TAO Welcomes Playhouse Creatures

by Christian Carvajal for OLY ARTS

Most theater fans are aware women were banned from the stage during the Elizabethan period, which meant all female Shakespearean roles were played by men in drag. Even lifelong Olympia theater artist Michael Christopher, however, knew little about the end of that male-only era. When the troupe for which he’s current board president, Theater Artists Olympia, was unable to secure the rights for its intended winter show, Christopher turned to a book of 100 Plays for Actresses. “I know we have a lot of strong female actors in town,” he explains, “and I wanted to find something I could use to work with them.” His pick was a 1993 script by April De Angelis called Playhouse Creatures, which looks both onstage and behind the scenes at London’s first theater to showcase female actors.

“It was just fascinating to me when I started thinking about it,” says Christopher. He was struck by the similarity between struggles presented in Creatures and those faced by actresses of our time, especially the gap in plentiful, meaningful roles for women aged between ingenues and seniors. “There’s this period,” the director notes, “when women almost feel like they’ve become invisible. That’s very much spoken to in this show.”

The all-female cast comprises Lanita Grice as Doll Common, Jesse Morrow as Nell Gwyn, Kate Ayers as Mrs. Betterton, Heather Christopher as Mrs. Marshall and Dana Winter (in her Olympia debut) as Mrs. Farley. Gwyn was a controversial star of the 1660s, famous for both her acting—in spite of her reputed illiteracy—and an affair with King Charles II. Christopher agrees Gwyn and her fellow actresses were perceived as the Kardashians of her age, “though I would argue they had a lot more impact on real life.”

“There’s an intimacy to this show,” Christopher adds, noting it fits neatly into TAO’s previously announced “season of sex.” “(Its characters’) sex lives definitely play into it,” he says. “Even the selling of the shows in that period was based on the sexuality of these women. It was a huge draw to see these ladies come on wearing breeches, so men could actually see the shapes of their legs.”

What: Playhouse Creatures

Where: The Midnight Sun Performance Space,
113 Columbia St. NW, Olympia

When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Feb. 17 – March 4;
2:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26

How much: $12-$15

Learn more: email | TAO

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