All-female Shakespeare theatre group has roots in Surrey

All-female Shakespeare theatre group has roots in Surrey

VANCOUVER — Back in the bard’s day, men snagged all of the roles at the famed Globe Theatre, including those written for women. In fact, females weren’t allowed on the stage at all, often making for a hilarious farce of bearded men playing less attractive female characters — like the witches in Macbeth— 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.

“It 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,” Wells-Campbell told the Now. “There are roles that I think that are written for men, but that explore questions of being a human being that  aren’t often written for women, at least from the classics. I wanted the opportunity to explore that.”

Classic Chic is currently presenting The Winter’s Tale, which has been running nightly at Vancouver’s PAL centre since July 26. The cast includes 21 female actors, playing both male and female roles.

“There are so many more women actors around than there are men, and there’s so many more roles for men than there are for women and that means that we don’t get to practice our craft,” Wells-Campbell admitted earnestly. “Often, we don’t access to those roles that really explore the full range of our humanity — that’s what it stemmed from.”

The Winter’s Tale is Classic Chic’s first production, many of the shows having been sold out over the course of its run, and so far the company’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 Winter’s Talewas a good fit for the groups inaugural production.

“We’ve been getting some good reviews and the audience seems to be enjoying themselves,” she said. “(The Winter’s Tale) really takes you on a big journey. At the end, you feel like you’ve been to a Hamletor a Lear where there’s a lot of dead bodies but it leaves you with a lot of hope. It really takes you places.”

While the road ahead for Classic Chic and women playing Shakespeare looks good, Wells-Campbell doesn’t want all of the group’s productions to be marked by the perceived irony.

“My hope is we’re able to move beyond the gimmick of it, I think that people can just come and enjoy the story and forget that it’s a woman playing a man. I don’t want that to matter in the end,” she said.

The show’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.