BWW Interview: Christine Weems on '80s Music, All-Female Productions, and THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR

BWW Interview: Christine Weems on '80s Music, All-Female Productions, and THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR
Annie Wild and Renata Smith play Mistress Ford and Mistress Page in THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR. Photo by Christine Weems.

Christine Weems, the director of Boiling Point Players' all-female production of THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR, knows what she likes - comedy, '80s music, dance numbers, crazy fight scenes and fun costuming.

So guess where you can find them all.

Yes, in Weems' capable hands Shakespeare's 400-year-old farce gets a '50s-style makeover and a new soundtrack, featuring such '80s hits as Bananarama's "Venus," Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" and Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)." But the story, two women turning the tables on the creep who's trying to use them, stays the same.

"What I always tell people is, if you want to know me as a director and me as a person, come see one of my all-female Shakespeares," says Weems.

MERRY WIVES will be Weems' third all-female Shakespeare production for Boiling Point, and she says she knows "Shakespeare's not for everybody, and Shakespeare is not always accessible when you play it really true to form. So, what I try to do with Shakespeare is, I want to do the kind of Shakespeare show where even if you're not a Shakespeare fan (a) you can easily understand what's happening and (b) you have a lot of fun with it."

Weems likens Shakespeare's sometimes dense language to watching a foreign film without subtitles, which can create an uphill battle for the actors, who have to work all the more to convey what's being said through action and intonation. But, since many people aren't as familiar with MERRY WIVES as they are with, say, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, which she helmed in 2016, she says it allows her "to play with a lot of the design elements a little more, to play with some of the characters a little bit more, and twist them into more of the archetypes that are more familiar to people."

Since the set and costuming are inspired by the '50s, Weems says they will ground the characters in '50s archetypes, like the traditional housewife or the prototypical James Dean-ian teenager. To be clear, though, Shakespeare's words aren't changing.

"My husband's a playwright, so I understand how sacred words are - even if they've been dead 400 years," laughs Weems.

Weems and Boiling Point are also playing with another aspect from long ago though, she says, they're flipping it on its ear.

"The same way men used to play all the parts and would play women, so the women are playing men," says Weems, adding that seeing a woman play a part like Falstaff, in all his arrogant, fat-suited glory, really amps up the farcical nature of the play. But Weems is quick to point out how difficult it is, and how hard her actors have worked, to capture the specificity necessary to pull off such a gender switch, so that "when the women are playing men, they're playing men."

"Quite candidly, all the women, from the early stages of rehearsal, they all put a sock in their pants," says Weems. "We spend a lot of time in rehearsals talking about the way men walk, the way men act, the gestures that men do, so that you get lost in the fact that of this cast of 17 women, 14 of them are playing the parts of men."

Weems is confident that audience members will become so engrossed in the different characters and the way the story is being told, that this particular element will just become incidental.

"The show is all the things that I like, that I think are a lot fun, and I just hope that the audience comes along on this ride with me," says Weems. "It's a fun ride, and if we've done it right people will lose the fact that they're watching women being men."

After all, Weems adds, "If you're the kind of person who would come and enjoy an all-female Shakespeare, I also think that you would enjoy and appreciate the kitschiness of dance numbers to 80's music and random fencing fights."

William Shakespeare's THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR - An All-Female Version runs from March 8 through 24 at Queensbury Theatre, 12777 Queensbury. For more information, visit boilingpointplayers.com. $15 to $20.

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