Five years after its formation by an independent group of UO students, Shakesqueer remains dedicated to the mission of offering LGBTQ+ students and their allies a space to stage productions of Shakespeare’s works with explicit representations of queer experiences. Debuting in 2016 with a production of Twelfth Night, Shakesqueer spent years working without a budget or a regular performance space to give actors the opportunity to play roles that they would not traditionally be cast in while showing audiences new interpretations of familiar scripts. The executive committee this year was made up of co-directors Rachel Peri (English) and Ciara Schwimmer (English), stage manager Nora Pearson (Educational Foundations), and actors’ representative Theo McGrath (English).
After staging classics like Romeo and Juliet in 2017 and Hamlet in 2018, 2019’s Much Ado About Nothing was Shakesqueer’s final show without official sponsorship. The 2019-2020 school year marked the beginning of Shakesqueer’s affiliation with the UO English department, a partnership that offered opportunities to work with a budget and reach a wider audience while bringing classic literary works to the modern era.
Shakesqueer’s annual performances are held in the spring, but work on each production begins almost a year in advance. Summers are spent choosing plays and developing concepts, with casting and final editing of the script occurring during fall term. Winter term is dedicated to rehearsals in Carson Hall’s Ramey Room, the stage at which the 2020 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was unexpectedly halted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Previous performances were held in a wide variety of spaces, including classrooms in the GSH and LLC residence halls and the Pocket Playhouse on campus. Shakesqueer was planning to return to the Spectrum gay bar and restaurant in Eugene with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in addition to multiple performances on campus at UO. Though half of the original 16 cast and crew members will have graduated from UO by that point, Shakesqueer hopes to perform Midsummer during the coming fall term, and may return with a second production in the spring.
Story by Cirara Schwimmer