Representing Women

Boy Actor

Painting of the Earl of Wriothesley, a contemporary of the Queen's Men.

Elizabethan woman

Woodcut of an Elizabethan woman from Karen Whimsy's image collection.

Our movement consultant Emily Winerock gave the company lessons on Elizabethan dance and posture. The picture to the right features the Earl of Wriothesley, a contemporary of the Queen’s Men, and gives a good impression of the posture adopted by aristocrats and gentlemen in England. One hand is held by the hilt of the sword, the other, resting next to his helmet, was free to gesture while speaking. The angle and distance between his feet was deliberately adopted to give the appearance of grace and to feature the man’s shapely calves.

Emily told our “boys” that the angle of the feet would have been the same for ladies of the day, but that the women’s feet were held close together, almost touching. She also informed us that a lady’s hands should be held together in front of them, as in the picture to the left. Physicality was highly codified in the Elizabethan court, and the contrast between the posture of the men and the women is as striking as the similarities. The posture of the men was expansive in comparison to the more self-contained physicality of the women.

Relevant Interview Video

Cordella Julian DeZotti (Clip 1)
Julian DeZotti
speaks about his approach to the physicality of the women he played, commenting on the additional effect of the costuming.

Our boys were all grown men and their voices had broken long ago. In the initial stages of our rehearsal, I suggested they explore the higher tones in their voices while developing their characters. Restricting the voice of actors in this way can cause problems, as actors often feel disconnected from the significance of the words they speak when they deliberately manipulate the quality of the sound they are producing.

Relevant Interview Video

Cordella

Julian DeZotti (Clip 2)

Julian DeZotti had the deepest voice of our "boys" and his description of his experience finding the "voice" of his female characters reveals much about his performance of femininity.


Once we started performing the plays it soon became clear that the audience was unconcerned with the quality of sound produced by the "boys". The actors were thus freed to focus on the action of their characters, but the early stages of experimentation still paid off and the "boys" were able to produce performances that were clearly distinct from the performances of the men in the company.

Although the actors engaged in the physical and vocal work described above, their primary concern was to understanding the words and actions of their characters. Physical and vocal work as described above carries dangers for actors as the new movements can feel artificial and restrictive and can prevent them from fully connecting with their roles. So to a certain extent, the actors playing the female roles approached them as they would any other. They worked to understand exactly what their characters were saying and doing, analyzing the text and considering their characters' given circumstances, objectives and obstacles.

Relevant Interview Video

Derek

Derek Genova

Derek Genova talks about the motivations of the female characters he plays.