Rowlett theater opens male roles to women in Shakespeare classic

The Company of Rowlett Performers (CORP Theatre) will present William Shakespeare’s comedy "Much Ado About Nothing" at 8 p.m. Feb. 13-22 at the Plaza Theatre, 521 W. State St. in Garland.

"Much Ado About Nothing" follows the courtship of Claudio and Hero and the comic banter between Beatrice and Benedick, the latter who despises love, while others around them plot to make them fall in love with each other. 

“Shakespeare has stood the test of time because it’s undeniable amazing work, but it skews heavily male,” director Donna Covington said. “We want to give more women the opportunity to do Shakespeare, so we cast several amazing actresses in male roles.”

This isn’t the first gender-bending production put on by CORP. Covington said in October they did "Macbeth" and intentionally did it with an all-female, ethnically diverse cast, but "Much Ado About Nothing" was more of an open call.

“We like to say that all doors are open at CORP for all parts,” she said. “It wasn't really something that we sought out, but we've got a couple of really great actresses that are playing some of the more traditional male roles.”

It’s no secret that in Shakespeare’s time women were not allowed to take the stage, and female roles were played by men.

“Shakespeare is the one piece of work that gender is off the table. Whoever the best is for the role is the one that's going to get it,” said Covington.

She advised the actresses to observe their partners, brothers and other men around them to take note on how they act and learn body language.

The full cast list is as follows: Vance Wittle as Leonato, Allison Wainscott as Beatrice, Elizabeth Hopkins as Hero, Tom Jeffcoat as Don Pedro, Kristen Martin as Don John, Dayan Rodriguez as Claudio, Matt Parent as Benedick, Tori Dez as Balthasar/Conrade, Jim Thomas as Antonio/Verges, Edward Houser as Borachio, Kami Kelley as Margaret, Jennifer Frawley as Urusula, Kristan Kelley as Dogberry/Friar Frances, Gabe Drennon as Watchman No. 1 and Trey Lewis as Watchman No. 2.

The CORP Theatre was founded by Covington in 2000 and began as an after-school program at Keeley Elementary and grew into a community theater company.

Tickets can be purchased at the box office or online at corptheatre.org or call 972-205-2790.

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