The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0631  Monday, 10 July 2006

From: 		Charles Weinstein <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Saturday, 08 Jul 2006 16:33:10 -0400
Subject: 	Against All-Male Productions

1.  For the Elizabethans, it was a convention; for us it's drag.  Doing 
Shakespeare in drag in the year 2006 does not recreate 16th-century 
practice:  it generates 21st-century camp.

2.  A director mounts an originalist production of Othello.  He casts 
men as Emilia, Desdemona and Bianca, and he casts a white actor as 
Othello who performs the role in blackface.  Some spectators are highly 
offended by the latter casting.  When the director pleads fidelity to 
Jacobean practice, they respond by questioning the value of such 
fidelity.  "Why resurrect the racist conventions of four centuries past 
and inflict them upon our 21st-century sensibilities"?  A question to be 
asked about the sexist conventions that kept women off the stage in the 
same remote era.

3.  I think Shakespeare wanted to see his female characters played by 
real women.  I think he chafed under the stupid and repressive laws that 
prevented him from witnesing Juliet, Marina, Perdita, Isabella, 
Hermione, Constance and, yes, Rosalind, Viola, Imogen and Julia brought 
to such vivid and truthful life.

4.  When Shakespeare's greatest female character spurns the thought of 
viewing "some squeaking Cleopatra boy my greatness," she is mocking the 
idea that she could be adequately incarnated by a male.

5.  Women are much better at playing women than men are (to state the 
obvious).  Compared to a genuine actress, the most skillful female 
impersonator is a cheap imitation.  Perhaps audiences 400 years ago did 
not know this, but we do.  Those who go to Shakespeare today in the hope 
of seeing the characters convincingly embodied and successfully realized 
will not be gratified by all-male productions.  Swapping truth and 
authenticity for drag and camp is no bargain at all.

--Charles Weinstein

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