¶ 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?
¶ Dear readers:
¶ Early last fall, when I had just moved into the Portland area, one of the first things on my list was to figure out where the Shakespeare was. In September, I posted a September blogroll of PDX Shakes Fests beyond that of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, a bit southward in beautiful Ashland. That list included the Portland Actors Ensemble, my now home troupe the Original Practice Shakespeare Festival, and the Portland Shakespeare Project (housed by Artist Repertory Theatre). As I get a better lay of the theatre landscape here in the cool northern woods, I give you the start of a group list of additional companies in the area with commitments to pre-modern and Shakespearean drama.