Shakespeare’s Sirens at the Edmonton Fringe Festival

Shakespeare's Sirens at the Edmonton Fringe Festival. Photo credit: Dave DeGagne of dbphotographics.ca

Shakespeare’s Sirens at the Edmonton Fringe Festival. Photo credit: Dave DeGagne of dbphotographics.ca

Shakespeare’s Sirens by Delia Barnett, Ellen Chorley, Chantel Hutchison , Sarah Jackson, Leah Paterson, C.J. Rowein & Morgan Smith. Script by Ellen Chorley with Morgan Smith and C.J. Rowein
August 12 – 17, 19 – 21 at Venue #18: Sugar Swing Dance Club
More information: sendinthegirlsburlesque.com


An interview with Ellen Chorley.

Describe your show in five words. 

Shakespeare.  Feminism.  Striptease.  Fun.  Meaningful.

Okay, now that we’re intrigued… what’s the longer description?

The smart, sexy, story tellers of SEND IN THE GIRLS BURLESQUE return to the Edmonton International Fringe Festival with a world premiere revue that celebrates theatre’s most infamous bard, William Shakespeare.

Queen Elizabeth has hauled William Shakespeare into court for a frank discussion on how the playwright pens his female characters. Ruined virgins, murderous queens, man-crazy maidens, wicked witches, psycho shrews? Perhaps Will has some explaining to do about the way he writes his most famous femmes. This sassy revue features appearances from Viola, Imogen, Rosalind, Portia…, Hermia, Katerina, Cordelia, The Midnight Hags, Lady MacBeth, Hero, Beatrice, Ophelia, Juliet and more!

From the creators of fringe favourites “Tudor Queens: A Burlesque,” “A Bronte Burlesque,” and “The Hollywoodland Burlesques” comes a revue of that will make history buffs, theatre fans and burlesque enthusiasts swoon.

Where did the inspiration to hold Shakespeare to account for the way he writes his female characters come from?

We really wanted to build a show that was fun and exciting, with a topic that our audience could really participate with.  We felt that talking Shakespeare at the Edmonton Fringe (the mecca of theatre lovers) would be a great jumping off point for discussion.  At Send in the Girls, we delight in challenging gender norms and breaking stereotypes.  Shakespeare definitely leans on a number of tropes when it comes to writing women- like, for example, the woman who becomes bold when she wear’s a man’s disguise, the evil witches/ queens, the ruined virgin/maidens- we thought that we would be able to challenge, celebrate and poke fun (in a satirical way- that is the nature of burlesque after all) these tropes.

Send in the Girls often draws inspiration from historical women – why do you like basing your characters on historical figures?

Send in the Girls believes in celebrating the women who have blazed the trail for us.  We would not have the freedom to be who we are today without the woman who boldly stood up for feminism, body positivity, and equality.  Also- Delia (my Co-Artistic Director), Lana (Artistic Associate/ Resident Director) and I are major history nerds.

Shakespeare’s Sirens is co-created by 7 artists. What process did you use to work together to create this show and the characters?

While our past couple shows have focussed on scripts and theatrical elements, we wanted to build a revue-style show which allowed us to take on a few different challenges.  First of all, we wanted to create show where we played more than one character (so each dancer plays about five different Shakespearean ladies) and we also wanted the opportunity to work with established Edmontonian burlesque dancers (Cherry Monroe of the Velvet Cupcakes and Violette Coquette of the Secret Burlesque Society)- whose work we really loved and whose feminist voices really shone through their choreography and performance.  We had a lot of round table discussions about the characters we were interested in exploring and how these characters are relevant to the modern world.  It was sort of like writing an essay as a group- each character helped us to give examples of being a strong (or not so strong) female role model. Then we each choose a character we wanted to build a piece for (I play Ophelia, Delia plays Cordelia, Chantel (Cherry Monroe) plays Lady MacBeth and Sarah (Violette Coquette) plays Katerina the Shrew) and decided on what numbers we could make into group pieces and collaborated with local choreographer, Leah Paterson to build choreography.  It was a very interesting process- sort of like a book club meets burlesque performance.

Anything else you want audiences to know about the show?

I think this show is definitely the most fun of all of the Send in the Girls Burlesque plays.  We really engage the audience and I think we start some valuable conversation about the way women are portrayed on stage and in media- even in present  day.

The 35th Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival is August 11 – 21. Get your tickets at tickets.fringetheatre.ca.

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