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Tina Packer Brings Shakespeare’s Heroines to Life in “Women of Will”

February 6, 2016

Actor/Author/Dramaturg To Offer Two Performances Feb. 20 and 21 at Middlebury

WomenOfWill-photoKevinSprague11.401v1.jpgMiddlebury, VT—Master actor/dramaturg Tina Packer will deconstruct and conjure William Shakespeare’s most famous female characters in two funny and fierce shows, parts 1 and 2 of her work “Women of Will,” for the Middlebury College Performing Arts Series. On February 20, Packer and costar Nigel Gore will perform “Force and Heat: The Early Plays.” On February 21, they will present “Chaos and Redemption: The Later Plays.” Packer will sign copies of her 2015 book “Women of Will” after each performance.

“Women of Will” is the masterful summation of Packer’s 40-plus years spent investigating all things Shakespeare. Through a combination of riveting scenes and trenchant analysis, Packer explores themes of love, loss, freedom, control, violence, and power through the heroines of Shakespeare’s text. Director Eric Tucker helped Packer and Gore tackle Shakespeare’s canon; Gore plays the Romeo to Packer’s Juliet, the Petruchio to her Kate. The resulting performance, billed as part masterclass / part performance, is both deep and accessible. Ben Brantley of The New York Times calls this Shakespeare experience “Marvelous!” and the Associated Press hails it as “Boundless and irresistible!”

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Tina Packer is the founding artistic director of Shakespeare & Company. She has directed most of Shakespeare’s plays, acted in several, and taught the whole canon at over 30 colleges in the U.S., including Harvard, MIT, and NYU. At Columbia, she taught in the M.B.A. program, resulting in the publication of her piece “Power Plays: Shakespeare’s Lessons in Leadership and Management.” Packer began her career in England, having trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where she won the Ronson Award for most Outstanding Actor. Soon thereafter, she became an associate artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company, performing at Stratford, in the West End, and on tour. For BBC Television, she played Dora to Ian McKellen’s “David Copperfield,” and was a love interest for Patrick Troughton’s “Doctor Who.” Packer came to the U.S. in 1974 on a Ford Foundation-funded project to research the visceral roots of Elizabethan theater with five master teachers (Kristin Linklater, John Barton, B.H. Barry, John Broome, and Trish Arnold). The Ford Foundation awarded her two subsequent grants to travel the world, looking at the relationship of mind, body, sacred texts, stand-up comedy, voice, and actor–audience relationship in her studies. Based on this work, she founded Shakespeare & Company in 1978 at Edith Wharton’s derelict mansion in Lenox, Massachusetts.

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During the mid 1990s, Packer conceived the idea for “Women of Will,” earning grants from the Guggenheim and Bunting fellowships to fund the project. After many iterations, much research, and other work, she gave up the artistic directorship of Shakespeare & Company in 2009 to get back to “Women of Will.” Her book of the same name was published by Knopf in 2015, marking her New York debut as an actor and a writer.

Nigel Gore is a well-seasoned and accomplished actor who received the Eliot Norton Award for Outstanding Actor for his portrayal of George in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” at the Publick Theatre in Boston. His extensive Shakespearean work includes the title roles in “Richard III” and “Macbeth” and Bottom in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” all at Colorado Shakespeare Festival; Hawke in “Nicholas Nickleby” at Lyric Stage Boston (Eliot Norton Outstanding actor nomination); Claudius in “Hamlet” at Prague Shakespeare Festival; and for Shakespeare & Company, Mark Antony in “Antony and Cleopatra” and Sir Toby Belch in “Twelfth Night.” Gore is also a founding member of AUREA, a performance ensemble whose mission is to explore the relationship between music and the spoken word. He is a published poet.

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This engagement is part of a cooperative venture with Town Hall Theater (THT). In addition to the performances at the College, Packer will also host two events at THT on Saturday, February 20: a conversation and book signing at 1:00 P.M. (tickets: $10), and an open workshop for actors from “Straight Up Shakespeare”  at 2:30 P.M. (observers welcome). More information at 802-388-1436 or www.townhalltheater.org. All of these events are part of a month-long celebration of the life and works of William Shakespeare, given in conjunction with the exhibition “First Folio! The Book that Gave us Shakespeare”, on view now through February 28 at the Middlebury College Museum of Art.

The two “Women of Will” performances will take place on consecutive nights: first, “Force and Heat: The Early Plays” on Saturday, February 20, 2016 at 8:00 P.M.; then “Chaos and Redemption: The Later Plays” on Sunday, February 21, 2016 at 7:00 P.M., both at Wright Memorial Theatre, on the campus of Middlebury College. Wright Theatre is located at 96 Chateau Road in Middlebury, just off Route 125. Free parking is available on Route 125, on Old Chapel Road, and in the College parking lot off Shannon Street, with handicap-accessible parking available on Chateau Road. Tickets are $20 for the general public; $15 for Middlebury College faculty, staff, alumni, emeriti, and other ID card holders; and $6 for Middlebury College students. For more information, or to purchase tickets, call (802) 443-MIDD (6433) or go to http://www.middlebury.edu/arts.

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Photo credits: Kevin Sprague

Mahaney Center for the Arts
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