Blog | Unsex Me Here

Unsex Me Here

By admin | October 25, 2017

by Colin Thomas

Unsex Me Here

The Stratford Festival has announced that next season women will play a number of major Shakespearean roles that are traditionally performed by men.

Seana McKenna, a longtime favourite at the Stratford Festival, will play Julius Caesar next season.

Seana McKenna, a longtime favourite at the Stratford Festival, will play Julius Caesar next season.

Martha Henry, who made her Stratford debut in 1962 as Miranda in The Tempest, will take on Prospero, Miranda’s father—now reimagined as Miranda’s mother, the deposed Duchess of Milan. Antoni Cimolino, who is the artistic director of the festival and who is directing The Tempest, says that he will use the opportunity to explore what happens to women in positions of power.

Seana McKenna will take the title role in Julius Caesar, with Michelle Giroux as her Marc Antony and Irene Poole as Cassius. Scott Wentworth, who is directing Julius Caesar, has taken a gender-blind approach, which means that the women will embody the characters without reimagining their sex.

The casting of the two sets of twins in A Comedy of Errors also plays with gender. Director Keira Loughran has cast Jessica B. Hill and Qasim Khan as the two Antipholuses, and Beryl Bain and Josue Laboucane (Laboucane trained at Studio 58) will become their servants, the Dromios.

At 80, Glenda Jackson returned to the stage after a 25-year absence to play King Lear.

At 80, Glenda Jackson returned to the stage after a 25-year absence to play King Lear.

Cimolino says that the gender-swapping is “part of a broader initiative to diversify our approach to casting.”

The Idaho Shakespeare Festival, for its production of Hamlet this summer, cast both a woman, Laura Welsh Berg, and a man, Jonathan Dyrud, in the title role. On alternating nights, each also played Rosencrantz. Throughout the rehearsal process, director Charles Fee encouraged the two artists to learn from one another’s perspectives in order to create richer characterizations.

Last year in London, Glenda Jackson, who was 80 at the time, returned to the stage after a 25-year absence to play King Lear at the Old Vic. (She served as a Labour MP during her acting hiatus.) By all reports, Jackson burned the place down “sandpaper voice; gliding movement; complete, ferocious concentration.”

The Butterfly Effect

David Henry Hwang’s breakout script M. Butterfly, which debuted in 1988, is currently in previews for a Broadway revival, which is being directed by Julie Taymor , and stars Clive Owen and Jin Ha.

Almost 30 years after M. Butterfly made his reputation on Broadway, playwright David Henry Wang returns with a new version of his script.

Almost 30 years after M. Butterfly made his reputation on Broadway, playwright David Henry Wang returns with a new version of his script.

M. Butterfly is based on the relationship between French diplomat Bernard Boursicot and his lover, Peking Opera singer Shi Pei Pu, who was a Chinese spy. Although Shi was a man disguised as a woman, Boursicot claimed that he was unaware of the artifice.

In M. Butterfly, Boursicot and Shi are reimagined as Rene Gallimard and Song Liling.

In this interview in The New York Times, Hwang, who has substantially rewritten his script, reflects on gender and orientalism, and how those concepts affect Donald Trump’s foreign policy: “In the play, both the new and the old versions, Gallimard falls into a relationship with an Asian woman who he believes to be sort of submissive and extrapolates from that how the West should deal with the East politically. Today, when we have a president who feels that the way to deal with North Korea or Muslim countries or whatever is by being tougher and more abrasively masculine, that feels to me incredibly consistent with the story M. Butterfly is trying to tell. And the notion of male dominance over women as a manifestation of true masculinity is certainly very much in our current discourse and very much part of the play.”

When M. Butterfly debuted, it was the first time that a script by an Asian American playwright had been produced on Broadway. In this article, five artists, including George Takei and BD Wong, who won a Tony for his portrait of Song Liling in the original production, discuss how M. Butterfly changed their lives.

And, in this video Hwang, Owen, and Taymor talk about their production, which officially opened at the Cort Theatre on Thursday, October 6.

