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Home :: Archive :: 1992 :: October ::
Rs: Changing the Gender of Shakespearean Characters
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 247.  Monday, 12 October 1992.
 
(1)	From: 	Tim Bowden <
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	Date: 	Sunday, Oct. 11, 1992, 19:52:51 PDT
	Subj: 	Re: Changing the Gender of Shakespearean Characters
 
(2)	From:	Mez <
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	Date: 	Monday, Oct. 12, 1992, 07:05:44 PDT
	Subj: 	re: Changing the Gender of Shakespearean Characters
 
(3)	From: 	Timothy Pinnow <
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	Date: 	Monday, Oct. 12, 1992, 13:15:29 CDT
	Subj: 	Re: Changing the Gender of Shakespearean Characters
 
(4)	From: 	Rick Jones <
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	Date: 	Oct. 12, 1992, 14:33:00 CST
	Subj: 	RE: Changing the Gender of Shakespearean Characters
 
(1)---------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
From: 		Tim Bowden <
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Date: 		Sunday, Oct. 11, 1992, 19:52:51 PDT
Subject: 	Re: Changing the Gender of Shakespearean Characters
 
HU> How common is it to change the gender of Shakepearean characters?
 
It was common in about 100% of the plays at the outset.  I still try to imagine
breathy balcony scenes with Juliet played by a young boy, but that's how it was
done.  Women did not appear in Elizabethan performances.
 
Tim Bowden
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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
From:		Mez <
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Date: 		Monday, Oct. 12, 1992, 07:05:44 PDT
Subject: 	re: Changing the Gender of Shakespearean Characters
 
Boston is a hotbed of it.
 
Inanna has done two all-female productions of Shakespeare; Two Gents and Henry
IV 1. The Shakespeare Ensemble at MIT changed Belarius, Guiderius, and
Arviragus into women in a production of Cymbeline. The folks who do Shakespeare
in Western MA [Shakespeare and Company] used a woman for Ariel (I believe that
is not uncommon; Ariel's sex can easily not be much of an issue).
 
>I'm not sure of all the switches, but Hamlet, Laertes and Polonius
>are women and Ophelia is a man.  He approached it as a problem of casting the
>leads.  He decided to match the best actors to the main parts, regardless of
>gender, then adjust the remainder.
 
And was it just chance that he ended up with a heterosexual couple for
Hamlet/Ophelia? Or is Ophelia not a lead. And what about Claudius and Gertrude?
How interesting...
 
	Mez
 
(3)---------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
From: 		Timothy Pinnow <
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Date: 		Monday, Oct. 12, 1992, 13:15:29 CDT
Subject: 	Re: Changing the Gender of Shakespearean Characters
 
In response to David Allan Grier's query,
 
I think it is a common practice in many colleges and universities,
particularly those with a limited number of theatre students to cast women
in men's roles.  However, from my experience, it is usually expected of the
women that they play the roles as if they were male.  I myself have cast
that way several times to afford a more equitable opportunity to the
students.  I also know of many small professional companies who do simliar
things. And often, it is possible to change the gender of some of the roles
(Ariel, Puck, and various servants like Biondello or Grumio) without
changing the feel of the piece.
 
I did see a production at the University of Iowa last year of *Twelfth
Night* that did not change the gender of the characters, but cast all of
the roles with an actor of opposite gender.  The actors were all pseudo
cross-dressed then, but with see through garments that allowed the audience
to know the true gender of the actors.  All in all, it was pretty darned
confusing and we missed most of the story.  But it was an interesting
evening, to say the least.
 
Timothy Dayne Pinnow
Ass't. Prof. of Theatre
St. Olaf College
1520 St. Olaf Ave
Northfield MN 55057
ph. 507/646-3327
Internet: 
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(4)---------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
From: 		Rick Jones <
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Date: 		Oct. 12, 1992, 14:33:00 CST
Subject: 	RE: Changing the Gender of Shakespearean Characters
 
David Alan Grier <
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    How common is it to change the gender of Shakepearean characters?
 
It depends on a lot of things, but it's certainly not uncommon, especially in
university settings.  I know of one *Hamlet* in which the director was faced
with the all-too-common problem of far more good women than good men, and
solved it but bracketing a slightly abridged *Hamlet* with a madhouse scene a
la Marat/Sade.  So, since all the inmates were women, so were the actors
playing the roles (and the occasional "guard" could be male, allowing roles for
what good men there were).  There's also a film version with Dame Judith
Anderson in the title role.  And of course a number of roles (though none in
*Hamlet* spring to mind) are played roughly as often by women as by men: Ariel,
Puck, Rumour, the witches, etc.  I suppose Osric and one or two of the players
would be possibilities.  The problem is to keep the production from being too
"cute": changing the sex of *all* the major characters is going to read as some
sort of half-baked political statement, whether or not it was intended as such.
 
Rick Jones
Cornell College, Mount Vernon, IA 52314
e-mail: 
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