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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: November ::
Re: Twelfth Night Cross Casting
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0808.  Monday, 11 November 1996.

(1)     From:   David Skeele <
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        Date:   Monday, 11 Nov 1996 10:30:39 -0500
        Subj:   Re:  Twelfth Night Productions

(2)     From:   David Hale <
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        Date:   Monday, 11 Nov 96 12:21:57 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0806 Qs: TN

(3)     From:   Jodi Clark <
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        Date:   Monday, 11 Nov 1996 14:41:18 +0200 (IST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0806 Qs: Twelfth Night Cross Casting

(4)     From:   Harry Teplitz <
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        Date:   Monday, 11 Nov 1996 15:14:37 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Twelfth Night


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Skeele <
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Date:           Monday, 11 Nov 1996 10:30:39 -0500
Subject:        Re:  Twelfth Night Productions

Matthew Mitchell-Shiner writes:

>I am currently in pre-production for 12th night, which I will be Assistant
>Directing.  I am looking for personal or historical ideas in which to cross
>cast (some of the male parts to be played by females.)  This is being done in a
>university setting, with 40+ females in the program, and this quarter there are
>only three scripted female roles.
>
>So, if any one has any ideas for this, please drop me a line.  I am weary of
>offering any unproved suggestions, since gender is such a important issue to
>this text.

Why be wary of untested ideas?  Why not take the bold leap and make a little
theatre history yourself?  And regarding taking untested suggestions from
others, I've found that suggestions from lit-crit types who have never set foot
in a theatre can be tremendously helpful, as long as one can find a way of
translating them into dramatic action.  So I would say listen to absolutely
everyone on the list, whether or not they have actually directed gender-bending
TNs--I am sure you'll find something valuable. Great luck on the
production--I'm sure you're going to have fun with it.

                                                Sincerely,
                                                David Skeele

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Hale <
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Date:           Monday, 11 Nov 96 12:21:57 EST
Subject: 7.0806 Qs: TN
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0806 Qs: TN

I've seen two recent productions which had additional roles for women. A couple
of years ago the Thousand Islands Playhouse in Gananoque, ON, cast Feste and
Fabian as women's parts. Feste, costumed as leftover from "Cabaret," was not
very good, but "Mrs. Fabian" was quite delightful, raising the question why Sir
Toby married Maria instead. Many of us who were at the Shakespeare Congress in
Los Angeles in April saw TN with Malvolio played by a woman, part of the
production's being an allegory about gays in the military. The casting of Toby
and Maria was reversed, but that wouldn't add more women to the cast.

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jodi Clark <
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Date:           Monday, 11 Nov 1996 14:41:18 +0200 (IST)
Subject: 7.0806 Qs: Twelfth Night Cross Casting
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0806 Qs: Twelfth Night Cross Casting

I was in a production of Twelfth Night last year in which I was cast as
Malvolio.  Being a woman, we had the quandry of whether I was playing him as
him or her or just as an androgenous person.  In the end, I was playing this
androgenous person, which actually worked very well.  We also had Fabian,
Feste, and Sebastian all played by women.  Sebastian was the most interesting
as in the end it would seem the poor actress would be having a multiple
personality disorder.  But she pulled it off very well with a little bit of
switching hats and such.

I well understand your leariness about cross-casting this as making the wrong
choice can bring up social issues that really aren't in the play. This
production happened at Marlboro College.  If you would like more details about
it, please feel free to let me know.

Sincerely,
Jodi Clark
Emerson College
Theatre Education

(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Harry Teplitz <
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Date:           Monday, 11 Nov 1996 15:14:37 -0800 (PST)
Subject:        Twelfth Night

I am writing in response to Matthew Mitchell-Shiner's inquiry about cross-
casting in Twelfth Night.  In 1993, I directed a student production of the play
with five men and the rest women.  I decided not to cross cast Orsino,
Sebastian, Antonio, Andrew and Toby.  This means that I did cross Malvolio,
Feste, Fabian, Curio, all the courtiers's, the Sea Captian, the priest, etc.

The main problem with a heavily female cast is deciding whether the cross-cast
roles are women playing male characters or whether the characters should be
switched to female.  I found that in many cases ambiguity on this issue was
acceptable, and in the case of Feste even advantageous.  An androgenous fool
can serve to highlight the gender reversals in the play.  She can also have a
relationship with the other character that a male might not.  I did strive to
make Malvolio a male character however.  The women playing the role had
extensive dance background and was able to bring to it a physicality that was
fairly convincing.

I had stronly considered cross-casting Antonio.  I fully believe that he is in
love (sexually, romantically, etc.) with Sebastian, and I thought a female
actor might make this clearer (as is often done with another Antonio in
Merchant of Venice).  In the end, I decided it was important that it be a male
in love with Sebastian, to highlight the homoerotic undercurrent in
Orsino/Caesario and Olivia/Caesario scenes.  I think you would be perfectly
justified, however, in having a female Antonio (Antonia?) or a women playing
the male Antonio.

Overall, Twelfth Night is a great choice for a heavily cross-cast play. It can
be a triumph both in terms of theatrical achievement and thematic concerns.  If
Olivia believes Caesario is male, why shouldn't the audience believe a female
actor in a male role?

The group I directed, the UCLA Shakespeare Group, is dedicated to proving that
any actor, male or female, can play any role.  In fact, I would be facinated to
see a production that was entirely cross-cast -- that is three men in the
women's roles and women in all the men's roles. I'd be very interested to hear
what decisions you make, and hope you find the play as rewarding as we did.

Sincerely,
        Harry Teplitz
        UCLA Shakespeare Reading & Performance Group
 

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