
“What hempen home-spuns have we swaggering here, so near the cradle of the fairy queen?” 
A Midsummer Night's Dream with OSA 2017

4.) Drink an Orange Julius

                 How To Make an Orange Julius
                 (Makes 2 drinks)

                 1 cup milk (any dairy or unsweetened, non-dairy milk)
                 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
                 1 6-ounce can frozen orange juice concentrate
                 1/2 cup sugar (or sugar substitutes)
                 1 1/2 cups ice
                 1. Pour the milk and vanilla in a blender. 
                 2. Add the frozen orange juice concentrate. Blend.
                 3. Add the sugar and ice cubes: Blend until thickened.
                 4. Pour, raise a glass to Julius Caesar, and enjoy.

5.) Enjoy this delightfully funny adaptation, Orange Julius/Caesar’s Errors
Written by Artistic Director, Vincent Carlson-Brown, for Nebraska Shakespeare’s 2012 Annual Fundraiser. (Original Cast: Russell Daniels, Gage Wallace, Anna Jordan, Dan Chevalier, and Sarah Carlson-Brown)

{Orange Julius} Caesar’s Errors


Caesar and 2 ‘trunk slaves’ enter; the slaves are carrying a large chest in which are stored props and costumes for the play.

Voiceover:       Upon the Next!  Whence last our hero was bereft:  Gaius Julius Caesar, Caesar of the Julii, Descendant of the Trojan Prince Aeneas, of the goddess Venus, Conqueror of Gaul, Invader of Brittany, Bridge-Builder on the Rhine, Mantle of Power, Military Tribune, Golden Eagle of Rome, Standard of Might and Righteousness, Nightmare of Pompey Magnus, Lover of Cleopatra, Elephant Killer, Vampire Hunter, Redistribution Manager of Public Lands, Repairer of Diverse Aqueducts, Forbear of Modern Haircuts, Vacationer of Greece, Macedonia, and the Gang-Ridden Streets of the South-Central Carolinas; Your Dictator for Life and Mine: Julius Caesar was last seen eating a chicken sandwich, no mayonnaise, pickles on the side.

Caesar is crying while eating a chicken sandwich.  
The 2 ‘trunk-slaves’ fan him as he sings Adele’s Someone Like You:

Caesar:          Nevermind, I’ll find someone like you!
                      I wish nothing but the best for you too!
                      ‘Don’t forget me,’ I begged, I remember, you said:
                      ‘Sometimes it lasts in Rome,
                       Sometimes you’re stabbed in the back by your friends instead!
                       Sometimes you’re stabbed in the back by your friends instead!’

Caesar:           Let me have some men about me that are fat.

The two slaves grab pillows from the trunk and stuff them in their shirts.

One:                Here we are.

Two:               Fat as a fatty.

One:                Fatty Fat Fat are we!

Two:               Fatz Waller!

A Soothsayer enters with spooky ghost hands and crazy eyes.  
He clanks three glass bottles together periodically.  
Perhaps he has Jacob Marley’s chains about him.

Caesar:            Yond fellow has a lean and hungry look.  Such men are dangerous.

One:                Fear him not.

Two:               He just thinks too much.

One:                Noble Roman.

Two:               Well given, really.

Caesar:            (explosion) Would that he were fatter!

One:                Eat up son!

Two:               (tossing a sandwich) Have a bite, yes?  Fatten up!

Soothsayer:     (exiting) Beware the Ides of March!

Caesar:            What man is that?

One:                A soothsayer bids you ‘Beware the Ides of March.’

Two:               Ides of March?

One:                Did he mean Ideas?

Two:               Beware the Ideas of March?

One:                Nothing good happens in March.

Two:               March!  It’s ridiculous!

One:                March! Madness!

Two:               What did you do last March?

One:                Ideas-wise?

Two:               Alright then, what did you think on, in March?

One:                In March?  This year?

Two:               Odes of March.

One:                Maybe he meant Odes.

Two:               ‘Beware the Odes of March!’

One:                Odes TO March.

Two:               Odes to JOY.

One:                No, it’s Ode to Joy. 

