The Nora Theatre Company presents Tina Packer’s masterwork Women of Will

The Nora Theatre Company presents Tina Packer’s masterwork
Women of Will
Limited Boston Engagement
October 13 – November 6, 2011

CAMBRIDGE, MA – The Nora Theatre Company proudly presents the culmination of Tina Packer, Founding Artistic Director of Shakespeare & Company, in her masterful summation of 40 years immersed in the investigation of all things Shakespeare, Women of Will. A combination of riveting scenes and lively, fascinating analysis, Women of Will explores themes of love, loss, freedom, control, and violence and power through the heroines of Shakespeare’s text. Ms. Packer will perform with her acting partner, Nigel Gore. Women of Will is directed by Eric Tucker. The press performance for Women of Will: The Overview is Monday, October 17 at 7:30PM.

First presented at Shakespeare & Company during the summer of 2010, Women of Will: The Overview is a comprehensive 2-hour production that includes themes from The Complete Journey – the full, five-part opus – and covers the full breadth of Shakespeare’s works providing insight into the chronological growth of Shakespeare’s portrayal not only of female characters but of the qualities traditionally considered feminine.

Women of Will will be presented at Central Square Theater in a two-part schedule. For the first three weeks, October 13-30, The Overview will be presented. For the final weekend, November 4-6, all five parts of The Complete Journey will be presented over one intensive weekend. Specially priced packages are available, including dinner from restaurants in Central Square, for patrons who wish to attend all five parts of The Complete Journey.

Director Eric Tucker joins forces with Ms. Packer and her acting partner Nigel Gore, tackling Shakespeare’s canon. Packer and Gore have performed opposite each other in several productions, including Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (which earned Gore an Elliot Norton Award for Best Actor in 2010), Antony & Cleopatra, Hamlet, and Coriolanus (Packer’s all-male version in England last year) to name a few.

All three artists have been working together for the past two years fine-tuning Women of Will, The Complete Journey guiding it from a workshop piece to a fully-realized, five-part series. In the spring, they tried it out on audiences in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Charlotte, and North Carolina – and the response in all cases was wild enthusiasm, fascination and desire for more. After the run at Central Square Theater, performances will take place in Colorado Springs, with an extensive cross-country tour planned for 2012.

About Women of Will, Ms. Packer states: “When I began work on this piece 12 years ago, through a Guggenheim grant, I knew it was an unusual journey and a hybrid as far as theatrical performance is concerned – it is a performance, but it’s also a discussion, a debate (as all Shakespeare’s plays are, in essence). The dramatic tension in the piece comes from influences in Shakespeare’s life, as well as my desire to show how powerful and distinct the women are in his plays.

Director Eric Tucker adds: “Arguably Tina Packer is the only female director and actor in the world to have taken on this staggering journey: examining some 170 female characters from Shakespeare’s cannon (he penned over 700 male characters, by the way) from a female perspective and in chronological order.”

An expansive, thrilling, wholly-engrossing look at the female characters in Shakespeare’s plays, Women of Will, The Complete Journey is a triumph of theatre. At two hours a piece, each play stands on its own, and together you will understand more about Shakespeare than you ever thought possible. Patrons should feel free to attend The Overview and then decide if they wish to explore Shakespeare further with The Complete Journey. The final week, they may mix and match the parts (see Parts I and III), or see all 5 parts and complete a unique marathon that will leave you feeling stunned, enlightened, and wonderfully alive.

About The Artists

Tina Packer, Founding Artistic Director of Shakespeare & Company, is arguably one of the foremost leading experts on Shakespeare, not only in America but in the world. At Shakespeare & Company, Tina has directed over 50 Shakespeare productions, as well as new and contemporary works including the world premieres of The Taster, Ice Glen, The Scarlet Letter by Dr. Carol Gilligan, Summer, adapted from Edith Wharton by Dennis Krausnick, and The Fly-Bottle by David Egan. Other productions of note include the critically-acclaimed King John, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, Coriolanus, Richard III, The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Julius Caesar, Henry IV part 1, and most recently an all-male production of Coriolanus in England for the Mercury Theatre in Colchester. Last summer at Shakespeare & Company, season, Tina also channeled Texan journalist Molly Ivins in the hit one-woman show Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins. Previously for Shakespeare & Company, Tina took on the Queen of the Nile when she played Cleopatra in the Company’s 2007 season’s critically- acclaimed production of Antony and Cleopatra. Other S&Co. roles include Queen Gertrude in Hamlet where she played opposite her son, Jason Asprey in the title role, and her husband, Dennis Krausnick, who played Polonious. Audiences flocked to see Tina as Lettice in Lettice and Lovage, and her many turns as Edith Wharton, and Shirley Valentine which she has played numerous times over the past 30 years. Tina trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where she won the Ronson Award for Most Outstanding Performer. In Britain, she was an associate artist with the Royal Shakespeare Company, performed in the West End, and acted with repertory companies in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leicester, and Coventry. She also worked for the BBC and ITV television companies and in film. As an actor, she worked with John Barton, Peter Hall, John Schlessinger, Sir Ian McKellan, Paul Scofield, Janet Suzman, and Ian Richardson, among others.

