Gender-bending Shakespeare’s greatest male roles

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Lisa Wolpe in a scene from Los Angeles Women's Shakespeare Company production of Hamlet.

Meet the real-life Viola De Lesseps.

Forget what you might have seen in Shakespeare in Love, in early modern English theatre it was the norm for female roles to be played by young men.  Today, it is women like Lisa Wolpe, Artistic Director of the Los Angeles Women’s Shakespeare Company, who turns that notion on its head as she takes on some of the greatest male roles in the Bard’s canon.

Wolpe, who is thought to hold the record as a woman playing the greatest number of men in Shakespeare’s plays, is an actor, director, teacher, playwright and producer, in addition to her artistic director role in the all-female company that she founded in 1993.  She brings her story to Vancouver in an ‘Inside the Actors Studio’ style interview as part of a fundraiser for the upcoming Classic Chic Productions, itself all-female ensemble dedicated to performing the classics, presentation of The Winter’s Tale.

Wolpe will talk about her life in the theatre and her life of cross-gender acting in which she has taken on some of Shakespeare’s greatest male roles including Hamlet, Iago, Leontes, Richard III, Jacquis, and Shylock. In addition to acting, Wolpe also brings her experience as the director of more than thirty productions of the Bard’s plays.

Joining Wolpe are comedian Morgan Brayton and musical group The Legion of Flying Monkeys.  Brayton will perform an excerpt from her upcoming new sketch comedy show Flibbertiggibett! while The Legion of Flying will play its brand of interactive music on wooden ‘Fu-horns’ hand-built by Vancouver multi-media artist Mr. Fire-Man.

In addition to the fundraiser, Wolpe will also lead a workshop on playing the men of Shakespeare for Classic Chic Productions, which was founded on the notion that there are great roles in theatre that women have traditionally not been allowed to play, but appeal to them as actors and human beings.

An Evening with Lisa Wolpe takes place February 27, 2014 at the ANZA Club.  Tickets are available online through Brown Paper Tickets.

Mark Robins on Google+

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