Meetup #24: Shakespeare and The Alchemy of Gender


Our 24th Meetup was a free one, where we had the pleasure of seeing Lisa Wolpe, founder of the LA Women’s Shakespeare Company, deliver a charged performance in “Shakespeare and The Alchemy of Gender” at the Presidio this evening. Wolpe is an actress, director, teacher, producer and artistic director and founder of LAWSC, an award-winning all-female, multi-cultural theater company. This one-day only event is followed by a masterclass tomorrow, where she will explore the alchemy of gender in a MasterClass setting, in which an audience watches her work with resident artists from the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival.

spec_img_alchemyWolpe has played more of the Bard’s male roles than any woman in history, always to superlative reviews. She recently received the Lee Melville Award for Outstanding Contribution to the LA Theater Community and was awarded the Key to Harlem and a Congressional Certificate of Merit for her work with the Harlem Shakespeare Festival in 2013.

Wolpe also performed at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival last month, and Claudia Alick, OSF’s Associate Producer, Community had this to say: “Lisa Wolpe is an amazing interpreter of Shakespeare. She approaches characters such as Iago and Hamlet in challenging and illuminating ways. It’s a pleasure to have this company member returning to share some master work.”

Charles McNulty of the Los Angeles Times, in his review, had this to say: “Director Lisa Wolpe saves her most interesting interpretation for the diabolic ensign, a role she performs so naturally that you’re hardly aware of any cross-dressing trickery.”

If you were part of the meetup, leave us a note and tell us what you thought of the performance.

10 responses to “Meetup #24: Shakespeare and The Alchemy of Gender

  1. Absolutely inspired by Lisa’s skill with language and vocal work. So much authenticity and truth in so many clearly delineated Shakespeare characters: Richard, Shylock, Hermione, Hamlet and of course Romeo & Juliet at the same time! What do others think? What’s your takeaway?

  2. Gah, there were so many amazing things about the performance – and talkback afterwards- that it is hard to choose what to highlight. The thing that MOST struck me was that Lisa seemed to look like a completely different person role to role – particularly from Hamlet to Richard to Shylock. I could identify the specific transformations in body and voice, but her face appeared transformed as well. It was so eerie that I momentarily thought my mind was playing tricks on me. That is what fabulously specific (and strong!) vocal and physical choices – coupled with an amazingly clear, nuanced and beautiful reading of Shakespeare’s words – can produce: the appearance of being alchemically transformed before our eyes into another… and another … and another. Truly, being a part of the audience last night was a gift.

    • And now that I’ve been to both the performance and the master class, one more thing that struck me is – this performer is not tall! I believe she said during the Master Class that she was 5’3″! Part of her alchemical transformation is that with these energy shifts from character to character, she seems to change size as well!

  3. There were so many wonderful aspects to the show-my favorite part was when she did Shylock-she played the character with so much depth, and it also connected so many of the disparate elements she was trying to bring together.

    • I liked Shylock very much too – and was ready to applaud after that portion of the performance – but there was something about the transition there that didn’t have room for applause, which I think is why there was even more applause after the Hamlet section that came after that.

    • I died when she did the Shylock monologue…really reflected her humanity and honesty. I learnt so much just from that. And then when she transitioned to the Prospero epilogue at the end, I just started crying…it was such a moving performance

  4. I have so much to say about watching Lisa Wolpe’s work. It was life changing for me. She is a master performer of Shakespeare and a brave actor bearing her soul. She wove her heart wrenching life story with scenes from Shakespeare, telling the story of how performing Shakespeare saved her from despair. This performance was a gift that I am so so grateful for. I came away understanding myself and my world in a profound way. I am inspired! The discussions after were equally incredible. I’m so grateful for Works by Women!

  5. Thanks Fontana – there was something revelatory in this work indeed – much more than we often see in Bay Area Shakespeare productions. I feel like there were a few glimpses of similar revelatory work in the Michelle Helmsley directed Twelfth Night that we went to at the beginning of the year. The fact that Cindy Im played both Viola and Sebastian for example and how it all came together in that final scene.

  6. This was a truly rare and special night of theatre. Lisa Wolpe’s performance was amazing, and inspiring. Her adept facility with such a range of Shakespeare’s characters left me hoping that one day, with hard work, and good training, I too might be able to inhabit those powerful roles with such specificity, sincerity and urgency.
    I wanted to hear more about her (company’s) work with young women, playing male roles, and how that was empowering. She’s a brilliant performer, and has tackled a very big issue in our society, and I feel lucky I got to be there last Saturday night.

  7. What I learned about playing a man: Take up space, don’t apologize, don’t look for validation, drop your jaw, drop your jaw, drop your jaw, align your body in a straight line, lean back. Elongate your neck and lean back. The world is yours.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s