Vermont Shakespeare Festival's 'Salon Series' Breaks Through Fourth Wall

Oct 5, 2017

It is no surprise that, since its inception in 2005, professional theater company, Vermont Shakespeare Festival, stages plays written by William Shakespeare. Adding to its roster the last few seasons, the company also curates a Salon Series, with a handful of intimate readings of plays written by those inspired by Shakespeare, one of which is Shakespeare's Sister.

The plays chosen for the Salon Series take on themes of our cultural, racial, gender and other identities and those themes serve as topics for discussion following the performances. VSF presents a reading of Shakespeare's Sister, by playwright Emma Whipday, on Sunday, Oct. 15 in Colchester.

VSF artistic director and co-founder Jena Necrason recently spoke to VPR about the play and the series.

Necrason said the play imagines the fictional character of Judith Shakespeare, an aspiring playwright in Elizabethan England, at a time when writing and performing plays is illegal for women.

Necrason said the salons are held in small gathering spaces to help break down the barrier that can exist when actors are up on a stage and away from the audience.

Prior to the readings, the actors are chosen and cast and do some work on their own but they do not meet for a formal rehearsal. This leaves both the actors and audience to experience the play together for the first time.

A good play is always going to - whether it takes place 400 years ago or yesterday - bring us to a place where we can reflect and see ourselves. - Jena Necrason on 'Shakespeare's Sister,' part of VSF's Salon Series

Necrason said these salon-style readings and audience discussions help to inform the company about just what its audience wants to see fully staged in coming seasons.

"We want to work on bringing into our repertoire, new plays. And particularly, new plays that were written by women. What this allows us is to say to the audience, 'What do you think of this play? Would you like to see a production of this play?'"

Vermont Shakespeare Festival actors will give a reading of 'Shakespeare's Sister,' on Sunday, Oct. 15 at 3 p.m., at Colchester's Mead Hall. The discussion following will touch on gender parity in classical theater, and the current movement to support, fund and produce plays by female playwrights.