MUCH ADOration Of Shakespeare’s Women
There’s that wonderfully clever query—usually heard only in the company of women—that goes, “If a man is alone in the forest, and there’s no woman around to hear him, is he still wrong?”
The eternal struggles that seem to keep the opposite sexes from ever truly understanding what makes the other tick are summed up in that question. And when you search for a deeper understanding of this quandary in learned books, there you’ll find the images of Beatrice and Benedick—Shakespeare’s poster children for the ever maddening battle of the sexes.
It takes two to tango, another saying goes, and along my theatrical journey I feel I’ve experienced an overabundance of the male point of view through the many productions of Much Ado About Nothing I’ve seen. For a long while now I have felt the women’s point of view to be out of balance with their male counterparts when weighing aspects of love, and I have found little demonstrated evidence of the modest evolution that has been forged in the name of male/female harmony.
Compelled by the journeys of Beatrice and Hero, I was primarily driven by a particular desire to honor in this production the journey of the women in the play and the complexities compounding their existence when navigating the dominant and paradoxical male-driven politics of love and pursuits of glory. By framing Shakespeare’s tale within the Caribbean culture, I was more readily able to lead with the natural, African-inherited essence of the matriarch-driven model.
As I continued to lay the foundation for this production, I also became increasingly guided to have it be as relevant to the District of Columbia as possible—perhaps motivated by the fact that Much Ado marks my first project for the Folger since directing my inaugural professional production (Richard III) here back in 1995 and my wish to complete the circle. No matter the inspiration, I called upon the resources of the annual DC Caribbean Carnival organizers, for whose guidance and insights I am eternally grateful.
While I give the men of this cast their due props, I believe even they would acknowledge that the talents of the women in this production inspire much of the ado, which honors Shakespeare, the dance of love, the Caribbean community, and the urban diversity that makes up metropolitan DC.
The bounty of feminine blessings on this production continues with the indispensable participation of Lisa Wolpe, the founding artistic director of the acclaimed Los Angeles Women’s Shakespeare Company, for whom I will helm a production of Richard II later this season, on which I will have the honor and distinction of being their first male director.
“That a woman conceived me, I thank her; that she brought me up, I likewise give her most humble thanks.” —Benedick (1.1)