DE-CRUIT Presents Three Shakespeare Adaptations This Summer

Performances run July 15 through August 20.

By: Jul. 07, 2022

DE-CRUIT Presents Three Shakespeare Adaptations  This Summer

DE-CRUIT has announced a three-show series at Theatre Row July 15 through August 20. Each production is a two-person adaptation of one of Shakespeare's classics, written and performed by DE-CRUIT founders Dawn Stern and Stephan Wolfert. As with all of DE-CRUIT's singular programming, these shows explore Shakespeare through the lens of both military and civilian trauma survivors. Veterans and their loved ones are warmly welcomed to attend, and all performances are free for veterans.

The Head of Richard, directed by Jason O'Connell and choreographed by Román Baca, runs July 15-23; Make Thick My Blood, directed and choreographed by Alexandra Beller, runs July 29-August 6; She-Wolf, directed by Yvette Nolan, runs August 12-20. Regular tickets are $25 and are available on the Theatre Row website at or by calling the box office at 212-714-2442.

" While these shows were conceived and begun before the days of Covid, their dramaturgy, rehearsal and development were completed over the last two years of lock-down bringing together multiple communities," noted founder Dawn Stern. "Theaters gave us homes to rehearse: Syracuse Stage, Cincinnati Shakespeare, Amphibian Stage Productions, Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan, and Prague Shakespeare. Supporters gave two van-lifers homes: Jane Strong [Equus Effect], Dr. Jason Cleveland [DE-CRUIT Board Chair], Alan Jones [Advisor] and Ashley Garrett [Board member and photographer]. Theatre artists offered their talents: Andrus Nichols and Drew Ledbetter [The Coop]. Funders kept us fed, our van on the road, and paid stipends to fellow veterans and artists as they collaborated: Bill & Deb Ryan, Paul & Jennifer Walsh, Stephanie Courtney and hundreds of De-Cruit donors. We simply could not have created these pieces without them and offer our deepest gratitude."

"These three plays lift Shakespeare's text that speak directly to our traumatic experiences. What a way to sell the show! Am I right?," quips founder Stephan Wolfert. "Rather than two actors attempting to tell Shakespeare's entire plays of Macbeth, Richard III, and Henry VI, parts 1, 2, and 3 (yes we really have taken on those five plays) we have instead used his text and characters to share what we all have been quietly carrying around inside of us. We hope these shows facilitate conversations where we can, 'speak what we feel, not what we ought to say,' (King Lear)."


The Head of Richard is a two-actor, 50-minute adaptation using only Shakespeare's text from Richard III. This retelling of Richard III from a military veteran's perspective looks at the havoc created by emotional deformity from chronic abuse and humiliation. On the eve of battle, Richard faces his mother, his life of violence, his shame, and himself.

The Head of Richard was created by Army veteran, Stephan Wolfert, awarded the 2019 Max Gabriel Award from National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) presented in grateful recognition of his outstanding ability to artistically and powerfully share his story in order to broaden the understanding of PTSD and other mental health challenges faced by our veterans.

"The line of Shakespeare that first comes to my mind whenever I think of Richard III is, curiously enough, not a line from Richard III... It's from Twelfth Night," reflects director Jason O'Connell. "In nature, there's no blemish but the mind; None can be called deformed but the unkind." I've always thought of the character primarily in terms of his misshapen soul, rather than referencing the body. The evil within him is his deficiency. But where does that evil - that unkindness - come from? Richard's malignancy is as much the product of the trauma he has suffered as it is the root of the trauma he inflicts. The Head of Richard offers a glimpse at the webbing of a madman's mind and the spiders that nest there, and argues an addendum to Shakespeare's sentiments: a spiritual deformity is the province of both the unkind and the unloved."

Jason O'Connell is an actor, director, and playwright. His directing credits include productions at Syracuse Stage, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, Playhouse on Park, and Texas Shakespeare Festival. He has directed small-cast, all-female adaptations of Hamlet and A Midsummer Night's Dream in New York, as well as the World Premiere of his own adaptation of Edmond Rostand's Cyrano (co-written with Brenda Withers) at Amphibian Stage in Texas. In addition to Cyrano (in which Jason later played the title role in a co-production between Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival and Two River Theater Company), Jason is also the writer of the solo shows The Dork Knight and Fat and Scant of Breath, or Stabbing at Hamlet. As an actor, Jason's Off-Broadway credits include Judgment Day at Park Avenue Armory, Pride and Prejudice at Primary Stages, Happy Birthday, Wanda June for Wheelhouse Theater, Sense and Sensibility and The Seagull for Bedlam, A Midsummer Night's Dream at The Pearl, and The Saintliness of Margery Kempe at The Duke on 42nd St. Jason won the 2014 New York Innovative Theatre award for Outstanding Lead Actor for his work as the title character in Phoenix Theatre Ensemble's Don Juan in Hell (also cited as one of the year's best performances by The Wall Street Journal).


