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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: May ::
Seattle All-Female Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0403  Friday, 5 May 2006

From: 		Robert Projansky <
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Date: 		Friday, 5 May 2006 03:59:02 -0700
Subject: 17.0381 Seattle All-Female Hamlet
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0381 Seattle All-Female Hamlet

Steve Roth,

I want to be polite here or at least civil, but what is the point of an 
all-female Hamlet? I see from your ticket service website that your 
Hamlet is played as a teenage boy. Why use a woman in her twenties 
rather than a teenage boy? Your director seems to think it wrong-headed 
to make Hamlet older (unreliable gravedigger?), but even if that's so, 
arguendo, how does a woman make a better teenage boy than a man, every 
single one of which has been a teenage boy? As one who spent the usual 
quota of miserable years as just such a biped, I submit that there is no 
species of human that a young actress is less likely to know and 
understand anything about than what it is to be a teenage male homo 
sapiens. We know this immature creature's behavior is entirely informed 
by its weird interior life, even though almost nothing of that interior 
life ever reveals itself to the observer (and especially not to its 
archenemy, the older sister).

I confess that I hate cross-gender Shakespeare casting. I think it 
always damages the play. You  can't do it to the late Arthur Miller, but 
poor old WS is public domain, so not only do you get the rights 
royalty-free, you also have carte blanche to do what you will to the 
play. OK, Mark Rylance's all-male Richard II and the like can be 
justified as museum theater, I suppose, but that drag Queen definitely 
was part of my disappointment in that production. Yes, I know, we're not 
living in the sixteenth century any more, and I should expect and accept 
change in everything, but  how much is too much? I say all-fe/male 
Shakespeare is too much.

I believe there is zero to be gained artistically in casting women in 
men's roles, unless you have to do it out of desperation. It seems your 
Seattle women are playing men, which is bad enough, but at least their 
roles haven't been recast as Polonia and Laertesse and Horatia and 
Gertrude and her  -- what, Claudia? -- all in some all-female Denmark. 
Cross-gender casting needlessly ratchets up the audience's burden of 
suspending disbelief. Unless you have a Tracey Ullman in every such role 
-- and you don't -- cross-gendering will get in the way of the play. 
It's a distraction, like onstage nudity, which ALWAYS makes the audience 
think about stuff that has nothing to do with the play (unless, of 
course, the onstage nudity is the point of your play). It's not just 
that you are putting matter into Shakespeare that he did not intend -- 
he didn't intend electric lighting, either, or body mikes, or even for 
every actor to have the whole script -- no, you are trying to stuff 
something into his play which just does not fit and which fights against 
the play he wrote.

I can understand why Ms. Chiles-Curnutte wants to play Hamlet -- who 
wouldn't? -- but why have you fondly wanted to put up such a production? 
  To your credit, you acknowledge that you think the all-female gimmick 
will sell tickets, but you say there are also "strong dramatic and 
theatrical reasons" for your casting. What are they? This is a bona fide 
glimmer of interest as well as a rant.

While I'm here, I want to apologize to Jim Blackie for something I 
posted some time ago. He said he hadn't previously seen the comedy in 
M4M and I said, now that's tragedy. That was my smartass way of trying 
to say that the BBC had not done its duty to the play.  I am sorry to 
have offended.

Best to all,
Bob Projansky

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