Has Shakespeare been done to death? Apparently not yet. But in spite of the continuing mounting and re-mounting of the Bard's plays, there remain precious few juicy acting opportunities in the works for women. Along comes Woman's Will, a San Francisco-based company formed in 1998 by women actors tired of meeting at Shakespeare auditions and finding they were always competing for the same one or two good parts. Recalls veteran actor Erin Merritt, "I said as a joke that we should do an all-female production of one of Shakespeare's plays. Everybody leaped on it and said, 'My God, it has to be done.'"
Their first production was a comedy, Two Gentlemen of Verona. The next year heralded the tragic Coriolanus, which allowed the women a rare chance to show off their stage combat skills. Their third major production, which opens this week, is Measure for Measure, drama with a comedic undercurrent. This time, in response to the many male actors who have asked to join the troupe, all the women's roles will be played by men, and all the men's roles by women. The plot involves a corrupt government official who tries to seduce a nun by threatening to execute her brother if she won't come to his bed.
With its goal of bringing Shakespeare to the entire public, not just to serious theatergoers, Woman's Will stages all productions in public parks, with no admission fee. Measure for Measure runs each Saturday and Sunday from July 15 to Aug. 20 at 1 p.m. at various sites in Berkeley, Oakland, Foster City, Ross, and San Francisco. This weekend's opening is at John Hinkel Park, Arlington & Somerset, in North Berkeley. For information, or directions to any of the venues, call 567-1758 or visit www.womanswill.org.