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New comedy tackles old issues at Ensemble Theatre

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Charise Castro Smith’s "The Hunchback of Seville" makes its world premiere at Washington Ensemble Theatre tomorrow (June 6).

After completing her MFA at Yale, Smith has appeared in numerous plays in New York and such television series as “The Good Wife” and “Unforgettable.” But writing lets her explore her creative side in depth, she said in a recent interview.

“As an actress, the odds of me playing Richard III are slim, so I decided to write a hunchback lady. Also, my own interest in history, and thoughts about how [16th century Spain] mirrors our times [are in the play],” said Smith. “It started in 2011, when I was reflecting on Bush administration and the ways that they justified going into Iraq. People always have been justifying invasions for all kind of reasons. It’s amazing to me that this is still happening.”

“The Hunchback of Seville” may be set in Spain, but the plot definitely takes a skewed approach to the events of 1504, courtesy of French playwright Moliere’s comedies.

“I thought a lot about Moliere and the structure of his plays when writing this. All five acts take place in one day and one place. And he’s commenting on society but it is funny,” she said.

Unlike earlier role models, Smith deliberately balances out the sexes in her scripts. “When I started writing plays, I made a pact with myself that the female and male characters had to be balanced. I hope to write more meaty exciting roles for women,” she said.

Coming to Seattle for the final rehearsals of “The Hunchback” introduced her to the Emsemble’s cozy performance space on 15th Avenue, aptly named the Little Theatre.

“It’s a really cool company and it has been exciting for me to be able to tailor things a little bit for this specific company,” she said. “Jen (Wineman, the director) sent them the script. We knew about the Ensemble because one of the original founders went to Yale. It was on our radar screen as a good home for “Hunchback” and it really is.”

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“The Hunchback of Seville” opens June 6 and runs through June 30 (Thursdays through Mondays at 7:30 p.m.) at The Little Theatre, 608 19th Ave. E., on Capitol Hill.

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