Two:               Just one Ode?

One:                That’s right.

Two:               What is an Ode?

One:                A song.

Two:               Ah! Beware singing in March.

One:               Beware singing while you march!

Two:               Right! Like Drinking and Talking!

One:               Or Chewing gum and Walking!

Two:               Or Crying while Eating!

One:               Yes, Yes.  Beware the double activity.

Two:               That’s it.

One:                Must be.

Two:               You’ve got it.

One:                I always do.

Two:               Beware the . . .

One:                Beware the Double Action!

Two:               Beware the Double Action!

One:                Yes!

Two:               Namely Song-Writing and Marching!

One:                Brilliant!

Caesar:            Calphurnia!

One:                Peace, ho!  Caesar speaks!

Caesar:            Calphurnia!  Caaaaaal!

Two:               We’re in trouble now.

One:                It’s all your fault.

Two:               My fault?  I didn’t say anything.

One:                Crying while eating?

Two:               Oh that.

Caesar:            Caaaaal!

One:                Your fault.

Two:               The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in . . .

One:                What’s that?

Two:               The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in . . .

Actor brings out a big placard that says:  ‘OURSELVES’.

One:                (to audience)  A little help here?

Two:               The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in -

One:                (prompting audience)  Ourselves!

Two:               Well then.  It’s all Greek to me.

Caesar:            Calphurnia!


FINALLY, if celebrating the Ides of March isn’t your cup of chilled citrus beverage, then celebrate any one of these National March 15th Holidays:
National Brutus Day
Dumbstruck Day
Everything You Think is Wrong Day (Isn't that everyday?)

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Cast of the 2017 season of Shakespeare On Tour

Nebraska Shakespeare is proud to announce the company of Romeo and Juliet, who will tour to area schools and communities in September and October.

Bianca Phipps Juliet
Josh Ryan Romeo

Chloe Armao Nurse/Prince
Vincent Carlson-Brown Tybalt/Friar
Katie Becker Colón Capulet

Matthew R. Olsen Mercutio/Paris
Ashley D. Spessard Benvolio

Sarah Carlson-Brown Director/Adapter
Brendan Greene-Walsh Scenic Designer
Lindsay Pape Costume Designer
Vincent Carlson-Brown Fight Director
Wesley A. Houston  Properties Master, Stage Manager

Shakespeare On Tour introduces thousands of our area's youth to Shakespeare each year, reaching students that have never had the opportunity to view a professional touring production or work with Shakespeare’s text and is excited to be tackling Romeo and Juliet for the second time.  

Want More Romeo and Juliet?
Join us March 8th for our first Shakespeare
On The Silverscreen event, when we screen 
Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Women Behind Shakespeare On The Green 2017

“The rarest of all women.” 
 -Winter’s Tale (V.1)

Of the 981 characters in Shakespeare’s canon, 826 are men while only 155 are women. Women account for less than 16% of written Shakespearean characters. The absence of female opportunity is mirrored behind the scenes of, not only Shakespeare plays, but most professional theatrical productions. Female scenic and property designers make up only 22% of the professional field, and lighting designers and sound designers have an even smaller female representation, with 16% and 14% respectively.*

After looking at these percentages, our Shakespeare On The Green company this year is pretty special. Nebraska Shakespeare is proud to have a cast that is almost 40% female and a production team made up of nearly all women.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, I would like introduce you to a few of the bright, talented, female artists that will be working on King Lear and The Merry Wives of Windsor this summer!

How did you choose this vocation (or did it choose you)? 

Honestly? A little of both. I was at boarding school and my RA was worried I wasn't getting out enough - she suggested I attend an after school meeting of the tech theatre club and I sort of never left. The combination of art, collaboration, and organization needed to do this work has always managed to challenge my heart and brain in a way that no other "job" has. 

It chose me; but I think it is important to participate to do whatever I can to contribute. The dynamics of our country are too volatile to not participate.

I was a theatre and art major and hadn't figured out that the two might go together into an actual job. I needed a professor to point out that I was good at it. A student should not underestimate the power of one great class.

