Nebraska Shakespeare: Juno’s Swans Read “Richard III”


July 7th, 2017

Photo courtesy of Nebraska Shakespeare

Omaha, NE—Nebraska Shakespeare’s next performance, a reading of Richard III, will be played by Juno’s Swans, an all female company. In the midst of the War of the Roses, the English royal families’ battle for the throne, Richard schemes his way to power. He is one of Shakespeare’s most depraved characters—his conniving and spiteful behavior paired with his notorious hunchback.

Sarah Carlson-Brown, director of education at Nebraska Shakespeare and director of this reading of Richard III has acted in and directed many Shakespeare plays in the past and explained that although the English playwright was known for his nuanced portrayals of women, the stories are still male dominated.

“As a female actor who works primarily in Shakespeare, I did a performance of As You Like It for Shakespeare on the green a few years ago,” Carlson Brown said. “I was so honored to play Rosalind, but I was really depressed after the show—because it was over and of course you’re always sad when the shows are over—but also I realized that she was the largest female role in Shakespeare’s canon, so I had the proverbial glass ceiling if I was going to stay in my own gender and that didn’t feel right. I didn’t like that so I said, ‘What if I didn’t stay in my own gender? What if I got to play some of these roles that were specifically written for men?’”

Though an all female cast would not have occurred in the Shakespeare’s day, playing with gender is not necessarily non-traditional. Of course, Shakespeare’s company was all male, and men played the roles of women.

An all female cast offers its own challenges and opportunities, and one unique aspect of this performance is that all 17 women in the company will play Richard at some point or another.

“Because Richard the third is a master gamester and is playing at different angles to get what he wants through the entire play, I thought it would be really interesting to have each actor bring her own thoughts and ideas and motivations to each scene,” Carlson-Brown said. “Every actor gets to play and speak Richard’s lines and we’re going to get everybody’s different thought process to that. It will add some complexity and show a bit of the different angles that different actors are going to take at the character of Richard outside of playing all of the other characters that are in the play as well.”

This performance by Juno’s Swans is a reading, but the special directorial decisions offer a unique spectacle.

“This will be a hyper theatrical staged reading,” Carlson-Brown said. “Because we get to be in the delightful space at the Blue Barn, we can take some liberties and push the envelope a little bit with some theatricality. So there will be a bit of a ritual that will transition one Richard to another Richard. There will be a physicality—obviously Richard has a very distinct physicality—that will help the audience kind of track through who is our Richard now, and being able to see a character that played Richard in an earlier scene and then that same actor be the actor that Richard is abusing and is oppressing in a later scene I think will be really interesting for the audience to see.”

Juno’s Swans’ staged reading of Richard III will be this Sunday, July 9 at 2:00pm at the Bluebarn Theatre. The performances will be complemented with a discussion with the artists and actors about the approach and gender perspectives of the play. For more information, visit


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