One of the first things students learn when they encounter Shakespeare is that the female roles in Shakespeares day were always played by men. Its a funny little factoid that makes Romeo and Juliet a touch more interesting -- but no one ever takes the lesson to the next logical point: When were women able to play women onstage? Who was that first brave woman who became the modern actress? What was that moment like when a female character stepped under the lights and the audience knew she was a real woman? April de Angelis imagines the transitional time when the men were men and the women were finally women in Playhouse Creatures. De Angelis follows the lives of five actresses in Restoration England, among them Nell Gwyn, the girl who ascended from selling oranges in the back of the theater to conquering the stage to winning the heart (or, at least, the bed) of King Charles II. Gwyns singular life and career inspired the Orange Girls theatrical company, a favor now repaid as the Orange Girls present Playhouse Creatures at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday (October 12 through 28) at the Center of Creative Arts (524 Trinity Avenue, University City; 314-520-9557 or www.orangegirls.org). Tickets are $18 to $20.
Fridays-Sundays. Starts: Oct. 12. Continues through Oct. 28, 2007