Boys Will Be Girls and Girls Will Be Boys
Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet Features Casting Gender Twist
An all-male Twelfth Night and a Romeo and Juliet comprised of female and non-binary artists have been cast for Seattle Shakespeare Company’s free Wooden O productions which start performances on Thursday, July 11. Both productions will perform in park venues throughout King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties.
At the first rehearsal for both shows Artistic Director George Mount, who started Wooden O in 1994, likened his connection to doing Shakespeare in parks with some religious traditions. “There is this sense of purpose and guidance that I find in the words of William Shakespeare,” said Mount. “And that I find in gathering with each and every one of you year after year for 26 years. To share stories, to share commonalities, to share differences, to gather as a community to cry, to laugh, to argue, to celebrate, and to break bread together, in the park with a picnic.”
For five weeks this summer both shows will travel to 16 different park venues to offer 43 free performances to audiences as far north as Everett and as far south as Tacoma. Last summer the Wooden O shows performed to nearly 12,000 individuals and families.
Director Mary Machala shared her very personal reasons for making her casting choices for Twelfth Night. “I have many reasons why I wanted to do this show as an all-male cast, but the main reason is that I have a 24 year old son, and I think men have taken it on the chops for the last couple of years,” said Machala. “I think a lot of young men in their 20s are kind of lost and they kind of don’t know what foot to stand on. And so, quite frankly, I’m doing this show for my son.”
Machala’s production of Twelfth Night borrows from various eras of pirates and swaggerers, from the Cavalier period all the way through to Adam Ant of the 1980s. “We are going to rebel!” boomed Machala. “This is a party, and it is a party for twelve days, of which this is the last day. So we are partying as hard as we can and as often as we can. It’ll be macho and sexy and dangerous and fun.”
The full cast for Twelfth Night includes Eric Ray Anderson (Sir Toby Belch), Charles Antoni (Sea Captain/Ensemble), Nick Edwards (Antonio), Jerik Fernandez (Feste), Chad Kelderman (Malvolio), Jason Marr (Orsino), Benjamin McFadden (Sir Andrew Aguecheek), Michael Monicatti (Viola), Christopher Morson (Maria), Tré Scott (Valentine/Curio/Ensemble), Brandon J. Simmons (Olivia), Andy Walker (Sebastian).
“I fell in love with this play when I was 13 years old because I recognized myself in its pages,” said Romeo and Juliet director Leah Adcock-Starr. “I see myself in Mercutio’s sarcasm and Tybalt’s righteous anger. In the way Romeo and Juliet tumble headlong into love then wonder if they’re doing the right thing. I see myself in the grown-ups who try to do the right thing and then really, really mess it up over and over again. In this way this play becomes the most beautiful mirror we get to hold up.”
Blending touches of Elizabethan silhouettes and details with modern day dress, Adcock-Starr’s Romeo and Juliet will strive to deliver the fairytale along with the “blood and guts” of Shakespeare’s most well-known play. “We’re going after the romp and the sex and the heat and the fun and the sword fights along with the language that glitters like stars,” said Adcock-Starr. “All of the beauty and all of the brutality. It’s a play that has it all, and I dig it.”
Romeo and Juliet’s full cast includes Shanna Allman (Tybalt), Ana María Campoy (Montague), Lexi Chipman (Juliet), Sarah Dennis (Balthazar/Ensemble), Alyssa Franks (Lady Capulet), Kathy Hsieh (Nurse), Tracy Michelle Hughes (Capulet), Jonelle Jordan (Mercutio), Elizabeth Keck (Samson/Ensemble), Imogen Love (Friar), Erica Matthews (Abram), Natalie Modlin (Gregory/Ensemble), Sofía Raquel Sánchez (Romeo), Carrie Schnelker (Escalus), Annie Willis (Paris), Maile Wong (Benvolio).
Set designs for both productions will be by Craig B. Wollam. Costumes for Romeo and Juliet will be by Jocelyne Fowler and Kelly McDonald will design costumes for Twelfth Night. Robertson Witmer will design sound for Twelfth Night and Steven Tran will design sound for Romeo and Juliet.
Wooden O performances are free and open to the public, but donations are encouraged after the show