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NMWA and Washington Shakespeare Company Present Sort-of-Jane Austen Reading Series

WASHINGTON, DC.- During Shakespeare’s time, women were not permitted to act or produce works for the public stage. As a result, dramatic works authored by women during the Renaissance were published under a man’s name or never performed during the writers’ lifetimes. Through the joint efforts of the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the Washington Shakespeare Company, the writings of these unsung women playwrights and dramatists are now being rediscovered and recognized for their historical and theatrical contributions to society.

This spring, the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) has partnered with Washington Shakespeare Company (WSC) to form the Sort-of-Jane Austen Reading Series, an outgrowth of WSC’s popular Sort-of-Shakespeare Reading Series. The Sort-of-Jane Austen Reading Series seeks to promote the work of women in the theater through showcasing the works of women writers and dramatists both past and present. In this diverse collection of comic, tragic, and melodramatic works from the Renaissance, audience members will learn what women playwrights and dramatists wrote and thought in the age of Shakespeare, and how the contributions of these largely unknown women paved the way for women dramatists and writers today. The series will comprise three dramatic plays from the 16th and 17th centuries, a new play by Callie Kimball on the Renaissance painter Sofonisba Anguissola, and a poetry reading of works by Renaissance women sonneteers.

Sort-of-Jane Schedule

7 p.m., Monday, April 6
The Tragedie of Antonie by Mary Sidney
Directed by Lee Mikeska Gardner

The Tragedie of Antonie (1595), Sidney’s loose translation of Gariner’s Marc Antonie, portrays Cleopatra’s constant love for Marc Antonie rather than characterizing the Egyptian queen as an unscrupulous seductress who betrays him.

7 p.m., Tuesday, April 14
The Concealed Fancies by Elizabeth Brackley and Jane Cavendish
Directed by Catherine Aselford

Set against the backdrop of the English Civil War, The Concealed Fancies (1645) presents two young sisters, Luceny and Tattiney, who endeavor to conceal their own “fancies” from their frustrated suitors, Courtly and Presumption. The evening will also include short dramatic works and excerpts from other women dramatists of Renaissance, including Queen Elizabeth I.

7 p.m., Monday, May 4
The Tragedy of Miriam, the Fair Queen of Jewry by Elizabeth Carey
Directed by Jessica Lefkow

Falsely accused of being unfaithful, Miriam, wife of King Herod, faces execution. The Tragedy of Miriam (1613) also explores the themes of divorce and female agency as experienced by women of the Renaissance through the lens of this ancient tale.

7 p.m., Monday, May 11
Desiring Voices: Women Sonneteers of the Renaissance
Selected works from Gaspara Stampa, Louise Labe, and Mary Wroth
Introductions by Alison Pruitt, Nicole Jost, Soo-Jin Lee

Three women sonneteers of the Renaissance, Gaspara Stampa (Italian), Louise Labe (French), and Mary Wroth (English) come to life to recite their poetry and speak about their art, life, and loves.

7 p.m., Monday, May 18
Loves Victory (or Not?) by Mary Wroth
Directed by Jessica Burgess

Presided over by Cupid and Venus, Love’s Victory (1621) is a pastoral tragic-comedy that follows the desires of a group of shepherds and shepherdesses as they contend with love. But in this version love is cut short when Venus does not descend from the heaven’s to neatly sort everything out.

7 p.m., Monday, May 25
Sofonisba by Callie Kimball
Directed by Dorothy Neumann

The Renaissance painter Sofonisba Anguissola balances court politics, art, and her own desires as she seeks recognition in a man’s supposed profession. Sofonisba (2008) looks back on the lives of Renaissance women from a modern perspective.

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