Contemporary Casting Issues

While it may seem hard to fathom, the boys and young men in early modern theatre companies had the skill and ability to play extremely complex female roles. So why not cast boys to play the women in our company? The answer is that the structure of our acting profession no longer supports this practice. If an apprentice in Shakespeare’s company was to play a character of Lady Macbeth at the age of seventeen, he may already have between three and five years experience working fulltime in a professional theatre company. While there are some modern actors of this age with similar experience, they largely work in television and film, a medium that regularly uses child actors, and can do so while allowing them to fulfill their school commitments.

This presented us with several problems:

  1. Young actors with enough experience would expect to be paid full union wages, which we could not afford. Even if we could have paid theatre union rates it would have been negligible in relation to the money these actors could earn on television.
  2. While they would have had experience on television and movie sets, they would not necessarily have any experience on the stage.
  3. We would have to accommodate their schooling and due to the tight time frame in which we were operating we needed actors who could commit full-time.
We decided therefore to cast older male actors in the female roles.