It chose me. I went to college to study acting. The school I went to does not allow freshmen to audition, but required us to work on technical crews our first year, and I was put onto the lighting crew for our first show, which was a musical. I was blown away by what lighting was able to do during a production and have been involved with it ever since.

It definitely chose me. I graduated high school wanting to go to culinary school and open my own bakery. Went to a community college with no cooking classes. Fell into illustration, then used those skills for the theatre and found out props requires all the skills in multiple fields that I enjoy. Now I am a devout properties technician.

We had the challenge of 'sound designing' an Edgar Allan Poe piece in college and I went above and beyond what was required because that is how it HAD TO BE DONE. Adding a soundscape to a poem allowed the audience to experience a familiar piece in an unfamiliar way. Without sound, it was just a (brilliant) poem they have heard a hundred times. Using sound to comment on action, enhance drama/comedy, illicit a physical response, create excitement/sadness/anger and explore all other purposeful ways sound could add to a production became really important to me after that.

Do you feel your gender gives you a different 
viewpoint on your art? If yes, how so? 

I think our gender gives us all a different viewpoint on everything we do, not just those of us doing art. But, yes, I do think that I design with a particular approach because I'm a woman - I'd almost say I design defensively. This has traditionally been a man's field (both theatre itself and scene design in particular). I think that, because of that, I strive to create designs that push boundaries and are deeply rooted in the text of the piece - I want to make sure all of my choices are justified because I work with the assumption that at some point some decision I have made will be challenged and I'll need to defend it. As a woman in this discipline, I personally would rather that my art never seem "male" or "female" ... I don't want the audience to know that I'm woman from my design. 

I suppose it does, but not in the “average” way, or at least what I perceive as the “average” way. I think maybe women are so focused on being undermined, insulted, etc. that they concentrate on their voices being heard. But I think I make decisions comparing (in my brain) what a male and a female might do/say/react in any particular moment…and then make my decisions/answers/conversations, etc. based on BOTH genders.

Maybe not a different viewpoint, but a slight preference for designing more women's costumes, in a world where so many plays are heavily populated by men.

Possibly, although I've never thought about it that way. I approach a project from an emotional standpoint pretty consistently, and that could have something to do with being a woman, but I can't say definitively.

For sure. The women in tech theatre I've noticed are generally costumers or painters. Sometimes electricians. Of course they're all fantastic and admirable. I've grown so accustomed to being the only woman in a scene shop that I don't really get affected by it anymore. I no longer feel like I have to prove myself exactly, only that I have to be sharp and not make stupid mistakes because stupidity is unproductive. Artistically, I feel like being a woman in this industry adds patience to my life. As in, the need for patience. 

That would be a 'heck yeah.' Being a lady gives me an understanding of the privilege I do and do not have. I remember being on tour with my band in California and walking into a venue to have the door guy ask me whose girlfriend I was. People assume your role because of your gender. That is changing in some mindsets, but for the most part, the music industry is a man's world still.  Women have been unsung heroes in music until just recently. Social media and publications like She Shreds have given women's voices a wider range of exposure. Girls are seeing representation on stage more often, which is important. Women are demanding respect in their fields. (Did you know that Louie Armstrong's wife, Lil, wrote most of his hits?)

What have been the biggest challenges and/or 
opportunities of being a woman in your field? 

Hah, which field? I started in this business working in scene and prop shops. Those jobs are especially tough on women in a way that I would assume is similar to what women in construction jobs encounter. I think that in general the field has gotten more progressive over the years - I know plenty of female carpenters and technical directors - but there is still the inherent sexism of, "Hey little lady let me help you with that big scary saw." As a designer, my challenges are usually in how I communicate with those shops as an artist versus as a technician. I think that in the last few years, specifically, the opportunities of being a woman designing scenery are focused on the outreach - how do we make this art about being strong role models for the next generation, just like in many other fields. Because there were traditionally less women doing this, my generation is still (I believe) enjoying a little bit of the benefits of the "novelty" of having a female scenic designer ... although I'd be perfectly alright with losing that and just being hired on the basis of my work. 

