Friday, March 5, 2010

An epiphany in the shower...

I just took a shower. While I was in the middle of this shower, I got to thinking about Shakespeare ... you know, like one does when one showers ... I was thinking about the fact that the women in William's plays were all played by Men. Men who were specially trained to act as women in appearance. Now think about the fact that women, since the blasphemous Margaret Hughes (1660) have been playing women. Not once did any *real* woman say about Shakespeare's women, "This isn't real. A real woman wouldn't act like this..." or "A real woman wouldn't feel something like this." Kind of a testament to Shakespeare's universality, eh?

Consequently, the males playing women pre-1660, were able to do it just fine, weren't they? I mean, Shakespeare wouldn't have let actors say his words if he didn't feel they could handle it. Everyone he worked with must have had enough of a human experience to tap into rage, love, pain, jealousy, hurt, etc. None of those emotions are restricted to one gender or other, are they?

So then why can't women play Shakespeare's men just as they are, sans cross-dressing, sans make-up, sans fake facial hair? Why can't our human experience be enough to serve a character just as much as any male?

Someone once said, while I was in the room, that seeing women on-stage playing men next to real-live men, "didn't look right." Well of COURSE it wouldn't look right if the woman was *trying* to be a man in appearance. Why would it matter if Cassius was a woman and Brutus was a man? Or vice-versa? Why couldn't Horatio be a man, and Hamlet a woman? Why couldn't Juliet be a man and Romeo a woman?

And ultimately, pronouns don't really matter. If a little girl comes up to you and says, "I'm the King of Wonderland!" with such child-like excitement and believability; would you say, "No, you're not. You're the Queen." Wow, way to ruin that child's imagination. And even if that was your response, the child might do any number of things in response ... she might say, "What?" she might argue with you, "No, I'm the KING!" she might even start crying because you dashed her dream world.

But up until you said "No." That little girl was the King. And she was a girl. And she owned it. Are the "she's" and the "he's" important enough to deny human experience? Do such small words really have so much power  to inhibit and restrict the telling of a universal story?

I think I'm going to spend the rest of my career in theatre, devoted to proving why "No" is the best answer.
This blog post is brought to you by:

John Frieda Shampoo and Conditioner
Dove Moisturizing body wash
William Shakespeare
the inaneness of pronouns


Robin said...

I often have my best thinking time in the shower. In fact, I just got out. Unfortunately I was stuck on how close I was to the bottom of the shampoo bottle. But that was all about me.

You have several really important themes going here and I'm not sure which is closest to your heart, so I will just take off at a gallop. I think what you were addressing was the fact that in a largely hetero-society it is unfair that universal emotion cannot be expressed universally. Shakespeare did it quite successfully. I say to you that people are coming around slowly. Change never happens quickly. People don't adjust to it well. If you need proof, turn on your TV set. There are successful television series that have gay relationships in them that are not being mocked and I think that are true and honest (ie Brothers and Sisters).

Robin said...

That was getting long. And I think you understand what I meant. We live in an imperfect society. I think that people are becoming more accepting and more loving all of the time, rather than less so. Moving on...

What you said about the child... I think it is so important to nurture a child and their dreams. The worst thing an adult can do is crush a child's dreams or their imagination. When I read what you wrote I was reminded of one of Robert Fulghum's short stories about a little girl who decided she was a mermaid. Too long. Moving on...

I think too many people are saying no. People are all about I won't. I won't accept. I won't do. I won't believe. No. No. No. We need more yes. Maybe you can devote your time in the theatre to saying yes. The world needs a lot more yes.

Fiona said...

This was awesome. I'd love to see it all mixed up, but played you say, no wigs, hair cross-dressing outfits or funny voices. It would be amazingly powerful, and a good lesson in our concept of 'roles'.

Lira said...

Well....if Romeo was played by a chick, we'd all be like, "Stalker!"

Rhetri said...

Very interesting post, friend. I think the reason why so many would “correct” the little girl is because gender pronouns and nouns remain equated with power in our society.

Consciously or unconsciously, those correcting the little girl are reminding her that kings have power and queens don’t—unless no king is at hand.