Shakespeare & the Alchemy of Gender, July 16

Trailer of an all-female Hamlet production, co-directed by Lisa Wolpe:

It’s well-known that in Shakespeare’s time, at least in England, men played women’s roles. Acting was considered indecent for women. Shakespeare has fun with gender reversals and disguises throughout his plays.

In recent times, there have been calls for casting that is not bound by naturalistic perceptions of race, ethnicity, and class. Tomson Highway discusses the dilemma for Native playwrights:

Q: What about playwriting?

A: That’s become smaller and smaller in my field of vision. [In getting productions of his work done,] a native writer is seriously hampered by political correctness. There’s this attitude out there that only native actors can play native roles. But acting — the verb “to act” — means to pretend to be who you are not, so I don’t believe in that idea that you have to be a native to play one. Look at [playwright] Morris Panych — and I don’t want to say a word against him, because I adore the man — but what if someone were to come up to him and say, “You’re only allowed to work with Polish actors?” He wouldn’t have much of a career. If someone were to go up to Atom Egoyan and say, “You can work only with Armenian actors,” his career would die tomorrow. There’s a very real danger of that happening with native writers. And the older I get, the less interested I become in immersing myself in that problem.

In response to such concerns, integrated casting has become more prevalent, although it is far from the norm. With integrated casting, talented actors are not held back by skin colour or gender considerations when they are otherwise appropriate for the role.

Lisa Wolpe, perhaps more than any actor, has challenged gender-rigid casting, appearing as Hamlet, Iago, Richard III, and other lead male Shakespearean characters. I’m looking forward to seeing her work on July 16 in Shakespeare and the Alchemy of Gender.

Railtown Cultural Eclective Trier Series presents

 a cross-gender experience….

Shakespeare & the Alchemy of Gender

with Lisa Wolpe, founder LA Women’s Shakespeare Company

“Wolpe is one of the great stage actors of our generation, who breathes life into Shakespeare’s words as though they were dredged from her own soul.”   SHAKESPEARE IN LA

“Wolpe confirms that she is simply one of the best interpreters of the Bard out there! “   Talking Broadway

 VANCOUVER, BC…Railtown Cultural Eclective brings visionary theatre artist Lisa Wolpe’s new solo show Shakespeare and the Alchemy of Gender to their Trier Series, July 16 at the Orpheum Annex, offering a unique celebration of the enchanting power of cross-gender Shakespeare.

Wolpe is an actress, director, teacher, producer and artistic director and founder of the Los Angeles Women’s Shakespeare Company (LAWSC), an award-winning all-female, multi-cultural theater company.

With Shakespeare and the Alchemy of Gender, she both performs and contextualizes her experience of interpreting some of the many Shakespearian roles she has played – including Hamlet, Iago, Richard 111 and many others, while exploring her own life story from childhood to maturity. Her work speaks towards liberation from the “gender box” of expectations, and offers a unique and powerful perspective of courage, resilience and hope against her family’s troubled background of war, sickness, suicide and despair.

Wolpe has played more of the Bard’s male roles than any woman in history, always to superlative reviews. She recently received the Lee Melville Award for Outstanding Contribution to the LA Theater Community and was awarded the Key to Harlem and a Congressional Certificate of Merit for her work with the Harlem Shakespeare Festival in 2013.

 She has taught and directed Shakespeare, all levels of acting, as well as directing courses for many theater companies and universities, including the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, USC, Cal Poly Pomona, Emerson College, Wellesley College, Boston University and MIT, and has lectured widely on cross-gender Shakespeare. She will be offering a cross-gender acting workshop in Port Coquitlam at the Terry Fox Theatre on July 12, details can be found at

 Shakespeare and the Alchemy of Gender runs July 16 at the Orpheum Annex, 823 Seymour Street in Vancouver.  Tickets are available at  For more information visit or call 604-836-9943.

Shakespeare and the Alchemy of Gender

with Lisa Wolpe, founder LA Women’s Shakespeare Company

July 16, 2014  @ The Orpheum Annex

823 Seymour Street, Vancouver
8pm Doors 7pm Tickets $20/$15 Students, Seniors & Arts Wor
kers   box office 604-569-1144

One thought on “Shakespeare & the Alchemy of Gender, July 16

  1. Pingback: A Winter’s Tale, PAL Theatre, July 26 – August 9 (preview, July 25) | Culture, Travel, Food, Music - Vancouver and Beyond

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