Bard to get gender twists in Ruins’ new season

A theatrical adventure doth beckon May 31-June 23 - Timon of Athens

By: Randall King

Posted: Winnipeg Free Press 01/23/2018

In a year that kicked off with massive protests against institutional sexism, the Winnipeg theatre company Shakespeare in the Ruins (SIR) announces a season that uses the works of William Shakespeare to target the gender divide from a fresh perspective.

The company performs Timon of Athens at the Trappist Monastery venue from May 31 to June 23 with an all-female cast. The second play of its season, typically a touring production that plays high schools and rural municipalities, sees SIR return to its 2017 tragedy Romeo and Juliet, this time performed by four male actors, which hearkens to the early Elizabethan tradition banning female actors from the stage (as portrayed in Shakespeare in Love).

“I thought I would balance the choice of an all-female show with an all-male show,” SIR artistic director Michelle Boulet says. “But choosing to do an all-female show as our mainstage production is kind of a big statement.

Their Romeo and Juliet “will not be the same at all” to the two-hour Ruins production of 2017, Boulet says. “It will be a one-hour show and it will give the students the idea of how, in Shakespeare’s time, women weren’t even allowed to act.

“So we put it in a historical setting and that frees them up to watch the show as an educational thing,” she says. “As they watch it, they’ll get drawn in and forget that they’re watching four guys.

“In the same way, I’m hoping the audience will forget that in Timon, they’re watching all women and go along with the story, no matter what the gender is.”

Given that Shakespeare wrote a couple of plays that explicitly address a battle of the sexes — The Taming of the Shrew and Much Ado About Nothing — Timon of Athens registers as one of the Bard’s more obscure plays, about a gentleman of Athens who is undone by his foolish generosity to undeserving friends.

“I was looking for a show that didn’t necessarily have gender politics in it, so that when you transfer it over, it’s unencumbered by that,” Boulet says.

“Basically, it’s such a simple story, it’s like a parable. It’s just Timon’s very simple journey.”

randall.king@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @FreepKing

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