Ticket Shock

You might think that paying $104 for premium seats at the Arts Club’s Beauty and the Beast this holiday season, or $180 to take in Cirque du Soleil’s Kurious is a special kind of wallet torture. But imagine shelling out over a thousand dollars —American—to see Bette Midler in Hello Dolly! on the Great White Way or $875 for the pleasure of basking in Bruce Springsteen’s blue-collar sensibilities in Springsteen on Broadway. Then again, you might consider it a bargain: tickets to Springsteen’s show are being offered on StubHub for as much as $10,000.

People are paying a thousand dollars to get close to Bette Midler.

People are paying a thousand dollars to get close to Bette Midler.

This is, of course, insane. Patrons who are buying those expensive tickets to Hello Dolly! are paying the premium to get close to a celebrity, but they end up sitting in the front row, which is a shitty place to see the show from.

And these extortionate prices may scare customers away. It’s important to remember that, this season, the average ticket price on Broadway is $116, which is still real money—but is somehow starting to sound reasonable.

Looking for a workaround? Yeah, me too. Here are six excellent strategies—including apps, rush seats, and papering services—for getting deeply discounted, even free, tickets to Broadway shows.

The Stage reports that the average top-ticket price in London’s West End is now £98.99, $164.78 in Canadian dollars, and the most expensive show this year, The Book of Mormon, tops out at £202.25 ($336.66). The cheapest seats in the West End now cost an average of £21.38 ($35.59).

This fall, the company Hall & Mirrors mounted a production called You. It provided an immersive experience for one audience member at a time. Ticket price: $5,000. This September 26, a week before its opening, You had already sold out its first seven nights—meaning that it had sold seven tickets.

She Rises, We Rise

If all of this talk about theatre as a commercial product is getting you down, revive yourself by considering She Rises, We Rise, an original play created by participants of the True Voice Theatre Project, which is inclusive of people who have experienced homelessness or who are vulnerably housed in the Downtown Eastside.

An eagle is one of the characters audience members will meet on the journey of She Rises, We Rise.

An eagle is one of the characters audience members will meet on the journey of She Rises, We Rise.

She Rises, We Rise is part of this year’s Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival and was inspired by the festival’s theme: honouring the women of the Downtown Eastside. She Rises, We Rise will be presented this Monday, October 30, at the Firehall Arts Centre at 8:00pm. Admission is by donation.

In this video, a woman named Gabriela, who is an immigrant, explains why the True Voice Theatre Project is important to her: “For me, it’s important to be here in this project because I feel connected and alive and happy and joyful.” She adds that, by participating, she is showing her kids “that it’s possible to be happy and to find, you know, roots, and to find people, and to create community.”

As far as I’m concerned anyway, creating community is what all good theatre is about.

 

James Eulises Gimenez performs an act called Rola Bola in Kurios. You will not forget it.

James Eulises Gimenez performs an act called Rola Bola in Kurios. You will not forget it.

Run Away to the Circus

What’s the best show I’ve seen lately? Easy: that’s Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios – A Cabinet of Curiosities. It’s playing in the big blue-and-yellow tent that’s been set up in Concord Pacific Place at the head of False Creek. Tickets range between $49 and $180, but there are acts in this show that you will remember for the rest of your life.

 

Become My New Best Friend

This week, my FREE newsletter will include an item about the interview that Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of Hamilton, did with Stephen Sondheim, the greatest genius of contemporary musical theatre. That interview is pure gold.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s conversation with Stephen Sondheim (above) should be required reading for theatre lovers.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s conversation with Stephen Sondheim (above) should be required reading for theatre lovers.

There will also be an item on the death of poet Pablo Neruda and why his possible murder should matter to everyone who loves the arts and opposes fascism, and a piece about how critics can help to resist the commodification of theatre during the current right-wing onslaught.

Sign up and become my new best friend. My newsletter will appear in your inbox once a week. It will feature the best of all my theatre writing for the week, including links to all of my reviews.

 

 

 

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