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The 39 Steps

Via Brooklyn at the Southampton Cultural Center

The Independent

Bridget LeRoy

“For an evening of comedic fluff and international intrigue, theatergoers can't beat The 39 Steps. It is utterly delightful.”

Dames of Thrones

Ducdame Ensemble at the International Shakespeare Center (ISC) of Santa Fe

President of the Shakespeare Guild & Former Director of Academic Programs at the Folger Shakespeare Library

John Andrews

“Ariana Karp and her superb cast wove a beautiful tapestry of scenes involving strong female characters. And the performers handled the verse with a dexterity, sensitivity, and expressive power that is quite unusual in today's classical performances."

Ducdame Ensemble at the International Shakespeare Center (ISC) of Santa Fe

Live out Loud: Santa Fe

Darryl Lorenzo Wellington

“This one night performance by the Ducdame Ensemble of New York (presented at The Adobe Rose by the International Shakespeare Center of Santa Fe) shot through the audience like a bullet: consistently riveting, sometimes brusque, sometimes perplexing, sometimes shocking, like a high-energy direct hit of singing poetry, and at other times like an exercise in rapid-fire bardic snippets. 

Call it whatever you will: a tapestry, a compilation, a “mix tape” of passionate and violent passages, drawn from scenes involving women in Shakespeare’s cycle of history plays. Dames of Thrones had the punch, the considerable pluses (and possibly a few of the drawbacks) of a surprise attack. 

The show announces its genre-bending sensibilities at the very beginning, as thirteen male and female actors in “cool” contemporary clothes (the set otherwise consists of a few chairs) perform group mirror games and pantomimes -- couples meet, swear allegiances, couples break apart or are broken by shadowy third parties. The background music suggests a courtly setting. 

This is a world where nobody can be unconditionally loved and trusted. The Shakespearean canon veers between extremes of the beautiful and the terrible, high comedy and romance, and sinister terrors; and by focusing on the terrors Dames of Thrones is truly a production whose themes have a short distance to travel to match the power-hungry prurience of the TV series “Game of Thrones” an apt pun. 

Having cued the audience appropriately, the remainder of the two hour performance is a miasma of grief, loss, war and pillaging, in scenes (slightly edited) that suggest the plights of the female protagonists from plays such as King John, Richard iii, Henry iv, and Henry vi. 

That means that over two hours you will not encounter the more familiar Shakespearean heroines. No Lady Macbeth. No Ophelia. Nor King Lear’s three daughters. And of course sans easily recognized heroines, Dames of Thrones is short on familiar stories and monologues. 

But you will experience oblique glimpses into the lives of several of Shakespeare’s female royal protagonists, who feature in plays that even by Shakespeare’s standards have extremely complex plots. They are women of high standing (though Joan la Pucelle, aka Joan of Arc is thrown in for good measure.) They have names that are preceded by “Lady” -- Lady Kate, Lady Anne and Lady Constance. The bitter irony is that they lead constricted lives, and they suffer insults and injury in a sexist world that puts women on par with servants. “Lady” is often a pointless title. 

Throughout the evening these women are put in the position of using their last resource, meaning their feminine wiles to convince a man to do some honorable deed, or not follow through with some foolhardy measure. Or an outright cruel folly. The women hold their ground using lovely iambic rhythms; they sally with clever retorts. But essentially they’re always pleading a case. …

These selections from the history plays (at their best) become a sociological study of marriage and sex privilege in Elizabethan times. Shakespeare was not a particularly historically accurate writer, but when he wrote about real historical Kings, Queens, and Ladies, he touched on real travails. The fact that these people really lived strengthens Dames of Thrones’ sociological power.”

Fuente Ovejuna

Ducdame Ensemble at FringeNYC

Doug Strassler

“Director William Oldroyd marries the old-school violent agitprop stylings with a modern accessibility that packs a visceral punch (perhaps literally; one audience member was said to have fled the performance and vomited on the evening I attended). The entire cast is a paean to commitment and manages to transcend the bare-bones resources allotted by the 14th Street Y Theatre where Fuente is performed.”

“It’s no small praise to say that to watch Fuente Ovejuna is to sit in on a family affair.”

Ducdame Ensemble at FringeNYC

NY Theater Now

David Fuller

“The performances are uniformly outstanding so it’s not fair to single anyone out.”

“Kudos to Ducdame Ensemble and Breukelen Stage + Film for bringing this timely, unfortunately relevant piece to the Fringe. [...] We need the story of Fuente Ovejuna.”

Ducdame Ensemble at FringeNYC

Zachary Stewart

“The feisty young cast dives into the story, luxuriating in its epic gore and horribleness. An extended torture scene featuring blood-curdling offstage screams sent one audience member running from the performance I attended.”

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