Today on our rehearsal blog, Stella Taylor writes about the process of performing characters of the opposite gender.
BE A MAN – thoughts on the very important business of growing a penis
I’ve always wanted to cross dress… ON STAGE (and maybe a little bit in real life). The thing I was most excited about before embarking on this Smooth Faced Gents journey was the prospect of getting to play a male Shakey character, in a company that is collaborative and visually exciting. I’ve been my fair share of ‘wimpy woman’ or ‘feisty whore’ female characters. I remember overseeing auditions when I was in my second year of Drama School, and thinking how great each and every one of the male Shakespeare monologues were. The female ones varied. I even tried to let my director let me do a Romeo for showcase. He (thank goodness) didn’t let me, but I’ve wanted to play a Shakey boy ever since.
So I was extremely pleased to be cast as two very different sword-bearing, testosterone-fueled MEN.
I’m not going to repeat what’s been said in other entries i.e. Maddy’s sock envy or Emma’s Man #2, but the whole process definitely starts with imagination. Whether that’s a sock down my pants or imagining men in my life and walking like them (bopping like my brother or waddling like my dad). And then it’s about connecting this imagination to character. These are men/boys who have been at war – who murder – who rape – and have lost brothers (21 in Lucius’ case). How do I, as a female, get into the mindset of a rampant male teenager who fancies Lavinia so much that he’ll do anything to have her?
That’s not rhetorial. I have no idea!
I’ve been able to play a lot with all these different ideas. Some work and some really don’t, but at least we’ve had the freedom to get it wrong! Every so often, I’m in a scene and I do a little skip and think “oh dear, that was more Stella and less Lucius.” In fact, I am actually basing Lucius on Brad Pitt in Troy, which is making my life hard. I am not strong at all (or toned/handsome/aggressive… the list goes on). My sister is 5 foot 2 and can lift her 16 stone England Javelin Athlete friend and yet I fear a middle aged woman with a pair of secateurs, I’m that weedy. As Lucius, I am constantly trying to remind myself that I HAVE LOTS OF MUSCLE and could take on anyone, which I think is just making me look pained inside. Not exactly the direction I am going for.
Anyhoo – it’s getting there. I am actually starting to feel a bit more man-ish. I mean, I’m definitely not there yet. I’m currently in transition.