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UW Theatre and Dance Presents ‘Women Playing Hamlet’

November 23, 2016
Women Playing Hamlet
UW students McKendrey McGown, left, and Elaina Osburn play Gilda and Rosy in “Women Playing Hamlet,” which is staged Dec. 1-4 and Dec. 8-10 at UW’s Buchanan Center for the Performing Arts. (Don Turner Photo)

Should a woman play Hamlet or not play Hamlet? That is the question asked in a new comedy for Shakespeare fans and haters alike from the writer and director of “Angry Psycho Princesses” and “The Exit Interview.”

Written by playwright-in-residence William Missouri Downs, and directed by Downs and UW senior Kathryn Demith, “Women Playing Hamlet” runs Dec. 1-3 and Dec. 8-10 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 4 at 2 p.m. in the Buchanan Center for the Performing Arts Thrust Theatre. Tickets cost $14 for the public, $11 for senior citizens and $7 for students. For tickets and information, call (307) 766-6666 or go online at

Winner of a Rolling World Premiere from the National New Play Network, “Women Playing Hamlet” is an amusing, behind-the-scenes look at the acting life and the worlds of academia and theater that asks some timeless questions about what it means to take a big artistic risk.

In Shakespeare’s day, men played the women’s roles, but this all-female cast will take revenge. Jessica is an aspiring actress from Minnesota, whose unexpected casting as the titular role in a production of “Hamlet” in New York sends her into an existential tailspin. It doesn’t help that she faces an uphill battle through a maze of self-important humanities professors, Freudian psychiatrists, an insulting acting teacher and a Minnesota mother. Or, that every Starbucks barista with an MFA tells her she’s too young for the role. Or, that she’s somehow managed to make Sir Patrick Stewart her nemesis. Not to mention the fact that she’s a woman. How can Jessica figure out “to be or not to be,” when she can’t even figure out herself?

The search for identity is the theme as Jessica takes on her emotional baggage, as well as her self-doubt and disdain for Danish fondue. You don’t have to know anything about the Bard to laugh out loud at this Mel Brooks-esque comedy that follows Jessica’s comic search to find her unique self in this fast-moving pageant full of bad advice. It’s perfect for both those who love Hamlet and for those who think he should shut up and take action.

Downs is professor of playwriting and screenwriting at UW. He has won numerous teaching and research awards, as well as national writing awards, including two Rolling World Premieres from the National New Play Network, and he has twice been a finalist at the Eugene O’Neill New Play competition. His plays have been published by Samuel French, Playscripts and Heuer Publishing, and more than 150 theaters have produced his works.

In Hollywood, Downs previously served as a staff and freelance writer on several NBC television shows, and he continues to develop new work for film and television.

For more information, contact Kathy Kirkaldie at (307) 766-2160 or

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