Judith Shakespeare Company, founded in 1995 by Artistic Director Joanne Zipay, is committed to bringing Shakespeare's language to life with clarity and vitality, while expanding the presence of women in classical theatre.
All JSC productions feature women in roles traditionally played by men. The company utilizes various forms of non-traditional casting, including gender-blind and reverse-gender. At least 50% of each cast must be women.
JSC most recently presented a "Shakespeare Unplugged” Concert Performance of Double Falsehood, the play whose authorship has been long-disputed and which was only recently attributed to William Shakespeare and John Fletcher. JSC’s Double Falsehood was double-cast, presented on alternating evenings by a mixed-gender cast and a cast of all women.
In the summer of 2012, JSC presented a “Shakespeare Unplugged” Concert Performance of Cymbeline, featuring award-winning actors Merle Louise and Rachael Hip-Flores. The company’s unique cross-gender full production of Two Gentlemen of Verona in 2010 garnered the following press responses:
“If you’re looking for a night of Shakespeare where the actors actually sound like they know what they’re doing (shocking, I know) this is definitely not to be missed. I can’t wait to see another Judith Shakespeare Company production.” - Sasha Pensanti, Best of Off-Broadway, Happen to Like New York
“Smartly directed by Joanne Zipay, the evening retains the Bard’s traditional language but adds a post-modern twist with its reverse-gender casting…this production can steal your heart.”
- Deirdre Donovan, CurtainUp
Previous to that the company presented Paul Hagen’s The Rape of the Lock (gender-reversed) in September 2008, which marked the first full production of RESURGENCE, JSC’s unique play development program which seeks to find, develop, and produce new plays written in heightened language and verse, and which feature significant roles for women. In 2005 and 2006, JSC received over 300 submissions, selecting and giving public readings to six of those plays.
In December 2007, the company presented Coriolanus in “Shakespeare Unplugged” Concert Performance – a unique book-in-hand format developed by Artistic Director Joanne Zipay and the JSC company over more than a decade, which focuses on clear storytelling expressed through language – supported by bare-bones staging, essential visual elements, and live music.
JSC’s 2003-04 Season featured the long-awaited gender-blind sex-drugs-rock-and-roll full production of Richard 3, which crowned the company’s three-season presentation of Shakespeare’s History Cycle. In this series of eight plays, which follow the struggles for the English crown for over 100 years, all monarchs and contenders to the throne were played by women.
2001’s production of The Tempest featured Jane Titus in the role of Prospero. The full production followed The Tempest Project: an experiment in non-traditional casting, which gave five directors the opportunity to explore the play through the dynamics of non-traditional casting, and gave audiences the opportunity to respond.
In 2000 JSC sponsored two panels, Expanding the Presence of Women in Shakespeare Performance and Expanding the Presence of Women Directors, both featuring prominent women theatre artists in conversation about women’s current status and possibilities in the business and the artform. The transcripts of both of thesepanels were included in the New York State Council on the Arts’ study on Women in Theatre.
The company celebrated its Fifth Anniversary Season with the Judith Shakespeare Festival 2000, featuring the revivals of full productions of Julius Caesar and Comedy of Errors performed in repertory, along with other special events. The unique cross-gender production of Julius Caesar, directed by Ms. Zipay, was featured on national television’s Lifetime Live.
JSC has also presented full productions of Macbeth (OOBR Award), All’s Well That Ends Well, and the world premiere of Tabula Rasa by Texas playwright Molly Louise Shepard. JSC continues its unique “Shakespeare Unplugged” Concert Reading Series, which has included Troilus and Cressida, King John, Pericles, Henry VIII, Titus Andronicus, Richard 2, Henry 4 Part 1, Henry 4 Part 2, Henry 5, Henry 6 Parts 1-2-3 (in rotating repertory), and Love’s Labors Lost. All productions have featured women in roles traditionally played by men.
The company has also become known for its fundraising “Shakespeare-A-Thons” in 2009, 2012, and 2014, and presented a special “Shakespeare Unplugged” Concert Performance of Much Ado About Nothing at SUNY Orange, Newburgh in 2014.
JSC trains young actors through its unique Apprentice Training Program, and has received multi-year funding from the New York State Council on the Arts and a prestigious Annenberg/NYCPAE grant to implement Shakespeare residencies in the New York City Public Schools. JSC is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.