Directing Thesis Interview: Richard III, An All-Female Production

March 22, 2018

The next Directing Thesis Production opens Wednesday, March 28th at Lenfest Center for the Arts. Shakespeare's Richard III will be directed by Nana Dakin '18 and performed by an all-female cast.  


"The sport of Kings is a contest of fair and foul play. Richard, the underdog, is spurned at court for his physical condition but eyes the crown with bloody determination. No bond is too sacred to betray as he manipulates his way to glory. In this story of depravity and ambition, an all-female cast redraws the lines that define gender and power and asks, how far is too far to get what you want?", according to the show's description.


We talked with Nana about this upcoming thesis production.


Why did you choose Richard III for your thesis production?


In Richard III Shakespeare created a villain we 'love to hate'. The audience gets to enjoy watching Richard (the bad guy) attain power through wicked and immoral means, and also see him receive his comeuppance at the end when he is defeated by Richmond (the good guy.) What interested me about this play was: why do we root for Richard in the first place? I think the answer is that Richard taps into both the experience of feeling 'not as good as' others and the desire to prove ourselves 'against all odds'. It is the story of an underdog who wants to be exceptional. Yet it is also the story of a cruel man coming to power. How do the people in this play let that happen? And how do we let that happen in our own society today?



What's the vision you’ve brought to this classic? And why do this play now?


Richard is an underdog because of his body. People underestimate him. The uncut version of Richard III contains 63 characters, 57 of them male and 6 of them female. I cast this play with 15 female actors because female actors in Shakespeare are also underdogs. Their access to Shakespearean roles is limited, and the female roles they can play do not allow for the same spectrum of complex human experience given as their male counterparts.


While our current cultural and political moment says women have equal rights to men, we know this is not the reality. Why is that? By doing this play with an all-female cast I want to shed light on the misogyny inherent in this play (and in our society). Watching female actors play male characters on stage enables us to encounter our gendered ideas of strength and weakness, good and evil, from a new vantage point. 



What challenges have you faced in this process?


The biggest challenge has been figuring out how to represent Richard’s 'deformity' on stage when I have cast an able-bodied actor in that role. In doing so, I join a long list of directors who have not worked hard enough to seek out disabled actors to play disabled roles. The actor playing Richard and I have worked hard to understand and honor the experience of a differently abled person while knowing that our ability to do so is inherently limited.



What kind of theatre excites you?


Weirdly, while I love movies and TV shows that provide escapist entertainment, I do not go to the theatre for that reason. I go to the theatre to be challenged. For me, the best theatre is the kind that makes me see and understand something I had previously overlooked. It is such a special form for spending time with other humans, to give yourself and other people a chance to delve into what makes us so complicated and difficult and beautiful.


Headshot of Nana Dakin


Nana Dakin is a Thai-American director of new plays, classics and devised performance. Having grown up in multiple countries, Nana’s work is driven by a great curiosity and empathy for diverse cultural and sociopolitical realities. She is committed to promoting social justice and challenging her audience through the interplay of language, movement, and bodies in space. Nana is a core member of B-Floor Theatre, Thailand’s vanguard physical theatre company. Her directorial work with B-Floor, Begin Again (2009) and Damage Joy (2011) ranked in the top 5 theatre productions of that year by the Bangkok Post. This summer she will be Anne Bogart's Assistant Director for the SITI Company's production of The Bacchae at the Getty Villa.