New York Theater Company to Perform All-Female Production of ‘The Tempest’

The members of The Tempest Ladies (Photo: Andrew Burton)

As America continues through a recession and arts funding is continually slashed from public schools, questions linger in the heads of artists, primarily how to introduce children to theater. Attending a play can be costly, not to mention require students and teachers to leave the school building in order to see that play.

Enter The Tempest Ladies.

The Tempest Ladies describe themselves on their website as “six bold and brassy women, each with a passionate heart for Shakespeare.” The troupe, founded in 2008 while studying at the Globe Theatre in London, is comprised of Stella Berg, Laura Borgwardt, Julia Giolzetti, Holly Hart, Laura Bess Jernigan, and Jana Stambaugh; each hailing from all over America. The New York-based troupe’s production of The Tempest, which was previously performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, is unique because it will be an all-female version of Shakespeare’s play.

“I was looking at plays and I had seen that Miranda was the only woman in the show and we’re all females and doing it,” said Hart. “So it would be interesting to do a show with mostly male characters.

“And there’s a lot of magic and we decided that would be a really great way to incorporate any kind of physical theater we wanted to do since there would only be six of us.”

Unlike Julie Taymor’s film adaptation of The Tempest that changed Prospero to a woman—Prospera—none of the sexes of the characters will be changed. It will just be an all female cast.

“When Helen Mirren did it, it was Prospero as a woman and it kind of altered the play a lot by having her be female and this exiled female duke,” said Giolzetti. “But here, we’re all men in the play and Prospero’s still a man. So we’re focusing on Prospero the sorcerer and Prospero the father and Prospero the man. Our characterization is still male.”

Although The Tempest will open at The Players Loft, The Tempest Ladies want to take their show to schools.

“Our play is very economical,” said Giolzetti. “We don’t charge a lot of money. We can carry all of our props and we don’t have a lot of costumes. And it’s only 90 minutes, so it only takes up two hours of their day.”

Additionally, schools wouldn’t need to have an auditorium for the performance. The Tempest Ladies are willing to perform anywhere in a school.

“I think that makes it more fun for us if there’s something different that we have to overcome. It keeps it fresh,” said Borgwardt.

But the major aspect of this all-female troupe is that they want to make Shakespeare and the arts accessible to everyone, especially in the schools, possibly giving a positive message to those that see their performances.

“For girls, we’re saying, ‘Here we are, we’re college graduates and we’re doing this by ourselves. You can do it’,” said Giolzetti. “Ultimately, if we can show girls that they can go and form their own theater company, we can help boost the arts. And maybe someday we can pay and go see them in a show.”

The Tempest Ladies production of The Tempest will be performed on June 2 at 7 and 9 p.m. at The Players Loft in New York City. For more information and tickets, visit tempestladies.com

Theatre Cedar Rapids to do “Superior Donuts,” New Play Festival, As Part of 2011-12 Season

Back in March, Theatre Cedar Rapids announced their 2011-12 season, but listed one of the plays as “TBA.” Judging from the press release, they have announced the play that was previously listed as “TBA” and it will be Superior Donuts by Tracy Letts, which will be performed in the Grandon Studio this September.

The other 11 productions—yes, 11—are 13, which will kick off the season on August 4; Damn Yankees, which will run from October 7-29; The TCR Underground Theatre Festival, which will feature new original works by Iowa playwrights this November; A Christmas Carol, which opens on November 25 and runs until December 17. In 2011, Theatre Cedar Rapids will produce The Importance of Being Earnest, which will run from January 27-February 18; Gross Indecency, which will run from February 10-March 3; The Wedding Singer, which will open on March 9 and run until the 31st of that month; Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, which will run from April 13-May 5; Alice in Wonderland, which opens on April 27 and runs until May 19; On Golden Pond, which will run from June 22-July 1; and Hairspray, which will open on July 6. 13, Damn Yankees, A Christmas Carol, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Wedding Singer, Alice in Wonderland, and Hairspray will be performed in the auditorium, while Superior Donuts, the festival, Gross Indecency, Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, and On Golden Pond will occur in the Grandon Studio.

Theatre Cedar Rapids has two productions remaining in their 2010-11 season: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, which opens next Friday, and Guys and Dolls, which opens on July 8. Earlier this season, their production of White Christmas had a sold-out run and their production of Sweeney Todd was met with universal acclaim.

(A disclosure before I continue: I stage managed Still Life With Iris for Theatre Cedar Rapids last year.)

The incredible thing about this season announcement is that Theatre Cedar Rapids will be doing 12 productions next year. No other non-professional theater company in Eastern Iowa is producing 11 plays and a festival of new works as part of an upcoming season. Additionally, they’re doing a festival of new plays by playwrights that are Iowans. Judging from what I’ve read, theater companies are currently trying to figure out how to promote the development of new plays and produce those plays while reducing the amount of time spent in development. Theatre Cedar Rapids is doing something remarkable by not only doing a festival focusing on all kinds of new works, but new works by playwrights that are specifically in Iowa. While it seems as though some theaters are still sitting around trying to figure out how to produce more new works, Theatre Cedar Rapids is actually doing something.

Another interesting aspect is the decision to have the runs of The Importance of Being Earnest and Gross Indecency overlap, although briefly. Gross Indecency is a play about the trials of Oscar Wilde, which is who wrote The Importance of Being Earnest. The decision to schedule those plays to overlap is really clever because it’s as if they’re giving the audience an enticement to find out more about the playwright.

As for the final play that was announced, which prompted me to write this post, Theatre Cedar Rapids isn’t doing what is Tracy Letts’ most famous play, August: Osage County, which is what he won the Pulitzer and Tony Award for. They’re doing his most recent play, Superior Donuts, which wasn’t even nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play. Superior Donuts was dismissed by critics in Chicago and didn’t receive any awards in Chicago—although I find it to be a very lovely portrait of life in Uptown. It’s probably Letts’ least terrifying play, but it still feels like a bold programming choice because it’s a very Chicago-centric play that didn’t receive any awards.

According to the press release, season memberships will be available to the general public this summer, and individual tickets will go on sale at the beginning of the 2011-12 season.

For more information, please visit Theatre Cedar Rapids website.