The true-life dual gender roles of a 19th-century French hermaphrodite -- a person with male and female genitalia -- are explored in the world premiere of Kira Obolensky’s The Adventures of Herculina, beginning previews March 12 in a staging by the Next Theatre Company in Evanston, IL.
Drawn from a real diary, the story follows “one extraordinary person’s journey from a tiny convent in rural France, where she was raised as a girl, to Paris, London and beyond, and his life as a young man,” according to production notes. Louise Lamson plays Herculina in Act One and Hercule in Act Two.
A Next Theatre Company spokesman said that when rehearsals began, words like “camp” were discouraged -- the play is a serious approach to the subjects of gender roles, the nature of sexuality and the essence of love.
The production officially opens March 16 and continues to April 10 at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, Noyes and Ridge, in Evanston.
The Adventures of Herculina is directed by Next artistic director Sarah Tucker. The play was workshopped at the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in 1996 and received the Edith Oliver Award and honorable mention for the Kesselring Prize. Obolensky won the Kesselring prize for her play, Lobster Alice.
Chicago actress-performance artist Alexandra Billings plays the Abbess and Sarah Bernhardt. The ensemble includes Kurt Ehrmann, Katherine Ripley and Ian Christopher.
Designers are Scott Cooper (set), Shannon McKinney (lights) and Kristine Knanishu (costumes). Original music and sound design are by Joe Cerqua.
Tickets are $18-$22. For information, call (847) 475-1875.
The Next Theatre Company’s website is at www.nexttheatre.org.
Obolensky was awarded the 1998 Kesselring Prize for Playwriting Nov. 22, 1998. She won $10,000 for the award.
The surreal Lobster Alice, packed with wild images, concerns painter Salvador Dali's notion to create an animated film of "Alice in Wonderland." It is apparently inspired by a true story about Dali's visit to an animation studio.
Obolensky, a Williams College graduate and graduate of Juilliard School’s Playwriting Program, has also penned The Return of Don Quixote, The Whalebone Sonata and Hate Mail (with Bill Corbett).
-- By Kenneth Jones