So, The Two Gentlemen of Verona with an all-women cast; what’s up with that? Our all-female production is not just a concept. Yes, there is an interesting parallel to the original practice of single-gender male casting, but producing The Two Gentlemen of Verona with an all-female cast is not an intellectual exercise. The idea is rooted in the unique talents of this company, particularly its female actors. As a director imagining these characters, my mind instinctively went to OSF’s female company members; this one would make for an incredible bawdy clown, that one a noble knight or fearless adventurer. Before I knew it, I said to myself “The Two Gentleman of Verona with all women,” and it made me laugh out loud. It felt wonderfully surprising, kind of profound and a little risky. That’s not a bad place to start a comedy.
I was also inspired by OSF’s support for presenting Shakespeare in bold new contexts. The best way to describe it is like hearing a cover version of an old song that allows you to hear the lyrics in a new way. I’ve been listening to these lyrics with our cast, and we are in for an incredible ride. These women are bringing this play to life in ways that are immediate, infectious and at times, unsettling. They are making the funny parts deeply hilarious and the troubling parts deeply poignant.
It’s not easy to look at the way women were treated in 1590. Perhaps more disturbing is to see what hasn’t changed. As a company that values and honors Shakespeare, how do we hold his stories accountable over time? What are these stories telling our young women, and just as importantly, our young men? That is what we will discover as we move forward in this journey.
- Sarah Rasmussen