When asked why she was producing an all female Shakespeare, our Founder answered:
What is a woman?
As a college student, I examined this question in my senior theatre thesis. How were women portrayed in theatre? What I found after reading dozens of plays and essays and histories, was that in the case of theatre, a woman is either a wife, a mother or an object to be acquired. In fact, Shakespeare's heroines were only played by men in his time because women were seen as so wanton that they could not be trusted to perform on a stage in public.
Over the years, I kept examining our media including television, music, art and theatre to see if this was a wide spread phenomenon and what did I find? Once in a while there would be a movie or television show that portrayed a strong, intelligent woman who was capable of loving and being loved, having children or choosing not to and more, but this was the exception, not the rule. In my experience, women can be anything. I wanted to see this represented in theatre, art, film, television and in song. Where was it and what to do about it?
With the advent of social media, there has been opportunity for people who feel disenfranchised from opportunities and separate from the larger culture to have a voice. There is a hashtag #representationmatters.
It matters to see yourself reflected in the culture as excelling at work, relationships, faith and politics. It matters to see a portrayal of someone you would like to emulate looking like you. Some might ask, why can't a girl have a male role model? They can and do. However, I will direct you to my favorite story about representation.
One day the actress Nichelle Nichols was out and someone asked if they could meet her. She turned around and who was her fan? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He told her that he and his wife allowed their daughters to stay up late to watch Star Trek because Ms. Nichols was playing 4th in command of a space ship and she was an African-American woman. Their daughters could see someone on television that they might grow up to be like.
When Dr. King found out that Ms. Nichols was thinking of leaving the show, he insisted that she could not because all the African-American children watching needed her to represent them in front of the world.
When I decided to cast Romeo and Juliet with only women actors, I was harkening back to these memories. What kind of woman does my daughter see in theatre? Where will she see a woman of faith attempting to reunite 2 warring families? Where will she see a fierce fighter, quick to anger? Where will she see the tragic mistakes of a parent too focused on their own goals to see their child for who she is? Where will she see a love so strong, it won't be denied? Where will she see herself?
She will see all of these types of women and more in my production of Romeo and Juliet. Acknowledging that women can be and are every type of person, both good and bad, both wise and foolish, both happy and angry, both loving and hating, both comic and tragic represents to my daughter and all women that we do not have to fit into any preconceived idea of who and what we should be. Our choices are our own as are the consequences.
Representation Matters and I have decided that I must do my part to make sure that my daughter and future young women are able to see the possibilities of themselves in theatre productions and the larger culture.
We are performing this for Women's History Month, in honor of all the complex women in our lives