Saturday, September 21, 2013

What if Iago was a Woman?

For all that I'm a theatre major, I hardly ever talk about acting on this blog. But this project is so cool and fantastic and awesome and wicked that I just have to take a minute and tell you about it.

What if Iago was a woman?

For those of you who don't know, Iago is a villain in Shakespeare's tragedy Othello. He is considered one of the worst, most evil antagonists in all of Shakespeare. 

Plot summary: Othello is a Moor, which in those days referred to someone from Africa. He, a black man, marries Desdemona, a white woman. Society flips its shit, but they can't exactly do anything because he's the General of the Venetian navy and there's a war on. Desdemona, unable to stay with her angry father, goes with Othello to Cyprus, which is in rebellion. A storm sinks the enemy navy and our good guys arrive safely. Iago, though, is not happy. Because Othello passed him over for promotion (and assorted other reasons that all amount to "I just want to fuck shit up"), he decides to ruin Othello's life...by convincing him that Desdemona is having an affair.

Enter my friend's senior thesis project. Her project is about regendering the villains of Shakespeare. Regendering is a theatre term for changing a character's gender. Example: King Lear becomes Queen Lear and you change all the pronouns. Or Mercutio (Mercutia?) is played as a woman by a woman, and again, you change the pronouns that refer to her. Some productions change women characters to men, and a friend once said she saw a production of King Lear where Lear appeared to have no assigned gender (though this production choice is rarer). The best regendering I ever saw was a production of Hamlet that turned Polonius into a woman.

It's different from cross-gender casting, in which someone plays a character notof their gender. Regendering changes the gender of the character. It's far more common to see a character regendered as female in productions of early modern plays, simply because there are so few parts for women but so many great actresses. Also, some people get really weird about cross-gender casting, to the point where they'd rather change a character's gender than see a girl pretending to be a boy or vice versa.

As you can imagine, this sometimes creates interesting implications for the play. Like with Iago.

Making Iago a woman adds the glass ceiling and the "woman in the military" factors. Female Iago must use different tactics to achieve her goals, and is much freer to use sexual manipulation of her male colleagues because she doesn't face homophobia. When Iago complains bitterly about being passed over for some desk jockey who has no battle experience and doesn't deserve the promotion, it takes a whole 'nother connotation coming from a woman. Similarly, when Iago tells Othello about Cassio kissing him and humping his leg in his sleep, our actress delivers it in a distraught tone holding back tears so that sounds like an attempted rape. That speech will often get a laugh when played by a man. I sincerely doubt anyone will think it's funny if played by a woman.

I don't think this necessarily makes Iago more sympathetic, but it makes her different. Apparently people hardly ever regender the villains of Shakespeare. The three my friend chose to focus on were Iago, a villain; Shylock, an outsider/anti-hero; and Tybalt, an antagonist and aggressive, all-around jerk. Iago is by far the biggest project because he has the most scenes; Shylock and Tybalt have only a handful each.

Currently, I'm involved in the Iago project. I am playing...drumroll, please...Desdemona (because of course tiny blonde me is playing Desdemona) and Bianca, because that is a BRILLIANT bit of doubling. It's also rather ironic, because I always get cast as either the sweet ingenue or the sex fiend. Don't ask me why. I don't know. (I'm not sure I want to.)

This project is an acting challenge I've never had before. The first performance will be with a male Iago, the second with a female. I have to rehearse the same scenes twice, once with the man and once with the woman, and my reactions change between actors. Some of it it just responding to different actors -- but the change does affect the scene in huge ways.

For example, there's a scene where drunk Cassio is making fun of male Iago and making an ass of himself. When drunk Cassio makes fun of female Iago, he says, "This is my ancient, this is my right hand" -- and he raises his right hand...and slaps her ass. Everyone in the room: "Well that escalated quickly."

I was put in that scene in a silent role as Bianca (Cassio's prostitute), and as you might imagine, my reactions are very different for each Iago. Me for male Iago: "I am bored and I wish Cassio would get drunk enough so we can go have sex." Me for lady Iago: "BITCH THAT'S MY MAN."

It's a very dynamic process and I'm super excited to be a part of this project.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

I'm a Mess: College, Recipes, Bewilderment

I am determined to keep up this blog in college. Right now, I just don't have much to say because I'm a total mess.

My stuff has yet to be unpacked. I promise I'm not lazy. I can explain.

The saga of the dorm room:

I'm in a triple with my two roommates from freshman and sophomore year. Yay! :) Our room is not huge and there are three of us, so we've had to get creative with making space. Problem was, my bed was bunked on top of another bed. When I say "bunked," I mean someone thought it would be a good idea to just stack one bed on top of another. They weren't secured. There was no rail on the top bed or rungs to climb the bunk. The whole affair shook if you touched the top bed. No way in hell was I climbing up there to sleep.

So we pulled my mattress off and put it on the floor in the closet. This Tuesday, someone came in to un-bunk the beds. Yay! Now I can unpack the rest of my stuff! Except that my two big boxes are too tall to go under the bed, and we're not allowed to use bed risers. My bed is still in the closet, which I am referring to as the Bat Cave.

SIGH. I need to get my posters in the mail, too. And my coffeemaker. Otherwise, the living situation is nice. I'm not sleeping on the floor anymore.

...Then there's the senior project. ARGH. I don't even want to think about it. I'm going to audition and possibly do an acting thesis, but if I don't get that, well...I'd better start reading plays to direct.

MORE SIGHING.

On the plus side, I made mushrooms in wine sauce. It was super easy. I chopped up the mushrooms, put them in the pan with some olive oil and garlic-herb stuff, pushed them around the pan a bit, and then poured white wine on them and let them simmer for a while. The wine soaks into the mushrooms so they're succulent and OMG SO DELICIOUS. This is an especially good recipe for poor college students. It has a vegetable, so you can excuse it as healthy. It also has wine. The trick is to do it with a twelve-dollar bottle of wine (Barefoot brand is really good cheap wine) that you can either make more mushrooms with or drink the rest of later. (While eating string cheese and pretending to be classy.)


http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-a6tEGCu_SH0/UOZIiQSM0UI/AAAAAAAAB9A/XQ_sygpGmu0/s320/Pork+Chops+with+Mushroom+Wine+Sauce+2.JPG
Not my actual cooked mushrooms. My friends and I ate them too quickly to take photos.

I'll probably be talking more about recipes for the college kitchen. Cooking helps me de-stress. And goodness knows I could do some de-stressing right now. I'm a mess.

I'm also nearing the end of the CP process for The Book, so I'm even more of a mess. In a...good way? I think? It's like I'm too worried about college and my senior year and my (as yet nonexistent) senior project to even care about it right now. My Give a Shit Radar is not broken, just...put on hold. Eh, that might be a mixed metaphor...but guess what...I don't give a shit!!! WOOO!!!!

*laughs hysterically, cries, drinks more tea*

I've been working on Contracted a lot, actually. It's new. It doesn't terrify me with the amount of work it needs (yet). My writing style for this one is slightly more elevated than what I use for my YA WIPs -- not that I simplify for YA; it's just that these characters are people who speak better and pay more attention to propriety than the average teenager. However, I've found that as I stress and stay up late to write, the writing deteriorates. Or maybe...am I trying too hard?

British History to 1688 is my favorite class so far.

A friend posted on Facebook about how much fun she's having analyzing a poem for British Lit. I've taken the class. I can't wait till she gets to all the boner poems. I really want to see those status updates.

Because OF COURSE I went to college to study boner poems.