re: Gender-fluid “Virginia Woolf”
Posted by: BruceinIthaca 12:50 pm EST 02/07/24
In reply to: re: Gender-fluid “Virginia Woolf” - Delvino 11:05 am EST 02/07/24

I really appreciate the thoughtfulness and insight of this post. And I agree, there's a big difference between saying Albee and Williams brought their gayness to their depiction of female characters (we bring whatever is part of us to all we create) and that is interesting (and should also lead us to consider how each of those playwrights had their own experience of gay identity, even if they were part of a culture that may have shared experiences of the closet at large of the times) and saying that they were just substituting female characters for gay male ones--I find that an insult to the artistry of both of them and, I age, lazy and presentist--assuming that Williams and Albee would have made Blanche and Martha (and the rest) gay men if the times allowed. Maybe they would have both written plays that featured gay male characters more prominently in a later era, but maybe not. Certainly I have a difficult time imagining the plot logic that would have made the Blanche-Stanley dynamic work if Blanche had been Blanc. And the "game" of the absent son in VW wouldn't work, at least in terms of the revelation to Nick and Honey, if it had been Martin and George. And we would be poorer for not having the plays as written. I also find it condescending, if trendy, to imply that people can or should only write from their own identities--Henry James and Henrik Ibsen come to mind as male writers, one heterosexual, the other indeterminate (though probably homoerotic) who created unforgettable female characters. I am fine when artists like Split Britches revises Streetcar from a queer perspective, because they don't just substitute, they re-vision, and make no claims that they have found the "real" Streetcar. A friend of mine (male) played Hedda decades ago in a production called "Hedda Tesman" at UT-Austin, with the extraordinarily talented queer, deaf actor Terry Galloway as Judge Brack. If I have it right, he played Hedda fully costumed as a woman, and Back as a man--it was in the playing that what Jung would call the contrasexual dimensions of the characters emerged. (Hell, I played the Duchess--in drag--in a production of Alice in Wonderland at Northwestern in 1975--the director wanted something of the animus in the character as written by Carroll and drawn by Tenniel to be foregrounded). I assume the Panto Dame has some of that spirit. As long as Albee and Beckett (or their estates) have the legal right to bar certain dimensions of casting or setting (as in the case of the Endgame set in the subway), I think it is incumbent on professional and amateur companies to follow these restrictions. When we get into the domain of educational venues, if the case can be made that what is being done is for the purposes of academic exploration and understanding, I am more inclined to think a softer hand might be valuable, particularly if the goal is theatre as a liberal art. Certainly what happens within a classroom, with no audience other than teachers and students, is different even from staging a show and inviting an outside audience.
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