Tina Packer – Shakespeare and Gender Workshop

After rehearsing Heisenberg for four weeks, the play opened and  on opening night, director Tina Packer saw her fine work appreciated by an enthusiastic audience. Many directors would catch their breath and take a break. However, Tina Packer is speaking on the relevance of Shakespeare in today’s troubled times with an  OLLI group at the Berkshire Museum on August 29. On August 31 to September 2nd she will present her workshop on Shakespeare and Gender at Shakespeare and Company. Then she will offer a Public Speaking Workshop on September 21-23, also at Shakespeare and Company.

Bob and I were fortunate to talk with Tina about the Shakespeare and Gender workshop while she was still working on Heisenberg. Given her wonderful book  and performances of Women of Will, Tina is the right person to be discussing issues of gender in Shakespeare’s work. As usual, she inspired us to think freshly about Shakespeare and contemporary gender issues.
Click below to hear what she has to say.
For more information about educational programs and productions, go to Shakespeare and Company’s website.


Mother of the Maid

Tina Packer as the mother of the maid. Photo by Enrico Spada

Bob and I often interview people early in the process of a production’s development. This was true of Mother of the Maid  when we interviewed the playwright, Jane Anderson, the director, Matt Penn and the actors playing the mother and the maid, Tina Packer and Anne Troup.  They were in the beginning stages of creating this world premiere production. Although we learned much about the play as we talked with them, nothing prepared us for the emotional impact of seeing the play,which presents  a unique approach to the story of Joan of Arc,  Tina Packer gives one of the most outstanding performances we have seen. Move over Mother Courage; this is an incredible mother. The rest of the cast is excellent as well. There is a wonderful juxtaposition of past and present as the absorbing story unfolds. Be sure you take plenty of Kleenex, but don’t miss this production which is at the Elayne Bernstein Theater at Shakespeare and Company until September 6.

Mother of the Maid Interview Part 1

Mother of the Maid Interview Part 2

SCO-MoM-Perf-2015-ESPA-107 (1)
Tina Packer as the Mother and Anne Troup as the Maid Photo Enrico Spada
Bridget Saracino as Saint Catherine and Tina Packer as Isabelle Arc
Nigel Gore as Jacques Arc, Jason Asprey as Father Gilbert and Tina Packer as Isabelle Arc. Photo Enrico Spalda
Elizabeth Aspenlieder as Lady of the Court and Tina Packer as Isabelle Arc Photo by Enrico Spada

Women of Will

Bob and I went to the book signing for Tina Packer’s Women of Will.  As a part of the evening, Tina and Nigel Gore did scenes from their production of the play. They started with a scene from The Taming of the Shrew, then to illustrate the changes in Shakespeare’s women, did a scene from Henry VI, the balcony scene  from Romeo and Juliet and a series of scenes from King Lear where we see each of the daughters in the first scene and then in a scene later in the play where each is shown in their true colors.

After the performance of the scenes, Tina and Nigel took questions from the audience. Nigel noted that they had played the balcony scene at least three hundred times and that they were still finding new meaning in the scene.

Women of Will
Women of Will

Women of Will, both the play and the book,  is divided into five parts, showing the progression of Shakespeare’s depiction of women as his understanding of them deepens. The book emerges from Tina’s understanding through performance of these women.

On January 14, 2013, we interviewed Tina, just before she and Nigel were going to open in New York in Women of Will.  We talked first about how she founded Shakespeare and Company and then about the play.

Trailer for Women of Will

Tina Packer

Tina Packer is a remarkable individual whom we have had the pleasure of knowing for many years. She was the founding director of Shakespeare and Company and continues with the company as an actress and a director and an inspiration for everyone. She was also recently appointed as Monan Professor in Theatre Arts at Boston College for the 2014-2015 academic year. She has previously lectured  at many different colleges and has received many awards for her acting and directing.

She is also an author. In 2001 she applied her knowledge of Shakespeare to management with her co-writer John Whitney in the book  Power Plays: Shakespeare’s Lessons in Leadership & Management. She also wrote a book for children  Tales from Shakespeare (2004) which  received the Parents’ Choice Award. She as a new book coming out in 2015 Women of Will based on her wonderful theatrical presentation of the various women in Shakespeare’s plays and how he evolved in his understanding of them.

There is a very readable book about the founding of Shakespeare and Company called Companies She Keeps: Tina Packer Builds a Theatre by Helen Epstein.  This book was published in 1985 when Shakespeare and Company had been in operation for eight years. This was about when we started going to it..

Tina’s quality comes through clearly in this book. All that I have always loved about her is evident. She is a vital force and her ideas about Shakespeare as vital and funny come through. I could hear so much of what our son Paul learned from her and Kristin Linklater as I read this book. It is also fun to see mentioned people that we have gotten to know more recently being referred to, such as Tony Simotes and John Hadden.  We see pictures of  the children Jason Asprey, Tina’s son  and Hamish LInklater  who are now actors in their own right, carrying on the wonderful traditions of their parents. .

The energy that is Tina shines on every page. She was an excellent fund raiser and grant writer because she believed so fully in what she was doing. It is interesting to learn that she has directed Learned Ladies a number of times. She wanted to be a director more than an actress. She wanted to play women who killed or were killed, so her Women of Will givers her that opportunity. She wanted to make Shakespeare’s language accessible and from the beginning clowning was also important in bringing Shakespeare alive. “Dropping in” is described in great detail and there are examples of Kristin’s and Tina’s classes. Much that is now in operation was there from the beginning, including Shakespeare in the Schools program, as well as the Winter Workshop. I am glad I finally got to read this book. It read quickly because it is smoothly written and because it was so meaningful to me personally, knowing the company as we do.

There is a women of will website women-of-will.com

Meanwhile here is a trailer of when Nigel Gore and Tina performed Women of Will in New York

Women of Will