All-Male and All-Female Twelfth Night at Orlando Shakes

Apr 6, 2018

by Dr. Catherine R. Eskin
Associate Professor of English

The wonder of Shakespeare came alive for students this month as we made the trek from Lakeland to Orlando not once, but twice in March. 

The first trip, sponsored as part of the Discover Florida series, took place on Thursday, March 1st. Students were surprised and intrigued by the main stage production which featured an all-male cast—just the way it would have been performed during Shakespeare’s day. The cast also used Elizabethan pronunciation, a feature that may have at first thrown off a few audience members, but quickly added humor and poignancy to the production. Add to that the period costumes, dances and songs, the FSC contingent were sold.

Dr. Eskin and her students at the all-female production of Twelfth Night, or What You Will.
Dr. Eskin and her students at the all-female production of Twelfth Night, or What You Will.

Before the performance, an actor announced that an all-female production would be playing the weekend of St. Patrick’s Day. Caitlin James, an English honors senior, was so intrigued, she organized another trip to see the play (Saturday, March 17)! While the second group was far smaller than the first, we were not disappointed. The all-female production was part of a graduate thesis on women in classical theatre and took a different approach to the play. Characters wore 1970s-inspired clothing and instead of the Elizabethan songs, the play opened with a rendition of James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain.”

James has this to say about the experience: “I think what intrigued me most about the productions of Twelfth Night, or What You Will (besides the chaotically comedic plot) were the all-male and all-female casts. I was curious to see how Shakespeare’s female characters would be portrayed when played by male actors and how his male characters would be portrayed when played by female actors. Since the second production was a thesis project, it was clear that the budget was much smaller than that of the Orlando Shakespeare Theater proper. Set and props aside, the fact that I was not able to find many differences with the delivery of the play between the two shows speaks to the great talent of all the actors involved. It was a great opportunity and completely worth the money.”