Published: Oct. 5, 2016 By

The classic romantic comedy gets a feminist makeover with director Lisa Wolpe

CU Boulder’s 2016-17 theatre season continues with a highly anticipated all-female production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” Directed by renowned Los Angeles actor, director, teacher and producer Lisa Wolpe, the production runs Nov. 4-13 in the University Theatre.

A story of mistaken identities and love at first sight, “Twelfth Night” is the original romantic comedy. In the kingdom of Illyria, a shipwrecked Viola dresses in men’s clothing to find work and turns the court of Duke Orsino upside down. Chock full of poetic soliloquies and hilarious farce, it’s William Shakespeare at his finest and funniest.

Lisa Wolpe directs a rehearsal for Twelfth Night

Lisa Wolpe directs a rehearsal for Twelfth Night

Wolpe says CU Boulder’s female-focused production will shine a new, feminist light on the Bard’s timeless words.

“To run this exquisite writing through the minds and hearts of eighteen strong and curious young women will no doubt offer some rare and rich rewards,” Wolpe says. “I think the gender flip will provide an opportunity for another level of wit and wordplay. It can offer both a hilarious and intelligent examination of class and gender expectations and stereotypes.”

For four centuries, Shakespeare’s world hasn’t welcomed women warmly. In the Bard’s time, women didn’t perform on stage; instead, men donned makeup and dresses to perform the few female roles in each play. But even as that changed, many women grew frustrated to find that few of Shakespeare’s female characters, including title roles, were as meaty and complex as the male counterparts.

“I think women have become rather strong in the theatre scene, and they’re looking for more of a story to play,” says Wolpe. “Playing a larger Shakespearean role is certainly in the capacity of any woman I know.”

And if anyone can say that for certain, it’s Wolpe. She founded the Los Angeles Women’s Shakespeare Company more than 20 years ago, and her passion for giving women the spotlight on stage has sparked trends in New York, in London and all over the world.

Wolpe says there’s never been a better time to experiment with gender bending or to explore the complexities of personhood and identity on stage.

“People have become very passionate about individuality and about being vocal and strong as a woman, which society has shunned in the past,” Wolpe says. “Those are great themes to explore in a play where everything’s topsy-turvy, where the king is a fool and the fool is a king.”

While “Twelfth Night” is chock full of complex themes, it’s as comedic as it is cerebral. At its heart, the play is a hilarious romp bursting at the seams with both swordplay and wordplay.

“‘Twelfth Night’ is a brilliant comedy with imaginative, exaggerated characters—clowns, pirates, drunkards, lovers and fools,” Wolpe says. “We have a terrific cast of fascinating actresses and a really talented design team. I have no doubt that we will come up with something surprising and new.”

Friday, Nov. 4, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 5, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 6, 2 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 9, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 10, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 11, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 12, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 13, 2 p.m.

All events take place in the University Theatre.

Tickets for “Twelfth Night” start at $20. To purchase tickets, visit the CU Presents box office in person (972 Broadway), call 303-492-8008 during business hours or visit us online anytime. Note: All online and phone orders are subject to a service fee. To schedule interviews or for other media information, contact Jill Kimball at

Coming up later this season is the Second Annual New Play Festival, featuring readings of brand new works; the premiere of “Unspoken,” which follows a group of young friends living in New York City; and “The Rocky Horror Show,” a classic, outrageous musical full of campy fun, characters from grade B horror flicks, 1960s beach party jams and vintage rock ‘n’ roll.