The cast of Shakespeare’s Women (all photos by Dean Kalyan)

With the recent International Women’s Day celebrations, the final Phoenix Theatre play of our academic year—Libby Appel’s Shakespeare’s Womenseems doubly appropriate. Featuring the Bard’s most iconic leading ladies—from Hamlet‘s Ophelia to Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing and the singular likes of Juliet, Cleopatra and Lady Macbeth, these women “in all their infinite variety” are powerful, passionate, merciful, loving and beloved, desperate, mournful . . . and victorious.

Weaving together momentous scenes from 16 of Shakespeare’s most significant plays, Shakespeare’s Women shifts our gaze to revisit the familiar through the eyes of his most memorable female characters including Cordelia, Rosalind, Olivia and Viola, Isabella, Hellen, Helena, Katherine and Cleopatra. The result portrays women “in all their infinite variety”—powerful, passionate, merciful, false, gallant, loving, desperate, beloved, lonely, mournful, and victorious— reminding us that Shakespeare has gifted us with characters that are not stuck in the past, but are the heroines we still need today.

But what do these characters have to say to us today from our contemporary perspective, over 400 years later? Rather than stuck in the past, Shakespeare has gifted us with characters that are the heroines we still need today. Guest director Dean Gabourie brings his years of experience from the Stratford Festival and his passion for addressing issues of social significance with ACME Theatre to reaffirm the importance of the Bard’s plays in our time.

Go behind the story

In this short interview, UVic English professor Janelle Jenstad shares her insights about the women in Shakespeare’s plays . . . including the ones she wishes had more of a backstory and which need to sit down for a talk about their father issues!

Mo Hatch, host of the student-led Phoenix Fire podcast, also has an in-depth conversation with English’s Dr. Nancy Wright. They chat about Dr. Wright’s favourite female characters in the Bard’s plays and she spoke to the significance of seeing them come together on stage. Hatch also speaks with guest director Dean Gabourie about working on Shakespeare’s Women and what inspires and engages him as a director.

Naomi Duska portrays Nerissa from The Merchant of Venice

Watch it online

See theatre the way it works best for you! Our performances are beautifully captured by three different camera angles for a dynamic online streaming experience from the comfort of your own home. An easy one-click link is emailed to you the afternoon before your show time.

Streaming shows run Thursday, March 24 at 7pm, Friday, March 25 at 7pm and Saturday, March 26 at 3pm.

And you can read more about the $15,000 UVic & donor-funded, three-camera, 10-person streaming team need to create live theatre online in this behind-the-scenes story on the Phoenix Fire blog.

Ximena Garduño Rodríguez plays Cleopatra from Antony and Cleopatra

In the media

In this clip, CTV Vancouver Island spoke to fourth-year design student Brock Keeler about his work on Shakespeare’s Women (the story starts at 37:42). We also see a scene from As You Like It (featuring Sophia Radford and Jaswant Cridge).

“A play like this is a natural fit for a university in that it provides students, especially young women, the chance to sample a multitude of classic roles,” says this Times Colonist review. “The notion is that these diverse characters pop in and out of a nightclub with throbbing electro music. The conceit works, thanks in part due to Brock Keeler’s atmospheric design: warehouse/industrial with rusting girders.”

Describing the show as “a light, fun exploration of the Bard’s work,” this Martlet review notes that, “The enjoyment of Shakespeare’s Women comes down to the performances. It’s really about the actors handling abrupt changes in tone, as well as the back and forth their characters are put in. I would recommend it for this alone, just to see the verbal fighting the actors can get into as they bounce banter off each other.”

Tabatha Hamilton plays Lady Macbeth, from Macbeth

Shakespeare’s Women runs through to March 26 at UVic’s Phoenix Theatre, with 8pm evening performances and a 2pm Saturday matinee. Tickets range from $16-$30, with a $15-per-household streaming option