DAILY CAMERA: Colorado Shakespeare Festival to try some gender-bending in 2016
The work of William Shakespeare is hardly sacrosanct.
Tweaking elements of the Bard of Avon’s work has become an industry standard on stage and screen. Whether it’s adjusting the characters, the setting or the costumes, reimagining Shakespeare’s 400-year-old-plus canon is an expected part of staging his work in the 21st century.
Even so, Geoffrey Kent is a bit leery about certain kinds of edits to the playwright’s work.
Kent, a veteran actor, director and fight coordinator with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, says trying too hard to add modern messages to Elizabethan narratives can take away from the heart of the material.
“I’m not a big fan of agenda-driven Shakespeare. I think the agenda can take over the story,” said Kent, who has been tabbed to direct the CSF’s 2016 production of “The Comedy of Errors.” “And what I want to do is just tell a great story.”
But Kent and the rest of the CSF crew aren’t purists when it comes to staging the nation’s second-oldest Shakespeare festival. (“Comedy of Errors” kicks off the season with a June 3-Aug 7 run at the Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre, except for July 2. That show was canceled because of a conflict with a Dead & Company concert at Folsom Field, as was a July 2 production of “Equivocation” and a July 3 performance of “Troilus and Cressida.”)
The upcoming season will carry its own agenda, but Kent insists it won’t detract from the underlying soul of “Comedy of Errors.” Neither will it derail the storytelling behind “Troilus and Cressida,” “Cymbelline” and “Henry VI Part 2.”
“I guess I do have an unspoken agenda: I’d like to see more women in Shakespeare. Every year we audition dozens of women, but every year we only have four or five roles,” Kent said. “How can we employ more talented Shakespearean actresses than we have in the past?”
This year, the answer lies in swapping the genders of the lead characters in “The Comedy of Errors,” as well as roles in the rest of season selections. With the recent announcement of the upcoming season’s cast lists, the CSF has staked a claim to make one of Boulder’s signature cultural events more inclusive.