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THE BIZ : Shaking Up Shakespeare

March 20, 1994|R. Daniel Foster

Shakespeare was the ultimate gender-bender: Even within the confines of the Elizabethan era's ban on women actors, he contrived plots that had men portraying women and women posing as men. The Los Angeles Women's Shakespeare Company is keeping the unisex tradition alive, albeit on the flip side.

"This is not a lesbian fantasy on an Elizabethan theme," says Emilie Talbot, who played a servant in "Romeo and Juliet," the group's first production, staged last year at the Hollywood Actors Theatre. "We play men as they would traditionally be played. We speak as strongly, fight as hard and love as passionately as would any man playing the roles."

The company, whose second Shakespeare production will be "Othello" in July at the L.A. Theatre Center, drew its inspiration from the Boston-based Company of Women, the nation's only other all-woman Shakespeare troupe.

"Men's roles have traditionally had more text and a wider spectrum of life experience," says Lisa Wolpe, the L.A. company's artistic director. "Woman as victim, as girlfriend, as wife--it's really all we get to play unless we take the reins and say, 'Let me a play a general. Let me play Othello.' "

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