Welcome to my thoughts on PROCESS.

Recently Emily and I showed an excerpt of our piece As We Like It  at an Equity sponsored event about women in shakespeare and cross-gender casting and here is what it made me think about…

emily picks me up

So.  Emily and I started this two-woman Shakespeare piece thinking about playing all the characters and how would we do that and what would it look like.  And one of the exciting questions that flitted across my brain early on was ,”what will we wear!!??”

A conversation about how bored we were of seeing women in standard masculine attire on stage ensued..if and when anyone is paying any attention to gender, or playing multiple roles  in one costume.  You know, combat boots, jeans and t-shirts, men and women alike.  Or women playing men in suits and ties…yada yada.

It crossed my mind why can’t we play all the character’s in high-femme attire?  I don’t really like combat boots anyway..can’t we wear boas and high heels?   Ball gowns?

Fast forward to last Tuesday and we have been invited to perform at an Equity sponsored even on cross-gender casting, expanding roles for women in Shakespeare.

We are definitely the only ones in ball gowns.  The two other pieces are readings and the women are dressed in button down shirts and jeans, as is the one man.  Fine.  They are playing male roles.

After all the companies perform and during the talk back an audience members ask the provocative question, “What does it mean to have a female bodied performer, playing a man, speak the violent and misogynist language of xx play?” (I forget which play she was asking about).

Indeed.  What does it mean? How does it read?  Great question.

The resounding consensus in the room was that “it doesn’t matter.”  Female bodied or male, these are all actors.  Anyone can speak that language and as artists and as women that should be our goal-to let any actor , the best actor there is, speak the language and play any part.  Gender blind casting is our progressive cause.

Hmmm.  Okay, really?  Gender blind? Is that really the most progressive or most interesting option?

I think what is happening with gender in more progressive sectors of our society, and in queer community for sure, is that more and more people are choosing their own expressive range. You learn to play what range of gender delights you and fits you in your life.  And you pay attention to how your gender preferences feel and how they read.

I cannot imagine ignoring gender on stage.  To the contrary I would place a call for dramatically and intentionally seeing gender on stage, and playing with the enormous realm of possibilities.

Can we play Orlando and Rosalyn in ball gowns?  Yes.  Rosalyn and Celia?  Yes.  Duke Senior and Duke Frederick?  yes yes yes.  Is this the same as two dudes playing these parts? nope.  Is this the same as two ladies playing these parts in suits?  How bout two totally androgynous folks? Nope.  How about two actors in bathings suits? nope, also different.  In fishing attire?  In sweat pants.  ALL DIFFERENT.

I understand the sentiment that gender blindness will open up roles for women (and men) that are pretty much always denied them.  I do. But I’m not interested in ignoring gender altogether to make that happen.  Let’s play with it! Costume the hell out of ourselves and deconstruct our movement language and always always look for how gender reads, and what we are saying, and how it serves the story we are trying to tell.

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