An all-female Shakespeare Trilogy comes to St Ann's

St. Ann’s Warehouse welcomes back the Donmar Warehouse to present the American screen premieres of their acclaimed, visceral all-female Shakespeare Trilogy—Julius Caesar, Henry IV, and The Tempest

An all-female Shakespeare Trilogy comes to St Ann's

St. Ann’s Warehouse | DUMBO

St. Ann’s Warehouse welcomes back the Donmar Warehouse to present the American screen premieres of their acclaimed, visceral all-female Shakespeare TrilogyJulius Caesar, Henry IV, and The Tempest—directed by Phyllida Lloyd, May 31 to June 3, 2018.

In 2016, following a 13-week final repertory season, the plays were filmed in front of a live audience in London and edited for the screen to include separately shot, hand-held and GoPro footage breaking the formality of the traditional live camera “capture” of stage productions. Described by Susannah Clapp of The Observer as “one of the most important theatrical events of the past 20 years,” the Trilogy features a diverse cast led by Dame Harriet Walter, one of the greatest living Shakespearean actors. Having had their U.S. premieres at St. Ann’s Warehouse, these productions now return to the Brooklyn waterfront theater as striking films. Kicking off with the American premiere of Julius Caesar on the evening of Thursday, May 31, the films will screen in marathon form, presenting the entirety of the vividly cohesive world the Trilogy created, over the course of a packed weekend. Audiences will have the chance to see all three onscreen versions in one day, over three days, or individually.

St. Ann’s Artistic Director Susan Feldman says, “It’s in our DNA, a commitment to the social need to address things directly, the need for dialogue and connection. Watching women take on the language of power that Shakespeare originally wrote for men adds a layer of urgency and emotion that illuminates these plays in a new way.”

In the meta-theatrical trilogy, developed and produced over the course of five years, the actresses played inmates in a women’s prison assuming the characters in Shakespeare’s plays. This layered motif brought out the tense and often-brutal power dynamics evoked by Shakespeare, magnified in the context of the prison as a space designed to isolate and strip people of their agency. Launching the Trilogy Weekend, Julius Caesar, the only film of the three thus far to have been screened—in the UK, and having premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival—follows the descent of a society into factions and the outbreak of civil war. When it debuted in 2012, Phyllida Lloyd’s production took an explosive approach to Caesar’s famous discourse on power, loyalty, and tragic idealism, and she has now shaped her considerable directorial vision into a thrilling version for the screen. When the production came to St. Ann’s Warehouse in 2013, Ben Brantley wrote in the New York Times, “There’s something about the combination of casting and setting in Ms. Lloyd’s version that makes her Julius Caesar particularly intense and illuminating… Trapped in a cycle of violence and retribution, the inmate [characters]…are prisoners in more ways than one.”

 



On June 1, St. Ann’s Warehouse will offer an empowerment workshop day aimed at nurturing agency in women and girls.  Then, over the course of June 1, 2, and 3, the films will screen back-to-back, filling whole days with Lloyd’s contemporary Shakespearean vision. The director’s Henry IV compacted Shakespeare’s two history plays, Henry IV parts I and II, into one electrifying whole—about the passing of the crown from Henry IV to his aimlessly-drunk-turned-valiant-militant son. It premiered in 2014 at the Donmar and then opened the new St. Ann’s Warehouse in 2015, where Brantley praised it in the New York Times as “a celebration of the metamorphic wonder of live stage acting, and of the distinctive insights it affords as we watch people transform themselves into others.” Finally, The Tempest opened in 2016 in London, concluding the power-centric trilogy with an air of whimsy and hope, and came to St. Ann’s in early 2017. Speaking of her performances across the three plays, The Guardian called Harriet Walter “mesmerizing…bringing her classical training to bear as a conflicted Brutus, then a Henry IV who wears his crown heavily, and finally a Prospero who knows that the steel bars of prison are resistant to all magic.”

In addition to her towering theatre credits, Phyllida Lloyd is known for directing Meryl-Streep in The Iron Lady and the screen adaptation of Mamma Mia! About helming the Trilogy films as well as the theatrical productions, she says, “The premise was to take the most voiceless group you might imagine—women prisoners, refugees from our culture if you like – people without any access to the internet even—and watch them electrify an audience with nothing but Shakespeare’s language. The whole mission was to represent those who felt they had no stake in our culture, and the screen version tries to capture their fury and passion. To take the viewer where they could never go to whilst sitting in the theatre, even as it was unfolding live.”

