Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Rated XX: Taffety Punk's All-Female Romeo and Juliet

Yep... It's less than a week away now until previews... The first chance to catch Taffety Punk's all-grrl (sic) discourteous retort to the Shakespeare Theatre Company's all-male Romeo and Juliet. Right here in DC at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop.

Today's Washington Post climbed on board the bandwagon with a terrific Jane Horwitz article about the production. And there's more press coverage to come in the next week.

It's been a real pleasure to get to know the Taffety Punkers as I've helped them hype this really inventive and transgressive production. A few teasers from the press release:

When Lise Bruneau, company member and Associate Director of Taffety Punk Theatre Company, found out that Shakespeare Theatre Company was going to produce an all-male version of Romeo and Juliet in Fall 2008, it plucked a chord of feminist outrage within her.

“In Shakespeare's time,” says Bruneau, “he did it with all men. For some reason, all of the theaters in America think this is so fascinating that they never tire of doing a Shakespeare production with all men! It happens over and over and over again!”

One of the things I'm most looking forward to seeing is how Lise Bruneau and her fight choreographer, Lorraine Ressegger, present the preening physicality of the play's fight scenes:

“Most women, and especially women that are trained fighters, are jumping out of their skins to be able to use some of the skills that they have,” says Bruneau. “And we never ever get to use them. So the fighting has been going really well.”

The fight choreography in the show reflects the nature of the play’s characters, says Ressegger. “Mercutio is quick, wild, sometimes rash,” she says. “Tybalt is always poised, extremely well trained, precise, most don't want to engage him.”

Ressegger also says that the dueling violence of the play spirals as the feuds unravel. “At the top of the show fighting is a natural occurrence. It's about dominance, humiliation, besting the other person. People get hurt, injured, tagged – but no one has been killed. In the beginning, the fighting is tense and people are on guard, but everyone knows you don't step over the line. The death of Mercutio causes a dramatic shift in attitudes.”

The physicality of Taffety Punk’s production is also underscored by the set, which is a playground of jungle gyms and swings that Bruneau says will call forth “climbing, holding, swinging and jumping” from the all-female cast.

“It’s unharnessed energy and power that women have just been sitting on,” she says. “They've just been sort of holding inside this passion for movement – and doing much more aggressive movement than usually we’re allowed to do.”

The XX Romeo and Juliet is at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop -- 545 7th Street SE (near Eastern Market Metro.) Pay-what-you-can previews at 7:30 pm on September 15 (Monday) and 18 (Thursday). Performances at 7:30 pm on September 19, 20, 22, 25, 26, 27, October 2, 3, 4 and Saturday Matinees at 3:00 pm on September 20, 27, and October 4. All tickets $10

For tickets call 202-261-6612, or email

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