NEW YORK -- "Women of Will," Shakespeare & Company founding artistic director Tina Packer's exploration of Shakespeare's canon, has arrived Off-Broadway at The Gym at Judson, 243 Thompson St., where it is scheduled to run through June 2.

Previews, which began Tuesday, run through Saturday. The official press opening is Sunday evening at 7. through June 2.

Eric Tucker, who directed Packer in the world premiere of "Women of Will" at Shakespeare & Company in 2010, returns to direct. Nigel Gore, a longtime company member and collaborator on "Women of Will," stars alongside Packer in the Off-Broadway debut.

"I am so pleased to finally have the opportunity to perform ‘Women of Will' in front of New York audiences," Packer said in a news release. "It has been a long journey -- partly because Š ‘Women of Will' isn't just one play, it's six separate plays.

"I, along with my wonderful collaborators Eric Tucker and Nigel Gore, have been working tirelessly to fine-tune the work before our New York debut."

Produced by Sarah Hancock, "Women of Will" is an exploration of the Bard's art and psyche through his female characters. The piece focuses on the "women of will," from Beatrice in "Much Ado About Nothing" to Viola in "Twelfth Night" and everyone in between.


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"As a company, we couldn't be more thrilled for Tina," says artistic director Tony Simotes in the same news release. "Tina has put her heart and soul into cultivating ‘Women of Will' over many, many years. I've had the immense pleasure of seeing the piece in its early stages, witnessing it grow into the dynamic work it is today.

"It's thrilling for me to know that New York audiences will see the Shakespeare & Company aesthetic reflected in Tina's work."

In addition to "Women of Will," Packer's "Women of Will: The Complete Journey," her five-part, in-depth exploration of Shakespeare will be presented in marathon weekends, every other week later this season. More details will be announced at a later date.

"Women of Will" was developed during a 15-year period while Packer was artistic director at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Mass., where both "Women of Will" and "Women of Will: The Compete Journey" received their world-premiere productions.

Subsequently, "Women of Will" has been presented in the Boston area by The Nora Theatre Company; the Denver area by the Colorado Shakespeare Festival; and most recently in Prague, Czech Republic, by The Prague Shakespeare Festival.

For Shakespeare & Company, Packer has directed over 50 Shakespeare productions, as well as new and contemporary works. As an actor, her include Cleopatra in "Antony and Cleopatra," Queen Gertrude in "Hamlet," Lettice in "Lettice and Lovage," and the title role in "Shirley Valentine." She is the subject of the WGBH documentary "Sex, Violence and Poetry: A Portrait of Tina Packer," and Helen Epstein's biography "The Companies She Keeps."

Gore will return to the Colorado Shakespeare Festival this summer to play the title role in "Macbeth" and Bottom in "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Recent work includes Richard in "Richard III" at Colorado Shakespeare Festival; Claudius in "Hamlet" at Prague Shakespeare Festival; Jason in "Medea" at Actors Shakespeare Project in Boston. He received the Eliot Norton Award for Outstanding Actor for his portrayal of George in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolfe?" at Boston's Publick Theatre. Other recent work includes "Nicholas Nickelby" at Lyric Stage Boston; "Coriolanus" at the Mercury Theatre in Colchester UK, "Macbeth" in Los Angeles; and "Antony and Cleopatra" and "Twelfth Night" with Shakespeare & Company.

Tucker is artistic director of Bedlam Theatre. He recently directed the critically acclaimed Off-Broadway production of "Saint Joan," which will be remounted Off-Broadway in 2013. Other Off- and Off-Off directing credits include "The Libertine," "The Belle of Belfast," "86'd," "Closer" and "16 East." Regional directing credits include the North American premiere of "Sanctuary," the world-premiere of "Watership Down," and "Twelfth Night," "Romeo and Juliet," "Man of La Mancha," "Angels in America -- Parts I & II."

"Women of Will" producer Sarah Hancock serves on the boards of the American Repertory Theater, Shakespeare & Company, and the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health.

On stage

What: "Women of Will." Created by Tina Packer. Directed by Eric Tucker

Who: Tina Packer, Nigel Gore

When: Now through June 2 (press opening -- Sunday, 7 p.m.). Eves.: Tue. 7; Wed.-Sat. 8. Mats.: Sat. 2; Sun. 3

Where: The Gym at Judson, 243 Thompson St., New York

Tickets: $40 today, Sat. (previews); $75 (Sun.-June 2); $25 (student rush). All seating general admission

How: (212) 352-3101; www.WomenofWill.com; student rush at box office only