Dame Harriet Walter comments, “When we decided to work with an all-female company, people expected us to kick off with one of the lighter plays like Twelfth Night, or As You Like It, but we deliberately avoided the plays which center around the more ‘female’ territory of love and domesticity and deliberately took on Julius Caesar and then Henry IV, precisely because they dealt with more traditionally ‘male’ themes of power, political liberty and leadership. The all-female ethnically diverse cast asks the question ‘why are these people usually barred from performing the work of our national playwright?’

Kate Pakenham, the Donmar’s Executive Producer, says, “Over the last six years, Phyllida Lloyd’s Shakespeare Trilogy has challenged preconceptions and provoked conversations around the idea of ‘who owns Shakespeare?’  It has had a profound impact on artists, audiences and our wider culture. To ensure their legacy, we filmed all three productions with live audiences using innovative shooting methods to create what we believe are unique screen versions of these ground-breaking stage productions.”

In developing the theatrical productions, the company collaborated with women’s prisons in the UK and worked closely with charity Clean Break, who work with women with experience of the criminal justice system to develop personal, social, professional and creative skills that often lead to education and employment. Walter’s prison ‘character’ throughout the Trilogy was influenced by Judith Clark—a 67-year-old woman currently serving the 36th year of a sentence of 75-years-to-life at a maximum-security facility—with whom she spoke during the years of making the plays. Within its approach to gender and incarceration, the Trilogy and its casting broke boundaries of ethnicity and age. The unique films capturing these performances carry a strong message about the rehabilitative potential of art and drive a timely message about casting and roles for women in both film and theatre.

Julius Caesar will launch the Trilogy Weekend on Thursday, May 31 at 7pm. On Friday, June 1, Saturday, June 2, and Sunday, June 3, the films will screen in marathon form, with Julius Caesar at 1pm, Henry IV at 4pm, and The Tempest at 8pm. Each screening will be given a live introduction in the theatre by a member of the Trilogy company. Trilogy Day Marathon ticket packages—$50 for all three films on one day, or $55 for all three films on separate days—are available, as are single tickets for any film, including the Thursday Julius Caesar screening, at $20 each.

 

 

About the Donmar Warehouse

Led by Artistic Director Josie Rourke and Executive Producer Kate Pakenham, the Donmar is an intimate 251-seat, not-for-profit theatre in Covent Garden; right at the heart of London’s West End. It is internationally renowned as one the world’s principle producing theatres, having won over 100 major awards during its 24 year history. We are the home for leading artists to make world-class theatre that engages, inspires and entertains. We share our work with as many people as possible.

Our intimate space offers artists and audiences a theatrical experience unlike any other, whilst our transfers, tours, and digital distribution enable people to encounter our work worldwide.

The theatre we make is always in conversation with the world today. Led by our artists, we celebrate the canon, revive modern classics, and commission the best new work.  We always prize diversity, discovery and freedom of expression, and with each new production we seek to inspire, innovate, and spark debate.

Our exceptional education work empowers young people and cultivates a new generation of artists, audiences, and active citizens, whilst our creative development programme invites the best established and emerging artists to test themselves and the boundaries of theatre-making.

 

About St. Ann’s Warehouse

St. Ann’s Warehouse plays a vital role on the global cultural landscape as an American artistic home for international companies of distinction, American avant-garde masters and talented emerging artists ready to work on a grand scale. St. Ann’s signature flexible, open space allows artists to stretch, both literally and imaginatively, enabling them to approach work with unfettered creativity, knowing that the theater can be adapted in multiple configurations to suit their needs.

In the heart of Brooklyn Bridge Park, St. Ann’s Warehouse has designed a spectacular waterfront theater that opened in October 2015. The new Joseph S. and Diane H. Steinberg Theater offers St. Ann’s signature versatility and grandeur on an amplified scale while respecting the walls of an original 1860’s Tobacco Warehouse. The building complex includes a second space, a Studio, for St. Ann’s Puppet Lab, smaller-scale events and community uses, as well as The Max Family Garden, designed by landscape architects Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates and open to Brooklyn Bridge Park visitors during Park hours.

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