Eve Ensler and William Shakespeare might not seem to have a lot in common as playwrights, but according to Leslie McCauley, chair of the theater department at Santa Rosa Junior College, the author of The Vagina Monologues and the creator of numerous cross-dressing Elizabethans are just two sides this year of a gender mirror that forces us all to question what we believe about the lives of men and women, boys and girls.
“It’s so perfect, the way it’s worked out with our spring season,” McCauley says. Beginning this weekend, a cast of seven young women will perform Emotional Creature, Ensler’s powerful exploration of the lives of teenage girls around the world. The play, which resembles the structure of The Vagina Monologues, with the addition of singing, dancing and poetry, is based on actual interviews Ensler conducted with young women. Their stories, some funny and some devastating, run the spectrum from American girls struggling with bullying and “mean girl” clique warfare, to girls from Africa and Bulgaria caught up in actual warfare, kidnapping and sexual slavery.
The cast—Rachael Anderson, Shawna Jackson, Gloria Lo, Abby Volz, Skylaer Palacios, Brooke Maytorena and Siobhan O’Reilly—are called upon to play at least two different women apiece, adopting the accents and mannerisms of their characters. Under the direction of Wendy Wisely, the production—which is not recommended for children under 14—is the first time the show is presented in the North Bay, following its world premiere in Berkeley in 2012.
In April, McCauley herself will direct an all-male cast in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the story of a castaway woman who disguises herself as a boy to remain safe in a strange country, and winds up in the middle of an uproarious love triangle between a rich man and a rich woman.
“In Shakespeare’s day,” McCauley says, “all of the roles were played by men. That was the law. So we’re presenting it as Shakespeare would have.” As 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, it’s a fine time to put a new spin on the playwright, by spinning Twelfth Night back to its roots.
“I think it’s safe to say this is going to be a very interesting and educational season,” McCauley says.