First Actresses Ever Are “Playhouse Creatures” at HSU - Humboldt State Now

First Actresses Ever Are “Playhouse Creatures” at HSU

Confronted by Puritan disapproval and royal lust, they pioneered a new profession as the first women actors ever to appear on the English stage. Their story is told in “Playhouse Creatures,” performed for two weekends at HSU beginning April 24.

Vanessa Fragoso, Anna Duchi.

Until royal decrees by Charles II in the mid 17th century, women characters in Shakespeare and other stage dramas had to be played by males. In “Playhouse Creatures” by contemporary British playwright April De Angelis, most of the characters are based on the actual women who became those first actresses.

Not always accepted by audiences, they ultimately brought new realism to the stage. They faced unique challenges of their times as well as familiar struggles for fame, integrity and survival.

There’s comedy, drama and tragedy backstage as well as onstage in this provocative glimpse of women lost to history, whose legacy greets us from every stage and screen.

“The impressions I leave rehearsal with regularly,” stated director Mark Swetz, “are that history is fun, sexy (and sexist), tragic and very three-dimensional.”

“The performances by the company of actors bring otherwise distant and two-dimensional characters from history to life,” Swetz added. “The great script by April De Angeles opens many doors for the audience and knocks down many perceptions of ‘dusty history’ and particularly, women’s roles in shaping history.”

The HSU cast is Queena DeLany, Anna Duchi, Michelle Purnell, Ambar Cuevas, Vanessa Fragoso, Adrienne Ralsten, Giovanni Alva and Kyle Rispoli. Mark Swetz directs, with scenic and prop design by Derek Lane, costumes by Kaden O’Keefe and lighting by James McHugh.

“Playhouse Creatures” is performed in Gist Hall Theatre April 24-26 and May 1-3 at 7:30 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee on May 4. Tickets are $10, $8 seniors/students, with a limited number of free seats for HSU students at each performance, from the HSU Ticket Office (826-3928) or at the door. For more information visit