Nigel Gore trained at Rose Bruford College and the Trinity Rep Conservatory, graduating in 1994. He has play George in Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Elliot Norton Award Outstanding Actor 2010), Eddie in Entertaining Mr Sloan; and Henry Carr in Travesties; and Bernard Nightingale in Arcadia, all at the Publick Theatre Boston; Squeers and Hawk in Nicholas Nickleby at Lyric Stage Company of Boston. Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night, Buckingham in Richard III, Lavache in All’s Well That Ends Well and Claudius in Hamlet, Mark Antony in Antony & Cleopatra and Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Shakespeare & Company; and Volumnia in Coriolanus with the Mercury Theatre in Colchester England. Narration work includes Gaian Variations at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in NYC. Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale performed with Puppeteer Dan Butterworth. Wellington’s March by Beethoven with the Pioneer Valley Symphony Orchestra, conductor Paul Phillips. An Evening of Music and Shakespeare, Peter & the Wolf performed with the Rhode Island Philharmonic and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, at Boston’s Jordan Hall. For two seasons, Mr. Gore appeared as Thurston Twitchell in Brotherhood for Showtime.

Eric Tucker’s directing credits include the Off-Broadway productions The Belle of Belfast (Cherry Lane), The Libertine, 86’d (Theater Row), Off-off Broadway: The Libertine, Closer, 16E; Regional: MATE (The Actors’ Gang, L.A.), Women of Will: The Complete Journey, Women of Will: The Overview, Bad Dates, Pinter’s Mirror (Shakespeare & Company); Hamlet (with William Hurt, Stella Adler Theater); Macbeth, Uranium and Peaches (with Ed Asner); Women of Will (Mercury Theater, Colchester, England); Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet (Trinity Repertory Company); Antony and Cleopatra, Hamlet, Measure for Measure (Redlands Shakespeare); Man of La Mancha, Sanctuary (North American Premiere; VCPA); Watership Down (World Premiere; Burning Coal); Macbeth, Closer (SFGT); Voyage of the Carcass (Brown Playwrights Festival); Angels in America: Parts I & II, Hamlet (Beowulf); Much Ado About Nothing, The Tempest (Trinity Conservatory); The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (University of Utah). M.F.A. from Trinity Rep Conservatory. Member of Actors’ Equity Association.

Many of the artists who have worked on Women of Will throughout its various incarnations at Shakespeare & Company and beyond join The Nora Theatre Company’s production at Central Square Theater including Patrick Brennan (Scenic Design), Govane Lohbauer (Costume Design), Les Dickert (Lighting Design), and Michael Pfeiffer (Sound design). The production stage managers are Dominique D. Burford and Adele Nadine Traub.

About The Five-Parts of Women of Will: The Complete Journey

PART I: The Warrior Women, from Violence to Negotiation
Performance: Friday, November 4, 8PM

Part One examines the early writings of William Shakespeare, his journey to becoming a playwright and actor, and the role of theatre in Elizabethan England. We also examine the first plays Shakespeare wrote, such as his early comedies (Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew, Two Gentlemen of Verona and Love’s Labor’s Lost) and early histories (Henry VI: Parts 1, 2, 3, and Richard III). The performance ends with the first big change in Shakespeare’s attitude and portrayal of women: Juliet. How, Packer asks, is Shakespeare’s writing impacted when he portrays a young girl as intelligent, poetic and courageous as her Romeo?

Part I asks fundamental questions about the politics, sexuality, and actions of the women in these plays, especially in regards to the expectations put upon them. Although it is the foundation of all the subsequent parts, Part One also stands by itself as a performance, and is a terrific place to start if you’re new to Shakespeare.

