A woman writes her own story in “12 Ophelias”

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December 1st, 2011

Omaha, NE- The University of Nebraska Omaha’s theater department is currently staging 12 Ophelias, a play about Shakespeare’s Ophelia writing her own story.

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"12 Ophelias" is the story of Shakespeare's Ophelia. It's running through Dec. 3rd at UNO.(Photo credit Wikimedia Commons)

12 Ophelias was written by U.S. playwright Caridad Svich in 2008. A lyrical performance, it’s described as “theater song poem” by Cindy Melby Phaneuf, a UNO theater professor, and the director of the local production. Phaneuf said the production has many layers of performance, which include dense imagery, fights, dances, sign language and songs.

“Caridad writes broken songs into the dialog and looks at them almost as one whole piece,” Phaneuf said. “So when the characters are trying to figure out who they are, or what their next step needs to be, (she) often puts that into music, into a song.”

12 Ophelias is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, written toward the end of the 16th century. Phaneuf said both Hamlet and 12 Ophelias support the timeless theme of being in control of your own destiny.

“It also said a lot about women’s roles,” Phaneuf said. “In Shakespeare’s time, Ophelia kind of had to be the dutiful daughter, and do what she was told, and she literally said she let other people write her story.”

“This time,” Phaneuf said, “she wants to write her own. So, she’s taking charge of her own choices.”

The UNO production of 12 Ophelias has a 13-member cast along with a chorus of six women. The play runs through Saturday, December 3rd at the Weber Fine Arts building located on UNO’s main campus.

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