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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: May ::
Seattle All-Female Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0414  Monday, 8 May 2006

[1] 	From: 	Megan McDonough <
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	Date: 	Friday, 5 May 2006 14:20:30 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0403 Seattle All-Female Hamlet

[2] 	From: 	Jim Blackie <
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	Date: 	Friday, 5 May 2006 15:03:49 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0403 Seattle All-Female Hamlet

[3] 	From: 	Gabriel Egan <
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	Date: 	Saturday, 6 May 2006 12:31:43 +0100
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0403 Seattle All-Female Hamlet

[4] 	From: 	Jeffrey Jordan <
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	Date: 	Saturday, 6 May 2006 09:45:54 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0403 Seattle All-Female Hamlet

[5] 	From: 	Steve Roth <
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	Date: 	Saturday, 6 May 2006 08:38:48 -0700
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0403 Seattle All-Female Hamlet

[6] 	From: 	Carol Barton <
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	Date: 	Saturday, 6 May 2006 14:59:11 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0403 Seattle All-Female Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Megan McDonough <
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Date: 		Friday, 5 May 2006 14:20:30 -0400
Subject: 17.0403 Seattle All-Female Hamlet
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0403 Seattle All-Female Hamlet

While I can't speak Steve Roth's "strong dramatic and theatrical 
reasons" for casting Hamlet all-female, I must say I think it is hardly 
unreasonable considering it was written for a single-gendered cast. 
Shakespeare's characters often make what can be delivered as 
meta-theatrical references to the construction of gender, perhaps an 
all-female cast will throw those lines into the spotlight in a way some 
people in the audience haven't seen or thought of before. Perhaps female 
actors will lead some audience members to contemplate the feminization 
of some characters. Who is the most emasculated character in Hamlet? Who 
is the character we have the hardest time accepting in a female body, 
and why? What is it to embody Hamlet as a teenage boy while still 
maintaining an adult woman's strength (and weakness)? Is there anything 
in the story that becomes clearer in that juxtaposition? Why were female 
Hamlets so popular in the mid-nineteenth century? Is Hamlet manly?

While some experiments are more compelling than others, some more 
reasonable, some more risky, some more outrageous, it is always 
dangerous to dismiss ideas out-of-hand without granting that there may 
be discoveries to be made. While I may not buy tickets to all of them, I 
wish more passing ideas would be put to the practical test.

Best,
Megan McDonough

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Jim Blackie <
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Date: 		Friday, 5 May 2006 15:03:49 -0400
Subject: 17.0403 Seattle All-Female Hamlet
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0403 Seattle All-Female Hamlet

 >From: Robert Projansky
 >
 >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.

That's very decent of you, Bob, but I barely recall the insult now. My 
joy at discovering the intentions of WS through watching the excellent 
production of M4M at the Folger out weighed any implied shortcomings, 
real or imagined, of my intellectual capabilities. I only regret not 
being able to see this interpretation performed at, perhaps, Stratford, 
during their year long Bard fest. The concept of using puppetry in this 
play was brilliant.

Jim -

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Gabriel Egan <
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Date: 		Saturday, 6 May 2006 12:31:43 +0100
Subject: 17.0403 Seattle All-Female Hamlet
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0403 Seattle All-Female Hamlet

Robert Projansky asks:

 >. . . what is the point of an all-female Hamlet? . . .
 > how does a woman make a better teenage boy than a man?

I can't answer the first question (I include it here for context) but 
the second question would seem fairly easily answered in relation to 
Renaissance drama. In sixteenth and seventeenth-century English culture, 
boys were like women in a number of ways:

* they lacked facial hair

* they lacked economic power

* they possessed high-pitched voices

* they could be bound to a master (I'm stretching the point a little 
here, I know)

* they were the objects of potentially exploitative adult male sexual 
attention

Now, you might say that those things have all changed since then and 
hence the analogy no longer applies.  In approaching a possible answer 
to the first question ("what is the point . . . ?") I'd begin by 
suggesting that in important ways those things haven't all changed.

Gabriel Egan

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Jeffrey Jordan <
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Date: 		Saturday, 6 May 2006 09:45:54 -0500
Subject: 17.0403 Seattle All-Female Hamlet
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0403 Seattle All-Female Hamlet

Replying to Robert Projansky.

 >Steve Roth,
 >... how does a woman make a better teenage boy than a man,
 >every single one of which has been a teenage boy? ...

Well, it obviously isn't about a woman being a man in reality, but 
rather in stage performance.  Stage performance is different from 
reality.  The point is not, in my opinion, a difficult one to fathom.

 >As one who spent the usual quota of miserable years
 >as just such a biped, ...