PART II: The Sexual Merges with the Spiritual: New Knowledge
Performance: Saturday, November 5, 3PM

By writing about Juliet, Shakespeare gains a deeper understanding of the relationship between men and women. He perceives that sexuality can be an intensely spiritual journey, just as spirituality can be expressed in sensual terms. Using Romeo and Juliet as a foundation, Part Two looks at the continuation of this sexual/spiritual story, first with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, then The Merchant of Venice, followed by Much Ado About Nothing and Troilus and Cressida. Finally, the journey takes a different turn in Measure for Measure, and finds its supreme illumination in Antony and Cleopatra.

Much of Shakespeare’s creative life was consumed with the relationship between men and women, and we examine whether it was his worldly actions or his imagination that served as his chief artistic inspiration. Part II asks whether this relationship between the sexes can lead to a more fair, just, and impassioned way of living.

PART III: Living Underground or Dying to Tell the Truth
Performance: Saturday, November 5, 8PM

Part III wrestles with the middle period of Shakespeare’s writing life. Through the women in these plays, Shakespeare gives us a clearer picture of the constraints put upon them, where the power lies, and whether we are living in a monarchy, a republic, or in nature. Increasingly, Shakespeare’s female characters articulate the truth about what they are seeing and feeling. If these women stay dressed as women, they run mad or die (either by murder or suicide). If, however, they disguise themselves as men, they’re able to find their voices, organize those around them, and enact a story that ends happily.

We begin with Constance in King John, and then jump between As You Like It and Othello. By switching between these two plays, the audience can see the different outcomes that befall a woman who remains a woman, and a woman who disguises herself as a man. We then touch on Twelfth Night, refer back to The Merchant of Venice, and end with Hamlet.

PART IV: Chaos is Come Again, the Lion eats the Wolf
Performance: Sunday, November 6, 3PM

As Shakespeare enters a period of despair, he asks: what happens when women do not desire a different voice in society? What happens when they want the same power and goals as men? The answer is clearly illuminated in Macbeth, Coriolanus and King Lear, which Gore and Packer examine in Part Four.

Part IV then moves on to Timon of Athens, in which women are represented as whores who bring disease to mankind. Yet, in this dark picture, where the world is dominated by fascism, Shakespeare writes his most sublime verse. While the art form is at its height, the subject matter at its most dense and unforgiving. At the end, Shakespeare asks: is there no way out of this killing picture?

PART V: The Maiden Phoenix: the Daughter Redeems the Father
Performance: Sunday, November 6 7PM

In Part V, Shakespeare changes the story. His plays stop following the exact psychological development of the protagonists, turning instead to myths and fairy tales. In these late plays ? Pericles, Cymbeline, A Winter’s Tale, The Tempest, and finally, Henry VIII ? Shakespeare finds a way to make tragic events right again. And it’s the daughters who discover the way.

Taking the tale of the bird that immolates itself and is then born anew from its own ashes, Shakespeare names this progression the “maiden phoenix.” Led by Cordelia in King Lear, these young women find ways to redeem the past and allow the future to unfold without a story of revenge dominating the stage. Shakespeare had returned to Stratford by this time and was living amongst his own daughters, whom he had left behind 20 years earlier when he went to London to seek his fortune.

The last lines written by Shakespeare about a woman from Cranmer’s blessing over the baby Elizabeth at the end of Henry VIII, and his evocation of what the feminine spirit can do for a society was born out by her reign. Within this period of learning, music, poetry, and education, Shakespeare asks: what is the role of the artist in society, and what must artists do to make our collective lives more consciously lived? Gore and Packer investigate this question in Part Five, finishing the series in the same inquisitive spirit in which they began.

Women of Will plays at Central Square Theater, 450 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, Thursday, October 13 through Sunday, November 6. Performances for The Overview (October 13 – 30) are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30PM, Fridays at 8PM, Saturdays at 3PM and 8 PM, and Sundays at 2PM. The Complete Journey will be performed November 4-6, Part I: Friday at 8PM; Part II: Saturday at 3PM; Part III: Saturday at 8PM; Part IV: Sunday at 3PM; and Part V: Sunday at 7PM. Tickets for The Overview are priced at $40 for weeknights and $45 for Weekends (including Fridays), with discounts for seniors (ages 62+), students ($25 with university ID), and youth ($15, ages up to 18). Tickets for The Complete Journey are priced at $45 for all five parts. Tickets may be purchased by calling (866) 811-4111, at the Central Square Theater box office, or online at CentralSquareTheater.org. For box office hours, group discounts, and more information call (617) 576-9278 x210.

