From left to right: Katrina Cain (playing The Bartender), Grace Lee (playing Jessica) and Erin Tripp (playing The Ghost) at the rehearsal of Women Playing Hamlet on Tuesday, Dec. 6 at McPhetres Hall.

Women Playing Hamlet: Confidence, comedy with community theatre

In Shakespeare’s time, men performed all the roles in his plays, even those of women. Shaking things up with a new play by William Missouri Downs, Juneau-Douglas Little Theatre is producing “Women Playing Hamlet.” As the name suggests, only women, — 11 of them — will play the 19 roles called for in the play.

“It’s getting a little revenge on Shakespeare for never casting women,” director of the play and vice-president of Juneau-Douglas Little Theatre Heather LaVerne told the Capital City Weekly.

The play, which only recently had its world premiere, is not Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” but a comedy about an actress named Jessica trying to gain the confidence to play the title character.

“She meets all these various people,” LaVerne explained of Jessica’s journey. “She meets a Shakespearean scholar, a gravedigger, her mom from Minnesota, a therapist who kind of has a Freudian approach to therapy – lots of different people.”

Grace Lee, a lawyer by day, is taking on the role of Jessica.

All the characters with the exception of one are shown through the filter of her memories, so it’s not linear.

Before she attempted Hamlet, Jessica was the star of a soap opera. She wants, however, to be perceived as a serious actress, Lee said.

“She kind of resents that fame and that character, and that’s kind of why she took on the role of Hamlet so she could prove to everybody, in fact everybody in the play, that she could be a real actress,” shesaid.

This is the first time Lee has ever been in a play.

“I’ve always been interested in theatre but I never really had … the confidence to go out and try out for anything,” she said. She knew LaVerne and stage director Richard Carter through her boyfriend’s involvement with Perseverance Theatre and they all encouraged her to try out for the show. Juneau-Douglas Little Theatre’s goal is to offer people who haven’t had the opportunity the chance to participate in theatre, LaVerne said.

“I identified very strongly with the main character who is an actress who is not confident that she can play Hamlet. And I was like ‘that’s pretty much me.’ I’m an actress, or person, who is not confident she can do this, and so it was really easy to put a lot of myself into this role,” Lee said.

“She read and she blew me away,” LaVerne said. “She is really talented.”

Lee said she’s nervous, but excited to work with the rest of the cast, many of whom were in Juneau-Douglas Little Theatre’s last play “Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche.”

LaVerne wanted to make it clear that this play is a comedy, not “Hamlet” itself. People don’t have to be a fan of Shakespeare or the time period to enjoy the play, she said.

Those familiar with the tragedy will recognize the iconic pose featured in the play’s posters: Lee holding a skull.

“The play is hilarious, and as the straight man in the play, I have a really hard time keeping my face straight and not laughing at everybody else’s characters,” Lee said of rehearsals.

The play is on Jan. 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14 and 15, always at 7 p.m. at McPhetres Hall inside the Church of the Holy Trinity. Tickets are $20.

• Contact reporter Clara Miller at

From left to right: Grace Lee (playing Jessica) and Stacy Katasse (playing Gwen) at the rehearsal of Women Playing Hamlet on Tuesday, Dec. 6 at McPhetres Hall.

More in Neighbors

Columnist Geoff Kirsch says ramen is the superior hyper-preserved food stuff when compared to Twinkies. “Also, it’ll make the post-apocalypse seem like you’re back in college, especially if you’re listening sitting under a black light and listening to “’Dark Side of the Moon,’” he writes. (Tom & Nicole Moore / Paxaby)
Slack Tide: Doomsday cramming

I can clearly see I’m not doomsday prepped at all. In fact, I’m doomsday screwed.

Thank you letter for Sept. 20, 2020

Thank you, merci, danke, gracias, gunalchéesh.

Living & Growing: We belong to the human family

When we frame life as “us” and “them,” we deny ourselves growth and celebration of God-given diversity.

Courtesy photo / Tom Dawson
                                From left to right, Kirk Thorsteinson, Tom Dawson, Howard Colbert, and Tim Armstrong gather for Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Recognition Day at the American Legion Post in Juneau. The holiday us held on the third Friday of every September to remember the more than 81,900 missing American service members.
American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars gather for POW/MIA Recognition Day

More than 81,900 Americans never returned from our many wars.

EcoChaplain Roger Wharton is an Episcopal priest from Juneau. (Courtesy Photo / Roger Wharton)
Living & Growing: The Great Commandment — an ecological perspective

To love God is to live a simple life that is as ecologically sound as possible.

Ode to a Dead Salmon

“That’s the other way you know summer’s almost over in Juneau, even a COVID-19 summer: dead salmon.”

Recognitions for Sept. 13

Juneau has a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist

Thank you letters for Sept. 13

Thank you, merci, danke, gracias, gunalchéesh.

Living & Growing: The benefits of being slow to anger

Whoever will seek to be a peacemaker in the days ahead will be blessed.

This photo shows Marla Berg, member of the 100 Women Who Care coordinator team, and Joy Lyon, Executive Director of AEYC Southeast Alaska. (Courtesy Photo / Iola Young)
Thanks a million to the 100 Women Who Care Juneau

“Our hearts are overflowing with gratitude!”

This piece uses Kintsug, which is the Japanese method of repairing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with powdered gold.We are all flawed. These flaws, these imperfections, allow us the opportunity to grow, to learn, to keep striving for better. (Courtesy Photo / Ruthann Hurwitz, Wikimedia)
Living & Growing: Imperfections give us room to grow

Every day, in different ways, I find myself admitting to and owning my flaws.

Gimme a Smile: Back to (Zoom) School

A grading scale myster-E.