A long time ago (OK, it was only three weeks)…I wrote about Cymbeline and the question of casting. As in, “How do you cut the casting requirements from the 40 in the play, to something more manageable?” It was more rhetorical than anything, going off on tangents that took us to experimental 6-actor casts for both Shakespeare’s Globe and Fiasco Theater.
Here’s a different, but related question.
Out of those 40, only four are women; with The New Oxford Shakespeare Critical Reference Edition’s possible “doubling” cast, they got it down three ladies.
That’s not the direction I wanted.
What if we want more gender equality in the casting? Which roles can be amended, changed from male on the page to female on the stage?
Well, I think the Royal Shakespeare Company (the video capture of which I saw last year) pushes the envelope: The RSC switched up Cymbeline and the Queen, and I thought it worked (of course, up until that point, I hadn’t seen a production of the play–heck, hadn’t even read it–so I had nothing with which to compare it). They also had a female doctor (Cornelia), a female friend in Rome (Philharmonia), a female oldest “son” in the woods (Guideria), a female Pisanio (Pisania), and also used a female Jailer/Gentlewoman. 7 females, 12 males. Yeah, the pushed the outside of the envelope, and to my mind, the envelope didn’t split open.
I’ve been toying even with a female Belarius (Belaria?). Yes, he was supposedly a military badass, but why couldn’t a woman be that (yeah, I saw Wonder Woman finally). And even if you didn’t want to go all female-fighter in the role, I’m thinking it may be possible to make her more of a nurse (excising the mentioned but dead Euriphile). That could work. Or would that be too much?