This week, Laura and Joelle are joined by members of the Babes With Blades Theatre Company. Babes With Blades (BWB) uses stage combat to place women and their stories center stage. Through performance, script development, training, and outreach, their ensemble creates theatre that explores the wide range of the human experience, and cultivates broader perspectives in the arts community and in society as a whole.

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Kathrynne Wolf (left), Brianna Buckley (middle) and Sarah Liz Bell (right) after recording in Transistor’s Studio C.

“Theatre is a way of challenging perspective and allowing yourself to grow.”
– Babes with Blades

Listen to Episode 58 with BWB!

Here are some references from episode 58 that you may want to check out:

  • Laura and Joelle were joined by three members of the Othello cast:
    • Kathrynne Wolf: actress and full-time member of BWB since 1987 is playing to role of Iago in Othello
    • Brianna Buckley: A five-year Chicagoland resident and actress, Brianna is starring as Othello in Othello
    • Sarah Liz Bell: Sarah is a long-time fan of BWB, and is thrilled to be playing the part of Desdemona in Othello
Sarah and Brianna_Photo by Steven Townshend courtesy of Chicago Reader.

Sarah Liz Bell (left) as Desdemona and Brianna Buckley as Othello in BWB’s production of Othello. Photo by Steven Townshend courtesy of Chicago Reader.

  • Babes with Blades Theatre Company was started in 1997 by a group of women that had received stage combat training. When trying to get acting jobs, there were no female parts that called for stage fighting. Instead of accepting roles without stage fighting, a group of female stage fighters put together a two night showcase of female-performed fight scenes and monologues. Those two nights turned into four nights; those four nights turned into a string of full-running shows.
  • Some thought that they should be doing more to break the mould and establish fighting and acting roles for women. So, the original group of women decided to start Babes with Blades to complete the following three goals:
    • Start a script development process, working with writers to establish female roles that have stage fighting.
    • Start a script writing competition featuring fighting roles for women.
    • Eventually get into producing Shakespeare with an all-female (or non-traditional) cast.
  • In 2005, BWB starting producing full-length shows with original scripts. In 2009, they hosted Macbeth as their first non-traditionally cast Shakespearean show; they have had six since. View production history here.
  • BWB is an itinerant theatre company, meaning they have no performance home of their own. They have spent a great deal of time within Andersonville, though.
    • BWB started in Footsteps Theatre, which was where Gus Giordano Dance School (5320 N Clark)  is currently.
    • Othello is currently running at The Factory Theater. The space is small – 70 seats total – with the audience sitting on three different sides of the stage. Because they’re swinging around a variety of weapons, it would be helpful for the stage to be a bit taller; otherwise they enjoy the space. Bringing such a dramatic, grandiose show into such a small space is an unexpected and refreshing change for the cast and audience.
  • The stage weapons that they use come from a variety of vendors, but one of their favorites is a local store called Rogue Steel. They often buy and maintain their weapons there. In the show, the rapier is the most commonly used kind of sword. Brianna has a sword and a dagger and enjoys using them both. Iago (Katherynne) enjoys whatever does the most damage, and Desdamona (Sarah Liz) does not use any weapons in the show.
  • The BWB production of Othello runs through May 25 with a non-traditional cast that is made up of all fem-identified actors. For those of you that are not familiar with the story of Othello, here’s a link to purchase the book through Women & Children First (5233 N Clark). If you don’t want to buy it, here’s the link to the Chicago Public Library website. If you really don’t want to read it, fine – here are the Cliff’s Notes!
Brianna as Othello

Brianna Buckley as Othello.

  • Here are some our visitors’ favorite previous roles:
    • Sarah Liz participated in a non-traditionally cast version of Henry the IV Part 1 in her senior year of school. All of the rebels were played by females, the king’s men were played by men. Sarah Liz was cast as Hotspur; she says it was a physical and mental challenge of convincingly portraying a man while still obviously being a woman.
    • Brianna loves performing as Othello; carrying the show is a new experience for her. She was also in Crumbs from the Table of Joy at the Raven Theatre (6157 N Clark) before Othello.
  • To BWB, theatre is a way of challenging perspective and allowing yourself to grow. This is especially true when seeing a show in a black box theatre – everything is much closer and much more personal. You can see the actors and they can see you; the effect is stronger.
  • Othello closes at The Factory Theater on May 25 (so be sure to get your tickets now!) and BWB’s playwriting festival, Fighting Words Festival, is coming up June 1-2. Stay tuned to BWB’s website for more information about their upcoming season.
  • The BWB staff will also be working the Balmoral Beer booth on the Friday night, June 7 of Midsommarfest. The booth is often worked by nonprofit organizations, and a percentage of the proceeds goes back to the working nonprofit. The Babe’s favorite thing about working the beer booth is seeing all of the dogs that come by!

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Visit Babes with Blades Theatre Company on the following platforms:
Online: babeswithblades.org
Facebook: facebook.com/bwbtc
Instagram: @babeswithbladestheatreco
Twitter: @BabesWithBlades
Youtube: youtube.com/user/katyawolf