One of the Austin theater scene's greatest strengths, in terms of both diversity and variety, is the large number of opportunities given to talented actresses for leading roles. American theater often bestows more of its juicier roles on men than it has on women, so it’s refreshing to see so many Austin theaters deliberately program their seasons to provide opportunities for the city's multi-faceted actresses. Here are three upcoming productions that are highlighting strong female roles:
Miss Bennett: Christmas at Pemberley
In this unofficial sequel to Pride and Prejudice, written by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon, the brainy middle sister of the Bennet family finally gets her due. This romantic comedy brings a contemporary sense of humor to Jane Austin’s world and to the holiday season. Austin Playhouse Company member Jess Hughes (one of the most versatile young actresses in town) stars alongside a large cast that also features Marie Fahlgren, Maria Latiolais and Jenny Lavery.
Austin Playhouse, Dec 1-23, Thu-Sat at 8pm and Sun at 5:30pm, with a 2pm performance on Dec 23; $17-$36.
Though an ensemble piece more than a vehicle for a leading actress, Samuel D. Hunter’s comedy Pocatello will feature some of Austin’s most talented female performers. This includes up-and-coming actress and improv comedian Sydney Huddleston, Austin mainstay Chris Humphrey, and Amber Quick, winner of a Best Actress award from the Austin Critics Table for the past two years in a row. The play tells the story of the ways in which the manager of an Italian chain restaurant and his best friend/business partner try to hold their families together—even as their business crumbles.
Street Corner Arts at Hyde Park Theatre, Dec 1-16 at 8 pm, $15-$20.
The Way She Spoke: A Docu-mythologia
Karen Rodriguez is no stranger to demanding roles, both as a student at UT Austin and professionally for companies like Chicago’s Teatro Vista and Austin’s own Vortex Theatre. Now she reprises one of her most challenging performance yet, as she stars in playwright Isaac Gomez’ play about the women of Juarez, Mexico, who have been abducted, raped and murdered over the course of several decades. The play was well received when it premiered in Chicago last year (with Rodriguez starring), so expect it to be equally as powerful when it comes to the Vortex in January.
The Vortex Theatre, Jan 11-20, times and ticket prices TBD.