In the second or third show I was in the cast had a shortage of boys. While this a common issues in youth theater, the director wanted to beef up the scene. So, she enlisted some of the girls to play soldiers. This lead to a minute quick change from a dancing angel to a heartsick soldier. Since we were an amateur production, I let it slide and didn’t think much of it. I enjoyed playing the part and getting more stage time.
My father has a game he likes to play: is that a girl? I don’t even think he realizes he does it. Occasionally a professional production will cast women to bulk up a dance number. I’m always heartily confused and find it very distracting. My dad likes to make sure he can tell whether it’s a boy or a girl. He doesn’t want the director to think they can pull a fast one on him.
I recently saw a Shakespeare play, Two Gentleman of Verona, at a school that has a strong theatre program. Generally, it handled the production well. Passionate, comic, and nuanced, the cast brought us through the love triangle to a resounding romantic finish.
However, this production choose to gender swap a few characters. I’m not talking, change that small obscure male character to a female so more girls can be cast–I mean a man pretending to be a woman and a woman pretending to be a man. I’ve been racking my brain, trying to understand the reason for this and I can’t seem to put it together.
I’ve tried to connect it to the themes of the play. Many of the characters are confused about what they want, change their desires on a whim, and it leads to confusion. But that doesn’t necessarily warrant this kind of casting. I would much rather see these characters genders changed all together. Or, at least a consistent theme of it throughout the show. I have seen this production played with all women, which demonstrates an intentional vision for the show. Otherwise, it can be very distracting. I can see a college taking more liberties with this, yet what good does it really do the overall production? I would be interested to hear the reason for such choices.
Does a gender fluid society mean a gender fluid stage? Am I over analyzing this choice? It is most likely they weren’t trying to make any statement with these characters, but I do question the necessity of it.