I deeply sympathize with Mr. Projansky's adolescent trauma, which I'm 
sure was very unpleasant for him, but I do think he could work  through 
that better in personal counseling rather than via posts to  the 
SHAKSPER list.  If I may say so.

What does Mr. Projansky's post have to do with anything?  It's a rant 
(as Mr. Projansky, himself, admits) which makes no relevant point, and 
only expresses his own personal preference for certain gender 
stereotypes.  And it certainly galls the kybe of the stated request for 
a higher level of scholarship for postings.

If one wants historical validity for the casting of a woman in the role 
of Hamlet, at least, one need look no further than the famous (or 
infamous) portrayal by Sarah Bernhardt.  Whatever one thinks of her 
performance, it's still being written about.  There is currenly no 
legitimate reason to question the mere attempt at cross gender casting, 
and most especially before the performance has even been seen.

How's about if we wait until AFTER the performance to review it?   That 
is not too much to ask.

It is quite improper to demean a legitimate attempt to stage Hamlet in a 
way that the audience may find interesting and entertaining.   And for 
all one knows at this time, the women may do an excellent job with the play.

 > It seems your Seattle women are playing men,
 >which is bad enough, ...

Really now.  What on earth is this?  Would it satisfy Mr. Projansky if 
the woman playing Hamlet were barefoot and pregnant?

 > Cross-gender casting needlessly ratchets up
 > the audience's burden of suspending disbelief.

We're talking about a play in which a major role is a GHOST.

 >... you are trying to stuff something into his play
 >which just does not fit and which fights against
 >the play he wrote.

In the play the Bard wrote, Gertrude and Ophelia, onstage, were of the 
male sex.  The notion of applying strict gender observance to the 
casting goes directly against well-known, firmly established historical 
fact.  It is perfectly valid to attempt the opposite, unless of course 
one personally happens to think the little woman should be at home in 
the kitchen.

 >... While I'm here, I want to apologize to Jim Blackie ...

Better you should do that wherever the offense occurred.  But it's a sly 
way of trying to get away with a personal rant in this thread,  I'll 
grant you.

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Steve Roth <
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Date: 		Saturday, 6 May 2006 08:38:48 -0700
Subject: 17.0403 Seattle All-Female Hamlet
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0403 Seattle All-Female Hamlet

re: Robert Projansky's self-described rant, just to say this:

http://www.shaksper.net/archives/2006/0388.html

On the reasons for an all-female hamlet, I'm replying to interested 
parties (who ask nicely <g>) off list.

Thanks,
Steve

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Carol Barton <
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Date: 		Saturday, 6 May 2006 14:59:11 -0400
Subject: 17.0403 Seattle All-Female Hamlet
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0403 Seattle All-Female Hamlet

I saw the five-actor (four-female) _Hamlet_ at the Folger Theatre a few 
years ago, in which the lead (a young woman) would have been a bad (that 
is to say ineffective) actress in any role, but was abominably bad in 
this one.
(It also featured the Ghost as Colonel Sanders and the
Rosencrantz/Guildenstern biker impersonations I have mentioned 
before-and the director took other incredible liberties, such as 
beginning at the end, and so on.) Though there were some strikingly good 
features in the interpretation (five distinct voices intoning  "Swear!" 
and "If ever thou didst thy dear father love . . ." and "Remember me!" 
simultaneously; Ophelia and Laertes rolling their eyes while Polonius 
paternally and lovingly intoned his famous admonition; Hamlet pere 
dancing with Gertrude in Hamlet's mind's eye while the son remembers how 
she did hang upon his father; and Ophelia "floating" behind a 
translucent blue and green rippling curtain when Gertrude speaks of her 
drowning), I would have to agree that such tricks as the five-actor 
multiply cross-gendered lead tend to diminish the effectiveness of the 
performance, and-especially in the case of the Colonel and the Hell's 
Angels-to be distracting. (So was Ophelia's madcap, strait-jacket, and 
padded cell, in the Branagh version.)  I also saw (perish the memory) 
Pat Carroll play Falstaff; another good reason why cross-gendering such 
roles is a custom more honored in the breach than in the practice (or 
should be). I wouldn't begrudge others the right to indulge in such 
fantasies (for to me that's all they are)--but alas, the five-female 
Hamlet was the first performance of Shakespeare my friend's two young 
daughters ever saw, and I was very glad that I'd had them watch the 
Gibson and Branagh videos with me the week before.

Artistic license? Yes. Artistic fidelity? No. I love both "West Side 
Story" and "Kiss Me Kate"-but "Romeo and Juliet" and "Taming of the 
Shrew" they ain't.

Best to all,
Carol Barton

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