Othello getting started

I wanted to start this blog by putting my thoughts out on the work we are building and the processes we are going through as a small independent theatre company. There are many issues facing us as we proceed, from simply building each production, to how we are perceived in the public, and the theatre community at large. As many of you know who run a company, or are part of one,  it’s a constant up hill battle and I do not want the blog to be a whinge fest, but from time to time I’m sure I will rant a bit about the state of theatre and the so-called theatre community.

Moving on

We are currently in rehearsal for Othello. We have switched the genders so all male characters are played by women and all female characters are played  by men. Gender has always been a topic that fascinates me. I’ve seen the work of Propeller Theatre and the Chekov company and in our own way we have taken a page from their book.  Addressing these issues is in our mission statement so it’s no surprise that I chose to go this route with this production. Last season we did an all male and an all female Twelfth Night in rep and what became clear to me was how much freedom it allowed both casts. The actors made choices, bold ones,  in directions I had never seen them make before. Crossing the genders gave them freedom that they somehow missed when cast to standard gender roles. It’s not they are somehow lacking, but by turning things on their head the actor makes choices not thought of before.

Last night we had a small workshop on physicality.We started with a simple exercise, how to sit as a man and how to sit as a woman? As men sit they spread out, take room, room that they seem to think is their right to take, and when a woman sits, in general, it is to make room for others, not to take up space, to make oneself smaller. Now this may be a gross generalization, but for us we have to get to physical markers for the actors, physical choices they can hold on to.

If you have been in our space you know just how close the audience is to the performer, kissing-close is not an exaggeration. So we are not asking the audience to overlook the fact that  we’re not the gender we are playing, but to see how the switch informs the work. As long as we commit to this the audience will follow, for the most part they want to be taken on a journey.


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