Help my theatre company pick our next play (must be written prior to the 20th century)
November 30, 2004 10:18 AM   Subscribe

My theatre company is trying to pick our next play. We only produce "classics," but we have a broad definition of the term: basically, the play must be written prior to the 20th Century.

We also occasionally do modern adaptations of classic novels or modern plays based on events from history.

The hard thing is that I MUST cast two actresses, both of whom are in their mid-30s. It's a hard age to cast when there's just one actress. Both women can play a bit younger and a bit older than their age, if necessary, but I don't want either playing a fourteen-year-old or an eighty-year-old.

They don't both need to have lead roles, but they both need to have good/meaty roles.

I'm not very open to "alternative casting" -- I don't really want them to play men. The only exception is that sometimes we do plays in which all the actors play multiple roles (like in Nicholas Nickleby). If the play is stylized in this way, I sometimes play with gender/age a bit.

We've already done "The Oresteia", "Winters Tale", "Three Sisters," "Hedda Gabler," and an adaptation of Dickens's "Hard Times."
posted by grumblebee to Media & Arts (24 answers total)
The Rivals by Richard Sheridan *might* work. The aunt Mrs Malaprop was late 40s in our adaptation, and wise cousin Julia can easily be late 20s. Certainly meets your definition of a classic, was written in late 18th century.
posted by copperbleu at 10:38 AM on November 30, 2004

Chekhov maybe? I can't remember if he's pre- or post-1900, but he's right around there. Maybe "Three Sisters," with a slightly younger actress for the youngest sister?
posted by occhiblu at 10:43 AM on November 30, 2004

Oops, I'm stupid. Sorry for the repeat suggestion!
posted by occhiblu at 10:44 AM on November 30, 2004

I'll try to be helpful this time and suggest things you *haven't* already done! Maybe "Doll's House" or another Ibsen ("Master Builder" has multiple adult female roles, if I'm remembering correctly), or Strindberg?

There's also "Midsummer Night's Dream," if you're looking for something lighter. Lots of fun female roles in that.
posted by occhiblu at 10:49 AM on November 30, 2004

We saw Dion Boucicault's "London Assurance" this summer - lots of fun, and lots of good lines for the two women. "Tartuffe" is also something interesting, old and very funny.

Have you looked at Shaw or Wilde?
posted by mimi at 11:03 AM on November 30, 2004

This Media History Timeline might be useful to spark some ideas.
posted by mimi at 11:09 AM on November 30, 2004

An Ideal Husband, by Oscar Wilde (1895), if one of the women wants to play late-twenties/early-thirties and one of the women wants to play early-twenties; or, indeed, Lady Windermere's Fan (1892), by the same author, if one of the women wants to play early-thirties and the other wants to play early-forties-with-an-eighteen-year-old-daughter.

Sauce for the Goose (a translation of Feydeau's Le Dindon, 1896) has two very good roles for actresses in their thirties. It's a slight work and the available translation may not be the best, but it is lots of fun.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:18 AM on November 30, 2004

If you're willing to do slightly more ephemeral comedies than say shakespeare, have a look at Oscar Wilde. An Ideal Husband would be ideal for your casting, two important roles for 30-something women. Lady Windermere's Fan would suit your casting well too.

(on preview: yes, I'm with mimi)
posted by fvw at 11:19 AM on November 30, 2004

*kicks Sidhedevil*
posted by fvw at 11:20 AM on November 30, 2004

And some underperformed earlier plays with two (or more) great female roles include Women Beware Women by Thomas Dekker (1621) and Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor (1597?).
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:25 AM on November 30, 2004

Hey, jinx, fvw! You owe me a Coke. Isn't it true, though, that every director dreams of having two really good actresses so that he/she can stage a Lady Windermere's Fan where the back-and-forth between Lady Windermere and the Duchess really crackles?
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:27 AM on November 30, 2004

i've never seen this, but maybe it would work - death and the maiden. the film had sigourney weaver and there's another role listed as a main character's wife.
posted by andrew cooke at 11:40 AM on November 30, 2004

rats. sorry, i read that as 20th century classics. sorry.
posted by andrew cooke at 11:41 AM on November 30, 2004

Is Shakespeare ever underperfomed?
posted by mimi at 12:06 PM on November 30, 2004

Ok, I don't quite get this. You somehow manage to get into my brain and steal my most precious thoughts, and now I owe you a coke?

(seriously: Is that some kind of tradition? Never heard of it before. But come to the next convenient Euro MeFi meetup and and it's yours)
posted by fvw at 12:15 PM on November 30, 2004

What about things taking place in the previous century (centuries) that are contemporary and contain both historic and very contemporary themes? Take a look at Stoppard's Arcadia. Single best stage performance I've ever seen was this in Ashland, OR about 10 yrs ago. There are two great female roles here, one for a teenager and another her mother.
posted by luriete at 12:35 PM on November 30, 2004

Yes, it is a US tradition--if two people say the same thing at the same time, the thing to do is punch the other person in the upper arm and say, "Jinx! You owe me a Coke!"

I would LOVE to come to a EuroMeFi meetup. The next time I'm in Euro, I'm going to move heaven and earth (or maybe just Brussels) to arrange one.

mimi, I think that the Merry Wives is WAY underperformed. As far as I'm concerned, it's the only Shakespeare comedy that's actually even mildly funny (the "Pyramus and Thisbe" stuff in Midsummer Night's Dream is funny, but the rest of it bites the big codpiece). Also, it has the best roles for adult women.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:55 PM on November 30, 2004

Arms and the Man: political yet farcical.
posted by cardboard at 12:59 PM on November 30, 2004

Unsure if it's appropriate, but I've always wanted to see Yukio Mashima's play "Madame de Sade" staged. Would that fulfil the "modern plays based on events from history" angle? It certainly has a few strong female parts.
posted by arha at 1:50 PM on November 30, 2004

Mishima, duh.
posted by arha at 1:50 PM on November 30, 2004

I once saw Schiller's Mary Stuart done by a very good amateur dramatic society and I thought it was wonderfully gripping. I'm sorry I don't know anything about the translation.
posted by suleikacasilda at 2:07 PM on November 30, 2004

The standard translation of Mary Stuart bites the interminable codpiece, IMHO--this production commissioned a translation that I have heard good things about, though.

It's certainly a fantastic showcase for two strong actresses.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:38 PM on November 30, 2004

As long as we're talking Shakespeare, King Lear has three significant female roles that they might appreciate.
posted by CrunchyFrog at 6:11 PM on November 30, 2004

I've always wanted to see Middleton's No Wit, No Help Like a Woman's!
posted by Grod at 10:41 PM on November 30, 2004

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