BWW Interview: Jennifer Graves & Suzanne Cross of THE SEVEN AGES OF (WO)MAN: A BANQUET OF SHAKESPEARE'S WOMEN at Santa Fe Classic Theater
After their critically acclaimed production of Romeo and Juliet last summer in the Santa Fe Botanical Garden, the Santa Fe Classic Theatre set As You Like It for their summer 2020 production. A chance conversation regarding the upcoming production led to their latest effort, The Seven Ages of (Wo)man: A Banquet of Shakespeare's Women, a fundraiser that will be presented at the Santa Fe Playhouse starting this Sunday. The Seven Ages of (Wo)man follows the trajectory of Jacques's iconic "seven ages of man" speech in As You Like It, but replaces male figures with female ones, for an hour of scenes and monologues that depict the female experience in Shakespeare's plays
I chatted briefly with director Jennifer Graves and assistant director Suzanne Cross about their process, the project, and what they have discovered.
How did you come up with the idea for this piece?
Jennifer Graves: We were talking about next season's production of As You Like It in the [Santa Fe Botanical] Garden and just thought they it's a shame... there are so many amazing women in Shakespeare's canon; why is it the "seven ages of man" in Jacques's speech?
Suzanne Cross: We thought we could do the seven ages of woman, but as we looked into Shakespeare's works, we discovered that women have way more ages than men. There were comparable ages in all Shakespeare to the babe, schoolboy, lover, soldier - with Joan of Arc - and judge - with Portia - but then we also had the wives and widows and mothers, so we had to add those too... looking at Margaret and Cleopatra, we have those who are near death - "sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything" - as well.
Jennifer: Interestingly, there is no female equivalent to the fool or pantaloon.
Suzanne: It constantly amazes me - nobody except Shakespeare wrote women like this. So many other playwrights in Shakespeare's time wrote from the male perspective-
Jennifer: -and only two types of woman: the Madonna and the whore -
Suzanne: Exactly. But Shakespeare's women weren't defined by men.
Jennifer: Which is why we added the characters, in particular, who transcend relationships with men. We've got Margaret, we've got Joan of Arc, we've got Rosalind, who finds her freedom outside traditional femininity... There is so much to Shakespeare's women beyond his men.
What was putting this show together like?
Jennifer: The hardest part was casting. We have so many amazing actresses in Santa Fe, and they are all so busy with travelling, working, acting, and directing.
Suzanne: We got to do a very rich investigation into Shakespeare's canon, though.
Jennifer: It was fascinating to find every part of this piece. We knew we didn't want it to just be a monologue show - all the actresses are talking to each other, and filling in as the male characters in scenes - and we found lines in Shakespeare's plays that created natural transitions between all the ages of woman, and we have all the women commenting on the scenes that have passed and the scenes that are to come.
Thank The Seven Ages of (Wo)man features Mary Beth Lindsay, Joey Beth Gilbert, Lisa Foster, Jessica Osbourne, Emily Rankin, Robyn Rikoon, Kelly Kiernan, Jazmine Torres, Ann Roylance, Zoe Burke, and Leslie Dillon. It opens Sunday evening, the 17th, and runs through Wednesday the 20th. All performances are at 7 PM at the Santa Fe Playhouse (142 E De Vargas).
Tickets may be purchased online at http://santafeclassictheater.org/