Julian DeZotti and Representing Women

Julian DeZotti

Julian DeZotti answers audience questions after a show.

Julian DeZotti played the main female role in each of our three plays: Cordella in King Leir, French Kate in Famous Victories and Margaret in Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay. I encouraged the actors to look for similarity between the roles they performed in different plays to help ease the time pressure created by our rehearsal process. There is no need to spend time on characterization if you are basically playing the same role in each play. Julian, however, followed his own instincts and training in this matter and looked for ways to distinguish between the three characters.

Relevant Performance Videos and Discussion Questions

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Cordella
Julian as Cordella

Cordella repeatedly submits to divine and patriarchal power with the notable exception of her refusal to marry the man chosen by her father. She is both exemplum of the Christian virtues of patience and faith and a progressive woman willing to demand the right to choose her own husband. Can you find other evidence in the text that supports these two interpretations of her character? Which interpretation do you think is stronger?

Kate Julian as French Kate
Here Kate is wooed by the mighty king of England. Julian's characterization of Kate is quite different from Cordella. It is more comic. How does this performance serve the politics of the play? Do you think it would have been easier or harder for a woman to perform this role today? Do you think Julian’s naive, playful and flirtatious princess does justice to the character?
Margaret Julian as Margaret the Fair Maid of Fressingfield
Margaret decides to go to the convent. Compare this performance to his performance as Cordella above. How are the two characterizations similar? How are they different?


Director’s Observations

Julian made each of his characters distinct but yet there remained clear similarities between them, and as he became more confident in performance, each role took on aspects of the others. Julian was more comfortable developing Cordella’s playful moments with Mumford once he had found the flirtatious quality in Kate and Margaret. This in turn gave more life to his performance of Cordella’s struggles as she started to feel like a more complete person to him. The result was that each character became richer and less one-dimensional as Julian developed the range of performative possibilities open to him as a man playing a woman. Paradoxically, the similarities between the characters increased as time went on.

Should the complexity Julian was able to find in his roles persuade us that the Queen's Men playwrights were enlightened and forward-thinking on the issue of gender and the representation of women? The strength of character visible in Julian’s performance of Cordella is certainly admirable, but what about the stereotypical attitudes towards women apparent in the comic cameos that appear in the plays? The hostess in Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay and John Cobbler’s wife in Famous Victories are good examples.

Cobbler's Wife
John Cobbler’s wife in Famous Victories

Matthew Krist’s performance of this character as a comic grotesque, shifting between tearful sentimentality and violent "shrewishness", is as telling a perspective on the representation of women in Queen’s Men plays as the subtleties discovered by Mr. DeZotti.