“Gender Skirmish”: On Pop Culture and Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado 5

“Now, I know Shakespeare’s a dead white guy. But he knows his shit, so we can overlook that.” — Mr. Morgan, in 10 Things I Hate About You

Ever since one of my mother’s boyfriend’s pressed a copy of Othello into my ten year old hands, I’ve been semi-obsessed with untangling the dynamics of Shakespeare. I love remakes, and the 90s was rich with them, including O, 10 Things I Hate About You, and Romeo + Juliet. And as I get older, there is so much more to tangle with. The roles of race in Shakespeare (I’ve read at least four interpretations of Othello); ethnicity/religion (where do we even start with Shylock?) are always ripe for exploration. And recently, I’ve read about anti-colonalist interpretations of The Tempest and queer interpretations of Othello. So the themes can be endlessly explored and remixed.

So I was thrilled to be offered a spot discussing The Shakespeare Theatre Company’s interpretation of Much Ado Without Nothing – SET IN CUBA!

The set was gorgeous, the production well played, and I would love someone more versed in Cuban politics than I to check it out and report back.

In the meantime, here’s the schedule for the symposium:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

10:00 a.m.
Welcome Remarks
Shakespeare Theatre Company Audience Enrichment Manager, Hannah J Hessel

10:05 a.m.
On Much Ado About Nothing
Professor Elizabeth A. Charlebois of St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

10:20 a.m.
Gender Skirmish
A discussion on the role of gender in the play with Holly Dugan, whose scholarship focuses on gender,sexuality, and the boundaries of the body in late medieval and early modern England at The George Washington University, and Latoya Peterson, Editor of Racialicious.com.

11:15 a.m.
Changing Times: Much Ado in Cuba
Ana Serra, author of The New Man in Cuba: Culture and Identity in the Revolution and Ricardo Ortiz,author of Cultural Erotics in Cuban America , will discuss the location of the play with director Eleanor Holdridge, whose all-female production of Much Ado recently ran at Taffety Punk Theatre Company.

12:10 a.m.
Much Ado About Music and Dance

Much Ado About Nothing choreographer Marcos Santana will speak with Latin American music scholar
and historian Brian McCann about the role of music in Latin America and in this production.

The central mission of the Shakespeare Theatre Company Education Department is to deepen
understanding of, appreciation for and connection to classic theatre in diverse learners of all ages through accessible programs that celebrate multiple perspectives.

We seek to fulfill this mission through strengthening our collaborations with schools locally and
nationally, engaging in scholarly dialogue with community and audience members, and increasing our use of technology.

Much Ado About Nothing is directed by Ethan McSweeny and runs Now–Jan 1.


ELIZABETH A. CHARLEBOIS, Associate Professor of English, St. Mary’s College. She received her B.A. (Government and International Affairs) and M.A. (English) from Georgetown University and her Ph.D. in English literature from Northwestern University where she specialized in English Renaissance Drama. Her research to date has been primarily devoted to exploring the historical intersection between jealousy in Renaissance drama and early modern theology, but her teaching and writing are also animated by her more contemporary interests in performance and film theory nd criticism. Beth is especially enthusiastic about her ongoing work with The Chicago Shakespeare Theater, for whom she regularly delivers pre-performance lectures and workshops. Among her many teaching interests, she is particularly passionate about her courses in Shakespeare and literature and film.

HOLLY DUGAN, Assistant Professor of English, The George Washington University. Her research
and teaching interests explore relationships between history, literature, and material culture. Her scholarship focuses on questions of gender, sexuality, and the boundaries of the body in late medieval and early modern England. She is currently working on a book-length project, co-authored with Scott Maisano, that examines the pre-modern history of primatology through the lens of Shakespeare.

LATOYA PETERSON provides a hip-hop feminist and anti-racist view on pop culture with a special
focus on video games, anime, American comics, manga, magazines, film, television, and music. Her
perspectives have been quoted in The Boston Globe, CNN, the Guardian (UK), and The Metro-Times
(Detroit), ColorsNW , the Austin Chronicle, The New York Times and Newsweek and she regularly speaks on topics of race, gender, and social media at conferences like Women, Action and the Media and South by Southwest Interactive. Skilled in interviewing, creative non-fiction, and editorial content, Latoya Peterson spends her time editing the blog Racialicious.com – the intersection of race and pop culture. She was contributor to Jezebel.com and has written for Vibe, The American Prospect, The Atlantic Blog, Bitch Magazine, Clutch Magazine, the Women’s Review of Books, Slate’s Double X, The Poynter Institute, The Root.com, and The Guardian.

