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  • Writer's pictureCriena

Women of Will by Tina Packer

Women of Will in performance by Tina Packer and Nigel Gore.

It seems like it is a Shakespeare week or even month for me. I've been engrossed in the Bard's works. I used a Romeo monologue in an audition recently; I saw Troilus and Cressida in Shakespeare in the Park last weekend; and I'm reading this wonderful book Women of Will by Tina Packer.

My classics professor in grad school was Louis Colaianni and his teacher was this woman above - Tina Packer - Founding Artistic Director of Shakespeare and Company. She has directed most of Shakespeare's plays and has acted in seven of them.

I love acting Will Shakespeare's words. However, there are so much less female roles compared to the men's. For every Juliet and Nurse, there are Romeo, Mercutio, Benvolio, Friar Lawrence, Paris, Tybalt and so forth. Which is partly because of the female role in society at the time, but also because only men could play their part in theaters. In western theater, women were prohibited from acting for 2,000 years.

I wanted to read this book to get a sense of the options for me as an actress and to see the role of women in each play.

In Women of Will, you get to see the evolution of the female characters; from Shakespeare writing about them as pawns to men, to him embodying them as he writes. Quite fascinating. You get to hear it through Tina's voice; how she disdains Taming of the Shrew; how she's amazed with the Miranda and Ariel in The Tempest. Both the same writer, but very different portrayal of women. Part intellectual analysis, part performance-education, this book is a gem for female actors/directors.

I haven't read the whole book yet, so I won't give reviews. It takes some time to get through it. Tina goes through Shakespeare's life and the historical context in which he writes his plays. Since there are no concrete dates when he wrote most of his plays, a chunk of the book becomes historical investigation. Which for a woman who grew up in Asia in the 21st Century, is a LOT to take in.


Want a taste of how Shakespeare's plays would have been done during his time? Watch this clip of an all-male cast of Twelfth Night at The Globe starring Mark Rylance, who won a Tony for this role.

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