Sunday, March 17, 2019

#SwanSunday: Third Flight...

Wesley Houston, Nebraska Shakespeare
Director of Production and Communication,
showing his love for Swans. #WhyISwan #nailingit
Welcome back for week three of our #SwanSunday series!! Each Sunday in March we are highlighting #femaleforward Shakespeare companies and productions. The past two blogs have featured women taking on the largest male roles in Shakespeare’s plays (Hamlet, Othello, Richard III, and Henry V).  This week we are going to [swan] dive into three of the first female-focused companies in the US. These companies explored the mirror image of Shakespeare’s all-male company (Lord Chamberlain’s Men/King’s Men) of the late 16th/early 17th centuries. Even though two are no longer producing, their groundbreaking work laid the foundation for the all-female work we are currently exploring today. 
Before we get started (it's St. Patty's Day!), here's a shout out to...
In 2015, this company presented the Henriad (plays of Richard II, Henry 1V, Parts One and Two, and Henry V) with Irish female actors Derbhle Crotty as Bolingbroke and Aisling O’Sullivan as Hal and Henry V. The production received rave reviews and sparked a female forward movement in the Ireland theatre scene.
 "Sinking their teeth into Shakespeare, this brilliant Druid ensemble clutch him down to the sad, saving, and sacred earth where his work belongs, and you leave stunned by the measure and the ferocity of their bite."- Irish Examiner
Ok, now that we have all celebrated some awesome Irish women, let's explore the first #femaleforward companies in America...

Los Angeles Women’s Shakespeare Company
Mission: To provide a creative forum for the exploration of violence, victimization, power, love, race, and gender issues, and to provide positive role models for women and girls. (LAWSC productions ran for over twenty years, providing countless opportunities to female actors throughout the country.)
First Production: LAWSC opened in 1993 with an all-female production of Romeo and Juliet featuring Natsuko Ohama as Friar Lawrence and artistic director Lisa Wolpe in the role of Romeo. 
"It doesn't require a vast stretch of the imagination to get involved in this production. [...] the performances are one of the reasons why."- LA Times
Final Production: Hamlet 2017
"Wolpe is one of the great stage actors of our generation who breathes life into Shakespeare's words as though they were dredged from her own soul."
-Broadway World LA
Judith Shakespeare
Mission: To bring Shakespeare's language to life with clarity and vitality, while expanding the presence of women in classical theatre.
JSC, established 1995, was not a totally all-female company, but they produced many reverse-gender cast shows and all-female productions in NYC before they closed their doors in 2015. 
"...this is no trendy girl power outing. This is Shakespeare for the masses!"- Theatre Scene
Queen’s Company
Mission: A NYC-based nonprofit theatre company dedicated to the creation of inventive productions of classical plays featuring all-female casts. We advocate for greater opportunities for classically trained professional female actors through all-female productions and gender-blind casting in classical theatre.
First Production: Macbeth (2000)
Recent Production: The Taming of the Shrew
"Because every actor was cast according to how her personality fit the role, not according to gender, the production is an organic ensemble theatrical experience… Every moment in the play was active, honest and alive with brilliance"- Off Off Line

On a personal note, I am so grateful for these brave, strong women that provided opportunities for female Shakespeare actors in a very male-dominated landscape. Over the past decade, we, as a community, have learned so much about the importance (or unimportance) of gender. We have started to explore gender fluidity. We have begun to appreciate the power and strength within the female gender. I respect these bold artists that spoke the first words that have led to a larger gender discussion. But now, the aesthetic of gender performance has begun to shift. Women are no longer required to hide their femininity to speak traditionally-male roles. Shakespeare was writing about the human condition, and therefore his works and characters transcend gender. Gender performance is moving away from requiring women to "play men," and heading rapidly towards celebrating Shakespeare through the feminine experience. Next week, we will explore this new frontier of All-Female Shakespeare as we look forward to some very exciting UPCOMING productions for 2019!

Remember to post your #SWANDAY picture to social media on or before March 30th. Tag @neshakespeare on Facebook and Instagram, so we can see all the ways you are Supporting Women Artists Now! 

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