Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project
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Caesar: An All-Female Production of Shakespeare

Vinetta Strombergs

In 1986, Vinetta Strombergs's all-female production Caesar was performed at the Toronto Workshop Productions Theatre (now Buddies in Bad Times Theatre). Because Julius Caesar lacks referents to gender issues, Strombergs thought it would be the perfect play for an all-female cast. Though Shakespeare's linear plot structure and classical text remain almost intact throughout this adaptation, the battle scenes were eliminated and replaced with elaborate sequences of competitive flamenco dancing. (Please see CASP's Interview with Vinetta Strombergs.)

Strombergs's production predates later adaptative productions in which gender is the key adaptive trope. In 2001, Kate Lynch directed an all-female production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at Theatre Passe Muraille. (Please see the interview with Kate Lynch published in Canadian Theatre Review 111.) These all-female castings invert the Elizabethan performance convention, where men "played" female roles, and challenge traditional gender and performance expections associated with Shakespearean plays.

We have archived a number of other plays that use casting as a mode of adaptation. Michael Lawrenchuk's The Winter's Tale had an all-aboriginal casting. Black Theatre Canada's A Caribbean Midsummer Night's Dream and Beyond the Cubical's Denmark and Elsinore both had all-black casts. The actors themselves, then, embody the political contexts and adaptive re-inscription by the plays' directors of traditional Shakespearean stagings. Further, these adaptations raise the difficult question of the  extent to which stagings themselves constitute a form, necessarily, of adaptation.

"The Stabbing"
Caska (Ellen-Ray Hennessy) and
Caesar (Carolyn Hetherington)
"In Private (Masks Up)"
Cassius (Barbara Chilcott) and
Brutus (Fran Gebhard )
"Beware the Ides of March"
Caesar (Carolyn Hetherington)
Octavius (Peg Christopherson)
and Soothsayer (Debora Joy) 
"At War"
Cassius (Barbara Chilcott) and
Messala (Marilyn Norry)
Caption
"Bathe our hands in Caesar's blood"
From left to right: Peg Christopherson (Treboniujs),
Barbara Chilcott (Cassius), Ellen-Ray Hennessy (Caska),
Marilyn Norry (Metellus Cymber), Fran Gebhard (Brutus).
"In Public (Masks On)"
Cassius (Barbara Chilcott) and
Brutus (Fran Gebhard)
Caesar Poster

 

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