This essay explores cross-gender casting of Renaissance canonical texts in modern British theatrical institutions as an act of feminist activism. Reversing early modern all-male theatrical practices, female-male re-gendering can not only interrogate the misogyny immanent in the works themselves, but also expose the ideological structures that continue to collude with these values on the contemporary stage and in society more generally. Through a comparative analysis of all-female productions such as Julius Caesar (dir. by Phyllida Lloyd, Donmar Warehouse, 2012-13) and selective cross-gendering, as exemplified in Edward II, (dir. by Joe Hill-Gibbins, The National Theatre, 2013), I argue that cross-gender casting within these most masculine of history plays constitutes a bold feminist activism that audiences, academics and critics alike have found difficult to ignore. By refusing to be bound by a cultural responsibility to reinforce the ideologies of texts born of and endorsing a patriarchal society, this essay demonstrates how women have found a way of articulating their own Foucauldian “reverse discourse” from within the power structure itself. This approach to canonical Renaissance texts constitutes a feminist activism that attacks from three different angles: it questions the “authority” of the originating (male) author; it challenges the hegemony of male-dominated theatrical institutions; and it disrupts culturally embedded ideas of gender hierarchies.
"Cross-Gender Casting as Feminist Interventions in the Staging of Early Modern Plays,"
Journal of International Women's Studies: Vol. 16:
1, Article 2.
Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/jiws/vol16/iss1/2