ANA SERRA, Director, MA Program in Spanish and Latin American Studies, American University. Author of The New Man in Cuba: Culture and Identity in the Revolution (2007), Serra’s research and teaching dwells on the intersection between state discourse and cultural products in Latin America, particularly during the revolutionary era that started with the Cuban Revolution. She is interested in the rhetorical strategies employed in literary works, testimonials and film that explore the origins, pitfalls and possibilities of radical ideologies in Latin America.

RICARDO L. ORTIZ, Associate Professor in the Department of English, and Director of Graduate Studies, Georgetown University. Prof. Ortíz specializes in U.S. Latino/a Literatures and Cultures. He is also interested in teaching and research in “Américas” Studies; critical and cultural theory; cultural studies; intellectual history; gender and queer theory; popular culture. Prof. Ortiz’s first book, Cultural Erotics in Cuban America, was published by the University of Minnesota Press in early 2007; it was awarded Honorable Mention for the Modern Language Association’s 2008 Alan Bray Book Prize, A second book project, well under way, is entitled Testimonial Fictions: the Post-Dictatorship Mode in US Latino Literature and Culture. Prof. Ortíz is also a regular contributor of review pieces to The Lambda Book Report.

ELEANOR HOLDRIDGE, Assistant Professor, Head of the M.F.A Directing program, Catholic University.
Off-Broadway productions include Steve & Idi by David Grimm at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre, Cycling Past The Matterhorn at the Clurman Theatre, The Imaginary Invalid, and Mary Stuart at the Pearl Theatre Company. Among her regional productions are Gee’s Bend (the Arden Theatre), The Crucible and Much Ado About Nothing (Perseverance Theatre); Noises Off and Art (Triad Stage); Julius Caesar and Macbeth (Milwaukee Shakespeare); The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Alabama Shakespeare Festival); Hamlet (premiere, national tour and remount), As You Like It, Lettice And Lovage, The Tempest, Twelfth Night (Shakespeare & Company). A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis); Henry V (Shakespeare On The Sound); The Taming Of The Shrew and The Tempest (Philadelphia Shakespeare Festival); Betrayal (Portland Stage Company); The Lion In Winter (Northern Stage); and The Cenci, The Two Noble Kinsmen, (Red Heel Theatre Company). In the past she has held positions as Artistic Director for the Red Heel Theatre Company, Resident Assistant Director at the Shakespeare Theatre and Resident Director at New Dramatists. She has directed and taught students at the Yale School of Drama, NYU’s graduate program and the Juilliard School, among others.

BRYAN McCANN, Associate Professor, Director, Master’s in Global, International and Comparative
History, Georgetown University. Professor McCann teaches courses on Colonial and Modern Latin
America, particularly Brazil, and advanced topical courses on popular music in Cuba and Brazil and the history of Latin American Populism. He has published works on the history of radio, popular music, politics and journalism in Brazil. He is currently researching a book on the neighborhood association movement that reshaped urban space and politics in Rio de Janeiro in the second half of the twentieth century.

This is open to the public – tickets are $20. Students and teachers can attend the symposium for $5! Click here for that ticket price.

Hope to see you there!

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  • dersk

    Hey, could you tell Professor Charlebois that I still have vivid memories 30 years later of the outdoor Shakespeare that SMC puts on down at the ampitheater by the Dove? For such a podunk redneck town, the college added a lot of culture. Hope they’re still doing it.

  • dersk

    Hey, could you tell Professor Charlebois that I still have vivid memories 30 years later of the outdoor Shakespeare that SMC puts on down at the ampitheater by the Dove? For such a podunk redneck town, the college added a lot of culture. Hope they’re still doing it.

  • dersk

    Hey, could you tell Professor Charlebois that I still have vivid memories 30 years later of the outdoor Shakespeare that SMC puts on down at the ampitheater by the Dove? For such a podunk redneck town, the college added a lot of culture. Hope they’re still doing it.