I think my biggest challenges are the same as many women. Lack of respect, opinion not being listened to, actually being cut off while I talk/express an idea, the butt of female jokes (jokes of anatomy, etc.); and just in general, not taken as seriously. When I was younger, I knew it was because I was female and young and a thin resume. But now, I have age and maturity, I have the resume….so it becomes very apparent which shortcomings occur because of my sex.

I am surrounded by many women in the costume shop, supporting me, challenging me (in a good way). One challenge is that, when costume designers are women, it can be assumed that the process is very arts and crafts, as opposed to a fine art.

I think that I am often underestimated, or talked down to, by the men in my field. In addition to being a woman, I look much younger than I actually am, and therefore people often assume I need to be taught. Although I don't know everything, and will never claim to, I do often have to deal with this aspect before I can get to the point of accomplishing what I actually need to know.

Being allowed to speak. Thanks to some very uplifting mentors, I have learned how to be loud and get my side of a situation out there in words in a meeting, but there were times team members would make expectations of me or my crew that were unrealistic and I would get talked over or ignored while trying to make the actual possibilities clear. Assumptions are never good.

A sound designer has a challenge with every show because EVERYONE knows something about music and some directors are used to doing the sound themselves so there might be a difficult time giving that control over to a designer. I love celebrating women in music. I look for every opportunity to build other women up.

Does your design process change when 
you are working on Shakespeare? 

Shakespeare in general? No. Shakespeare in the Park? Absolutely! I approach pretty much all shows in the same way - read it, research it, discuss it, adjust until it's right. The unique challenge of the repertory in the park is that I need to find a way to merge the needs and aesthetics of two sometimes completely disparate show concepts. Last summer the shows ended up having more in common than we expected at the onset so the final set grew together relatively organically. This summer ... I'm not so sure yet.

Not in who I am as a person, or a stage manager. There is a level of elevation I like to always achieve on any project; but I am more aware of it during Shakespeare. Part of that is because of my respect for the company, the language, the text. Of course, there is always the equity factor, the fact that there are more males many times; you have to keep proving you not only have the job, can do the job, and know what you are doing….but that you can actually achieve the job without sex (or “being sexy”) being a factor.

For Shakespeare, especially outdoors, everything needs to be bigger and bolder to be readable for the audience. Tiny details, like embroidery, small buttons and shoe details, while nice additions, cannot be seen by 2/3 of the audience.

No. I approach it as I would any other production. I feel like there is more room to push the aesthetic with Shakespeare because the work is so bold, but my general approach remains the same.

Probably not much. This is my first summer with the company but I have worked with Nebraska Shakespeare's Director of Production before and I think the system of organization I used previously worked well with him, thus with all other departments. I am open to altering my process as needed. I'm not yet sure what the deadlines are for prop cuts/adds/changes, but that is very important. Going in, my process will be the same. I do expect it to change though.

It doesn't change from other theatrical productions. I gather or write as much music/sound as I can before rehearsals begin. I call it building a 'bank' to share with the director. The director usually listens on his/her own time and then we sit down and talk about the feel of the show and where we definitely need sound/music, where we could have sound/music, etc. During rehearsals, I will listen to options from the bank with headphones in to see what fits and once I have an idea, I play things out loud at rehearsal to see how it enhances/changes/fights against the scene. Then we make decisions and BAM! we have a sound design.

Describe your artistic philosophy in one sentence 
and three hashtags.

Art is what centers us, inspires us, and connects us to one another; it is a fundamental expression of our human experience. 

Art should be expressed truthfully, from the heart, mind and soul.

Just because you can dress yourself, doesn't mean you're a costume designer.  
#everysleevecanBahat #noteveryhatcanBasleeve

I really enjoy working as a part of a full production team and allowing our ideas to inspire each other to create a cohesive world for the characters to inhabit.


Art lays bare the questions that have been hidden by the answers- Anne Bogart

Thanks to all these wonderful (and extraordinarily busy) women for providing their wisdom, experience, and expertise for this interview. Please join us this summer to see these professionals do what they do best. 

Personally, I cannot wait to get started.

*-National study completed during the 2015-2016 season. Published on