A quick Google search reveals that all-female productions of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar have been staged across the country for years. Clever bon mots on the topic range from “Gives good guy” to… Well, actually people can’t seem to get past the “all-female” and it dominates the headlines (see above). Still, in an election year, especially one where the phrase “war on women” already holds a dominant position in our political discourse, the idea seems particularly relevant.
Theatre Unbound, as a company focused on creating live theater wholly and unabashedly about the lives of women since 1999, is just the organization to tackle the project.
“In Shakespeare’s day, all the characters were played by men,” says Stacey Poirier, Theatre Unbound Artistic Director. “We’re returning the favor.”
The cheekiness is apparent when discussing the style of this play, but there is clearly an earnestness, too, as Theatre Unbound is hosting a pre-show discussion with local women theater scholars on April 28th and a post-show discussion with local women political leaders on April 29th.
Theater and politics have a long-standing, sometimes uncomfortable relationship. In recent years, however, the trend has been for politics to be more theatrical and theater less political. How refreshing to see this company bucking that trend, and doing so by adding political layers to an already political play.
As for the look of the show, Theatre Unbound is choosing to go the traditional toga route. While this does not do anything to address or highlight the gender swap, it is an intriguing choice, almost defiant. As if to say, “That is your gender assumption, not mine.”
Theatre Unbound and director Carin Bratlie have tackled all-female versions of Shakespeare together before. In 2005 it was an all-female production of The Tempest, which was so successful in sticking with audiences that a local reviewer brought them into his review of another production of Julius Caesar earlier this year.
“Note that in April Theatre Unbound will produce an all-female production of Julius Caesar. It will be interesting to compare that production with this one. Certainly this play will stand up to multiple viewings.” John Olive, howwastheshow.com
When speaking of all-female productions of Shakespeare one cannot sidestep the question, “Why?” The following quote from a Theater is Easy review expresses a number of their reasons. What are yours?
“These classic roles deserve to be portrayed, are begging to be portrayed, by females. It’s a chance for woman to play the meatier roles in the classics that they were left out of. It’s a chance to transform and explore deep and interesting works. It’s a chance to make a classic relevant, and (don’t hate me for this) possibly making it better then it already is. I’ve never been so drawn into a Shakespeare production, and it’s not just because I’m a woman who loves to see woman empowerment. It’s because the two-faced, sometimes catty, ambitious and flawed nature of these characters works well on modern women.” – Julie Feltman’s Theater is Easy Review of Bushwick Shakespeare Repertory’s 2010 Julius Caesar
Wed-Sun, April 22 – May 6 (Sun 2pm, Wed-Sat 7:30pm)
The Lowry Lab Theater
350 St. Peter Street
St. Paul, MN 55102
At the door: $20
Fringe button holders, seniors or students: $15
Groups of 10+: Call 612-721-1186.
Reservations: 612-721-1186 or Online