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

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