“the lion’s part”: Midsommer, Solstice, and Shakespeare Gender Parity

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about identity parity in Shakespeare performance. This is in part because of recent articles critiquing Hollywood whitewashing, which in actuality negatively affects box office numbers. (For recent coverage, see the Los Angeles Times and Business Insider.) This is in part because I have been seeing a great deal of theatre interested in the range of implications available when you might choose to play a character against their biological-gender identification. For example, when Hotspur is female-identifying in the Henry IV plays, as in the case at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival this summer, the competing reports of her death at the start of part two resonates with a very different parental agony and pathos. Or, when Aeneas is played by and as a woman, such as is the case of Portland Actors Ensemble’s Troilus and Cressida, that rape is a necessary war strategy becomes newly apparent. But is this kind of parity necessarily true across the industry?

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Upcoming reviews for In The Glassy Margents

Back in 2014, I reviewed a series of teleplays produced by the BBC called The Hollow Crown. Starring Tom Hiddleston, the three-part miniseries based on William Shakespeare’s “Richard II,” “1 Henry IV,” “2 Henry IV,” and “Henry V” was distributed by NBC Universal in the U.S. and aired on PBS.

For the original reviews, click here.

 Having earned several awards and a following via unexpected DVD and VOD sales, this winter PBS is airing the second installment, called The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses, featuring “1 Henry VI,” “2 Henry VI,” and “Richard III,” with Benedict Cumberbatch in the titular role. I am happy to say that I will again be reviewing the series, but this time for my friends over at In The Glassy Margents over the next few weeks. I’ll post the links as they become available here.

The series is still streaming for free on PBS through early January, and via Amazon VOD ($5 for the season).

From left: Tom Sturridge (Henry VI), director Dominic Cooke, and Sophie Okonedo (Queen Margaret) on set.

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