Actor, director Lisa Wolpe, expert on gender-flipping Shakespeare, to visit URI April 11-13

KINGSTON, R.I. – April 8, 2022 – The University of Rhode Island Theatre Department will host visiting artist Lisa Wolpe, an internationally known theatre-maker and expert on Shakespeare theatre performance, for three days of activities April 11-13, highlighted by a performance of her acclaimed solo theatre piece, “Shakespeare and the Alchemy of Gender.”

An actor, director, scholar and activist, Wolpe’s work has helped shape and change the narrative of gender in Shakespeare and support and promote the work of women in theatre. Along with being an actor and director at theatres and universities around the world, she founded the all-female, multi-cultural Los Angeles Women’s Shakespeare Company, where she has probably played more of Shakespeare’s male roles over the last 20 years than any woman in history. She also created “TranShakespeare” in London with assistance from the Young Vic Theatre and King’s College.

Among her many honors are the L.A. Drama Critics Circle Award for Sustained Excellence, the Sidney Berger Award for Excellence from the Shakespeare Theater Association, and Women in Theater’s “Red Carpet” and “Woman of the Year” awards.

URI theatre lecturer Tracy Liz Miller, who has known Wolpe since meeting her at a conference in Denver about six years ago, organized Wolpe’s visit, which is sponsored by URI’s Distinguished Visiting Artist Program and the Dean’s Office of the College of Arts and Sciences.

“I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Lisa and her work for years and am so excited that our community will be able to witness her astounding solo show,” said Miller. “I love watching Lisa perform. Not only is the show terrific, but her love for the work really shines. She doesn’t pull punches and delves right into what brought her to Shakespeare’s work, the limitations available to women or non-binary actors, and how she has crafted the work to her own personal journey.”

Wolpe’s one-woman play, “Shakespeare and the Alchemy of Gender,” written and performed by her and directed by Laurie Woolery, will be staged Monday, April 11, at 5:30 p.m. in the J-Studio of the Fine Arts Center. The one-hour play, which is free and open to all, will be followed by a question-and-answer session. (Wearing a mask is optional. However, masking is recommended for individuals who are immunocompromised or at high risk for disease, as well as for anyone who has a personal preference.)

The play, which has toured universities and Shakespeare festivals around the U.S. and has been staged internationally, explores Wolpe’s experience as an activist for inclusion, diversity, equity, access and promoting women’s rights and racial equality. The play features stories of her family, especially her father, Hans Wolpe, a World War II hero, as well as pieces of Shakespeare that shed light on life lessons she’s learned playing male characters in the Shakespeare canon, including Shylock, Hamlet and Richard III.

“Wolpe is an exceptional artist and this performance will be memorable not only for the very personal journey she takes us on but also for her exceptional skill in performing,” Miller said.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, April 12 and 13, Wolpe will attend theatre classes, hold workshops and take part in question-and-answer sessions addressing gender, sexuality and equity in relationship to creative writing and theatre performance.

Miller said Wolpe’s performance and three-day residency will be ideal for cross-discipline collaboration, and activities may be added during her visit to include students and faculty from other departments within the College of Arts and Sciences.