There continues to be power in the drama of larger-than-life characters from antiquity speaking lines of beautiful poetry by one of the most loved authors in the English language. The problem is that…though some of Shakespeare's female characters WERE quite powerful, the vast majority of his more central characters are men. All the male title characters end up feeling a little bit repetitious. I like them, but...y'know...there's only so many times you can watch a guy climb to heights of power and then be dashed to pieces via his own hubris or whatever...it's just tedious. This past month, Voices Found Repertory remedied this a bit with an edit of several scripts which placed Queen Margaret of Anjou at the center of her own Shakespearian drama. (This is not the first time they’ve given women a more central role for Shakespeare. Jennifer Vosters was commanding and deeply memorable as Richard III for Voices Found back in 2017.)
Writer/director Jessica Trznadel’s Margaret had a limited staged reading at Sugar Maple not too long ago. Thankfully for those of us who hadn’t been able to be there, Voices Found is providing a video of the reading online this month. Trznadel’s script comes through with striking clarity, which is quite an accomplishment given all of the obstacles presented in the format. Voices and facial expressions at muffled and muted in a responsibly masked ensemble. The audio quality sometimes makes dialogue difficult to hear and though there are a few cameras capturing the performance, the video feels only a bit better than surveillance camera footage. Given the fact that it was primarily intended for live performance, the lack of clarity in the audio and video is understandable. (The opening credits look quite good by comparison. This show has a beautiful introduction.) The low quality of the video notwithstanding, it’s really fascinating to watch. Trznadel’s script glides briskly by, which is particularly impressive as it IS two hours long.
They are at the center of the action is Jackey Boelkow in the title role. The staged reading amplifies her significance as she is front and center in front of everyone else. All of the action flows around her. It’s such a refreshing angle on Shakespeare to have a woman the center of all the action. It IS a heavy editing of the War of the Roses plays, but if Boozy Bard can stage a compelling edit of Troilus and Cressida that edits out the characters of Troilus and Cressida, then Voices Found can certainly focus on a strong heroine in some of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays. Boelkow is remarkable in the central role amidst all of the turmoil and conflict. Trznadel has woven a tight thread through The War of the Roses. A staged reading doesn’t do it justice. It would meet its greatest potential in a fully-staged production. Hopefully that’s forthcoming. For now it exists as a really breezy and enjoyably dramatic couple of hours online.
The video presentation of Margaret will be available through the end of March via a $15 donation to Voices Found on Ko-fi. For more information, visit the show's page on Ko-fi: https://ko-fi.com/s/ca285e55ee.