The words — and thoughts — of William Shakespeare, on still topical subjects, will be exchanged between some of the Bard’s more notable male and female characters next week in Smithers, downtown Charleston and Montgomery.
Both playing multiple roles, Oregon Shakespeare Festival actors Jeremy Gallardo and Christiana Clark will present “The Battle of Shakespeare’s Sexes” at 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12, in the Recreation Room at the Smithers Fire Department, adjacent to the Smithers Town Hall, 518 Michigan Ave., Smithers. The program, expected to last between 60 and 75 minutes, is free and will commence after the senior citizens’ lunch is completed at the facility.
Clark and Gallardo will portray couples from Shakespearean works such as “Much Ado About Nothing,” “The Taming of the Shrew” and others. After staging the short scenes, they will discuss their show with the audience.
Clark and Gallardo will present “The Battle of Shakespeare’s Sexes” later on Tuesday, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at Taylor Books, 226 Capitol St., in Charleston. Admission for this performance is also free. Taylor Books will have beverages and snacks available for purchase.
“The Battle of Shakespeare’s Sexes” will be presented once more at a free performance at the Montgomery Community Center (formerly the Long Alumni Center), 612 Third Ave., Montgomery, at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13. While admission is free, cash donations will be accepted at the door to support the event’s organizer, the Montgomery-based, nonprofit Shakespeare Studio.
Gallardo and Clark also intend to perform excerpts from “The Battle of Shakespeare’s Sexes” next week at Valley Middle, Riverside High and Capital High schools.
Clark is returning to the Upper Kanawha Valley after a series of appearances in 2018. Last year, she presented “HeARTistic” talks, about her life, career and affinity for Shakespeare, at BridgeValley Community and Technical College’s Montgomery and South Charleston campuses, local schools and other venues.
Clark has acted in Oregon Shakespeare Festival productions in Ashland, Oregon, for the past seven years.
Beach Vickers, founding director of the Shakespeare Studio, and studio member Tori Casey of Charleston met Clark at the festival in 2017. They invited her to visit the UKV and speak on the Bard and her own theatrical background.
“She told us she developed a Shakespeare talk. She uses her calling to the theater as a means of communication and bringing peace to the world and that kind of thing,” Casey said in a March 2018 Metro East article.
“The solo visit last year was just a lovely chance of coming to the area and working with Beach, Tori and the folks at BridgeValley,” Clark said. “It was a surprisingly good turnout of folks coming out to support the project and see who I was and what was going on.
“This time, I was looking more at when I was growing up,” she said about her forthcoming return visit. “When I’d think about Shakespeare or it was brought up in school, I wouldn’t necessarily see myself involved in it, especially thinking of women in Shakespeare. I’d think of ladies in dresses three as big as they were. Usually, they were fainting all of the time or killing themselves. And these men are these soldiers and tyrants or all these wonderful roles — for men. Sometimes, I would assume that there were less worthwhile or meaty roles, besides a handful, for women in Shakespeare’s plays.
“Now that it’s a part of my career, art and exploration and I’ve gotten to work and converse with great Shakespearean minds, I’ve really gotten to see the depth and layers of women in the plays and how there are these dynamic duos of males and females in different kinds of relationships. A lot of their actions are not unlike actions within relationships we’re still having these days,” Clark said.
“Shakespeare wrote about the human condition and all of the ways we try to live with each other or pursue ambitions or follow love. So, in talking about some of these duos, we put together some programming that gives a chance for Jeremy and myself to act out a couple of different scenes from pretty well-known characters from pretty well-known works.
“It’s more of an exploration of, 400 years ago, the dynamic between males and females in a particular relationship, whether meeting for the first time, lovers whose love has been lost, whether it’s the ambitions of a would-be king and queen, and look at it with our eyes now,” she said.
“It’s also just an opportunity for Jeremy and me to have fun and play some of our favorite characters and do so in a space already so welcoming and receptive to everyone in an environment that Tori and Beach are launching and hoping to build upon,” Clark said.
“The major question we will be exploring together with these presentations is how gender issues, communications and relationships differ today than four centuries ago when Shakespeare wrote, and how are they the same,” said Vickers.
“It’s quite a coincidence, or maybe a miracle, to have these nationally sought-after performers coming here,” he said.
Both years’ programs have been made possible by grants from the West Virginia Humanities Council, Vickers noted.
A Montgomery native, Vickers returned to his hometown in 2018 after years of working as a professional stage actor in Los Angeles and elsewhere. Since then, he has helped enlist multiple Shakespeare actors and historical re-enactors to perform throughout the area.
“We aren’t ready to create our own shows yet. My goal is to garner enough public support by having theater performers visit from other places in order to be able to start our own Shakespeare festival here in my hometown one day,” Vickers said. “Major impediments are the loss of population when WVU moved the former West Virginia Tech out of town and our Valley High School in Smithers was closed.”
He added he is excited to tour “The Battle of Shakespeare’s Sexes” to several different locations in search of audiences for such a theater.
Visit the Shakespeare Studio of Montgomery, WV page on Facebook or wvhumanities.org for more information.