VANCOUVER â€” Back in the bardâ€™s day, men snagged all of the roles at the famed Globe Theatre, including those written for women. In fact, females werenâ€™t allowed on the stage at all, often making for a hilarious farce of bearded men playing less attractive female characters â€” like the witches in Macbethâ€” or feminizing actors to play attractive parts like that of Cleopatra.
Christina Wells-Campbell, a Surrey resident and longtime actor and director, is turning that on its head with her new theatre group, Classic Chic Productions. The new venture brings together all-female casts for presentations of classic Shakespeare works, a twist on the patriarchal traditions of yore.
â€œIt came about because there were roles that I wanted to play and that I was never going to be able to play as a woman,â€ Wells-Campbell told the Now. â€œThere are roles that I think that are written for men, but that explore questions of being a human being that arenâ€™t often written for women, at least from the classics. I wanted the opportunity to explore that.â€
Classic Chic is currently presenting The Winterâ€™s Tale, which has been running nightly at Vancouverâ€™s PAL centre since July 26. The cast includes 21 female actors, playing both male and female roles.
â€œThere are so many more women actors around than there are men, and thereâ€™s so many more roles for men than there are for women and that means that we donâ€™t get to practice our craft,â€ Wells-Campbell admitted earnestly. â€œOften, we donâ€™t access to those roles that really explore the full range of our humanity â€” thatâ€™s what it stemmed from.â€
The Winterâ€™s Tale is Classic Chicâ€™s first production, many of the shows having been sold out over the course of its run, and so far the companyâ€™s artistic director has been happy with the outcome. And while it might seem a tad ironic to be presenting the play in the midst of summer, Wells-Campbell and crew felt that The Winterâ€™s Talewas a good fit for the groups inaugural production.
â€œWeâ€™ve been getting some good reviews and the audience seems to be enjoying themselves,â€ she said. â€œ(The Winterâ€™s Tale) really takes you on a big journey. At the end, you feel like youâ€™ve been to a Hamletor a Lear where thereâ€™s a lot of dead bodies but it leaves you with a lot of hope. It really takes you places.â€
While the road ahead for Classic Chic and women playing Shakespeare looks good, Wells-Campbell doesnâ€™t want all of the groupâ€™s productions to be marked by the perceived irony.
â€œMy hope is weâ€™re able to move beyond the gimmick of it, I think that people can just come and enjoy the story and forget that itâ€™s a woman playing a man. I donâ€™t want that to matter in the end,â€ she said.
The showâ€™s two-week run will culminate on Saturday (Aug. 9). The finale will be at 8 p.m. at the PAL Centre, with tickets going for a reasonable $25. Tickets can be bought at ticketstonight.ca.