Central Square Theater (CST) is a four-year old nonprofit organization, created through a groundbreaking partnership between The Nora Theatre Company (The Nora) and Underground Railway Theater (URT). This collaboration has been called a model for the arts community (The Boston Foundation, Culture is our Commonwealth and The National Collaboration Prize), as it has paired two like-minded performing arts organizations in a strategic alliance with the City of Cambridge and MIT, resulting in the development of a state-of-the-art performing arts center in the heart of Central Square. CST has a mission to support its two theaters-in-residence while maintaining a shared vision of artists and audiences creating theater vital to their communities. The Nora and URT have a combined 52-year track record of producing award-winning theater. Located in Central Square, Cambridge, and steeped in its multiracial, intergenerational, ethnically and economically diverse neighborhoods, the CST theater experience exudes a democratic energy where classes, races and age groups come together to be inspired, entertained and energized.

The balance of Central Square Theater’s 2011-2012 season includes ARABIAN NIGHTS adapted by Dominic Cooke, the first co-production between The Nora Theatre Company and Underground Railway Theater (November 17 – December 31, 2011); PHOTOGRAPH 51 by Anna Ziegler, presented by The Nora Theatre Company (February 9 – March 4, 2012); the world premiere of REMEMBERING H.M. by Wesley Savick, presented by Catalyst Collaborative@MIT, a science-theater collaboration between Underground Railway Theater and MIT (April 12 – May 13, 2012); and the professional premiere of CAR TALK: THE MUSICAL!!! by Wesley Savick & Michael Wartofsky (June 14 – July 15, 2012).

All productions are performed at Central Square Theater, 450 Massachusetts Avenue, Central Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Central Square Theater is accessible to persons with special needs and to those requiring wheelchair seating.

For further information call (617) 576-9278 or CentralSquareTheater.org.

 

CALENDAR AND RELATED FACTS AT A GLANCE

WOMEN OF WILL
by Tina Packer

Women of Will, the masterwork of Shakespeare & Company’s Founding Artistic Director, Tina Packer, is the culmination of her decades-long fascination with Shakespeare’s heroines. Through a combination of scenes, monologues, and sparkling commentary, Ms. Packer takes us on a journey, illuminating the evolution of the feminine in Shakespeare’s plays, and in so doing, showing us the ways in which Shakespeare believed we could build a better world. Women of Will features a special two-part schedule: For the first three weeks (October 13-30), we will present The Overview, featuring highlights of the five-part The Complete Journey, which will be presented in the final week (November 2-6).

Presented by: The Nora Theatre Company

Cast: Tina Packer, Nigel Gore

Director: Eric Tucker

Production Stage Manager: Dominique D. Burford, Adele Nadine Traub

Design Team:
Patrick Brennan (Scenic Design)
Govane Lohbauer (Costume Design)
Les Dickert (Lighting Design)
Michael Pfeiffer (Sound Design)

Performing at:
Central Square Theater
450 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02139

Press Performance: Monday, October 17, 2011 at 7:30PM

Performance Schedule:
The Overview, October 13 – 30, 2011
Wed. & Thurs. at 7:30PM, Fri. at 8PM, Sat. at 3PM & 8PM, Sun. at 2PM

The Complete Journey, November 4-6, 2011
Friday 8PM (Part I), Saturday 3PM (Part II), Saturday 8PM (Part III),
Sunday 3PM (Part IV), Sunday 7PM (Part IV)

Run Time:
The Overview: 2 hours
The Complete Journey:
Part I, 2 and a half hours; Part II, 2 and a half hours; Part III, 2 and a half hours; Part IV, 90 minutes; Part V, 2 and a half hours.

Ticket Prices:
Wednesday and Thursday evenings: $40 adult, $15 back row
Friday and Saturday evenings and Saturday and Sunday matinees:
$45 adult, $15 back row.

All tickets to The Complete Journey: $45

Student Rush: $20 with valid college ID, day-of-show, subject to availability

Box Office: (866) 811-4111, CentralSquareTheater.org

Media Information:
Nicholas Peterson, (617) 576-9278 x205 ndp@centralsquaretheater.org

 

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