This two-person, 55-minute adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth extracts the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to retell their story from the perspective of trauma survivors. A radically physical show, Make Thick My Blood confronts the interplay between gender, power, trauma, and magic as experienced equally through the language of Shakespeare and visceral embodiment.

Rich movement throughout the piece highlights the couple's pain, danger, desperation, and disconnection with their own humanity.

"The process for Make Thick My Blood mirrored the pandemic," remarks director-choreographer Alexandra Beller. "Begun sporadically over Zoom, the performers and creative team never set foot in a room together until almost two years had passed. We made space for, and honored, the new world we were inhabiting, including questioning how theater gets made. We threw out conventions of Shakespeare, of rehearsal, of the creative process, and approached the play as if we were in a world where anything might happen. This broke open not only the potential for how to deliver the play, but also how to respond to one another, and how to create in a way that let go of conventions that didn't serve our own healing. The result is a play that is a dance, a dance that is spoken, and a version of Macbeth that truly humanizes these two characters who are so often reviled as villains."

Beller has been Choreographer for Sense and Sensibility (Sheen Center, Judson Gym, Folger Shakespeare Library, American Repertory Theater, Portland Center Stage), (Helen Hayes Award, Lortel Nomination, IRNE Best Choreography). She choreographed the Off-Broadway musical The Mad Ones (59E59), Bedlam's Peter Pan (Duke Theater), Two Gentlemen of Verona (Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival), As You Like It (Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, Folger Shakespeare Library), How To Transcend A Happy Marriage by Sarah Ruhl (Lincoln Center Theater), The Young Ladies of... (Taylor Mac), Chang(e) (HERE), and others. Current projects include Antonio's Song by Dael Orlandersmith/Antonio Suarez (CATF, Milwaukee Rep), Fandango for Butterflies (and Coyotes) (La MaMa, La Jolla and touring).

Her international performance career includes 7 years with the Bill. T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, projects with Martha Clarke, John Turturro, and others. Alexandra Beller/Dances formed in 2001 and she has created over 40 original Dance-Theater works, for her own and other companies. Her choreography has been presented at theaters throughout the US and in Korea, Hong Kong, Oslo, Cyprus, St. Petersburg, and Poland. Alexandra holds a BFA/Dance, MFA/Dance and CMA (Certified Movement Analyst) in Laban Movement Analysis/Bartenieff Fundamentals. She is on faculty at Princeton University, Rutgers University, and The Laban/Bartenieff Institute for Movement Studies, and guest teaches nationally and internationally. She also has a private Somatic Therapy practice and provides multiple forms of private mentorship. She has consulted with numerous institutions about curriculum planning, syllabus development, and pedagogy including the 92nd St Y, LIMS, and More info at: and


From captured princess to Queen of England, from warrior to "witch", She-Wolf tells the story of the rise and retreat of Shakespeare's Margaret d'Anjou.

At fifteen, Margaret of Anjou was taken as a prisoner of war, ransomed off for land by her father, propped up as a token queen to a feckless king, and thrown into a 'nest of scorpions' in the English court. She-Wolf follows Margaret, in Shakespeare's own words, as she fights her way through Henry VI, parts one, two and three to her final departure towards France at the end of Richard III.

She-Wolf is a two-actor, 60 minute adaptation of four Shakespeare plays ( Henry VI, p1, 2, 3, Richard III) telling the story of the rise and retreat of Shakespeare's Margaret of Anjou. In 2019 She-Wolf received an award from the Dramatist Guild Foundation.

to move Margaret d'Anjou from the margins - the periphery of the Henry VI's, the edge of Richard III -
and into the centre of her own story
her own life
is an act of reclamation
that says our lives matter
we too are warriors
we too make history

- Yvette Nolan

Yvette Nolan (Algonquin) is a playwright, director and dramaturg who works all over Turtle Island. Recent works include the play The Unplugging, the dance-opera Bearing, the libretto Shawnadithit, the short play-for-film Katharsis. Her translations of Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 were read at the 2019 Play On! Festival in New York in partnership with the Classic Stage Company and Oregon Shakespeare Festival. From 2003-2011, she served as Artistic Director of Native Earth Performing Arts, Canada's oldest professional Indigenous theatre, in Toronto. Her book, Medicine Shows, about Indigenous performance in Canada was published by Playwrights Canada Press in 2015. She is the Company Dramaturg for Sum Theatre, and the Co-Interim Festival Curator for Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan, both in Saskatoon. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Public Policy at Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy.

The full production team includes Michelle Guiot (stage manager), Brittany Vasta (set design), Raven Ong (costume design), Dawn Chiang (lighting design), Hao Bai (sound design Head of Richard, sound support Make Thick My Blood), and Román Baca (choreography Head of Richard).