Ready Minds

All-women Shakespeare troupe gives new twist to the classics.

By Rachel Johnson | Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

When did you last hear a woman give a rousing St. Crispin’s Day speech? Has a female ever come, not to praise Caesar, but to bury him? How many times has the graphic violence of Titus Andronicus played out in a cast devoid of men?

Femina Shakes, the all-female Shakespearian troupe and brainchild of Voice & Speech Assistant Professor Christine Hamel, exists precisely to let School of Theatre women take on the meaty parts traditionally reserved for men. Femina Shakes has staged Titus Andronicus, Julius Caesar, and the fall 2012 production of Henry V.

“She is passionate about giving these young women a chance to speak this text,” says Lillian King (’14), director of Henry V. “These speeches that they’re not going to get to do for the rest of their lives—these really, really wonderful parts.”

King stresses that Femina Shakes is not about women masquerading as men. She set Henry V in post-World War II London, her cast rising from the ashes of a ruined city. “It made me think about the stories we tell,” she says, “about why women would want to tell this story. But you celebrate that they’re women, and then you forget it and focus on the story.”

Henry V culminated with an interdisciplinary performance at the School of Management for a Dynamics of Leading Organizations class, in which students were asked to consider the play as a live case study in conflict resolution.

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