Compilation: Emma Rice and Gendered Casting at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

The Globe’s Emma Rice: ‘If anybody bended gender it was Shakespeare’

By Mark Brown for The Guardian, 5 January 2016

The fact that just 16% of Shakespeare’s characters are women – and that most of the memorable lines are spoken by men – will not stop Emma Rice’s mission to get a gender-balanced stage at Shakespeare’s Globe.

“There is no reason why Gloucester can’t be a woman,” said Rice, who succeeds Dominic Dromgoole as the venue’s artistic director in April. “If anybody bended gender it was Shakespeare, so I think it just takes a change of mindset.”

On Tuesday, Rice announced her inaugural season, which will open with a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and end with a version of Cymbeline “renamed and reclaimed” as Imogen.

Rice joins the Globe from Kneehigh, regarded as one of the UK’s most exciting and innovative theatre companies. Getting a 50/50 gender balance on stage was a priority, she said. “As somebody who has got custody of this canon for a while, I think it is quite interesting to say, yes, it is a target. How can we get the female voices through? How can we change the mould?

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In defence of Shakespeare’s difficult bits

By Tom Sutcliffe for The Guardian, 5 January 2016

One of the most obliging things about the glorious dead is that you can always rely on their support. Emma Rice, the new artistic director ofShakespeare’s Globe theatre in London, offered a nice example of the principle when she was interviewed on Tuesday on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme about her inaugural season.

“Shakespeare would be cheering me if he heard me speak,” she assured a doubtful John Humphrys, after he had asked a question about the propriety of rewording “the difficult bits” of the original Shakespeare texts so that modern audiences aren’t inconvenienced by incomprehension. “I think that’s pretty general practice these days,” Rice explained, before hauling Shakespeare himself in as backup. Presumably he’d take a break from writing HBO mini-series to put in a word for her – since others as confident about his postmortem attitudes as Rice often seem to suggest that’s what he would be doing now.

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Shakespeare’s Cymbeline renamed for first Globe season under Emma Rice

By Tim Masters for BBC News, 5 January 2016

Shakespeare’s Cymbeline is being “renamed and reclaimed” as part of Emma Rice’s inaugural season at Shakespeare’s Globe.

The play will be re-titled Imogen at the London open air theatre this autumn to highlight the role of Cymbeline’s daughter.

Rice, who is taking over as Globe’s first female artistic director, said she had initially baulked at the idea.

“When director Matthew Dunster first suggested it, I flushed red,” she said.

“But there are no police and no rules. It makes a huge amount of sense.

“Imogen speaks three times more lines than Cymbeline so it really is her story. We are saying women have a strong narrative in these plays.”

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Noisy audiences, magical forests and more women in new-look Shakespeare’s Globe

By Hannah Furness for The Telegraph, 5 January 2016

He may not have been famous for his commitment to women’s rights, but Shakespeare is to get something of a feminist makeover as the Globe Theatres first female artistic director pledges to aim for half the actors on its stages to be women.

Emma Rice, who takes over the director’s job in April, said she would love to see more parts for women at the theatre, arguing there was no reason male characters should not simply be swapped.

Her inaugural season will see one play, Cymbeline, change title to Imogen, “reclaiming” the play for its central female character to put her centre stage.

She has also vowed to make the theatre as open as possible, editing the trickiest pieces of original text, welcoming in crying babies and telling her directors they are free to use modern dress.

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Most of William Shakespeare’s plays require more than just renaming to put women at their heart

By John Walsh for The Independent, 5 January 2016

There’s nothing new about re-naming Shakespeare’s plays: there was a musical version of Othello called Catch My Soul in the late 1960s, and the 1954 classic science-fiction flick Forbidden Planet was closely based on The Tempest, with Walter Pidgeon as the Prospero-like magus, Dr Morbius. But Shakespeare’s Globe in London, and its artistic director Emma Rice, have surely scored a first with Imogen.

My first response was to think of Tom Stoppard’s story about an egoistic character actress signed up to play the minor role of the nurse in Romeo and Juliet. When asked by a child to describe the play, she says: “Well, it’s about this nurse…” However, Imogen is the protagonist of Cymbeline – she’s the titular king’s daughter, whose virtue is impugned, whose life is threatened, who is obliged to dress as a page, and who finally confronts the men who’ve treated her badly.

It’s a meaty part; Imogen has far more lines than anyone else. But can Rice’s “gender balancing” initiative set a precedent for renaming other Shakespeare plays for female characters?

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Shakespeare’s Globe director opens the doors to gender parity

By Sarah Hemming for the Financial Times, 7 January 2016

When Emma Rice, the incoming artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe, announced her inaugural London season this week, she stressed her intention to achieve gender parity on the stage. It is an admirable aim and she makes a start simply by being there: the first female artistic director of the Globe is one of a small but growing number of women in charge of major theatres.

She faces a hefty challenge. The Globe is devoted largely to Shakespeare and more than three-quarters of the characters in the collected works are men.

While that is understandable, reflecting the politics of the periods that Shakespeare depicts and the theatre practice of his time, Ms Rice is right to suggest that contemporary productions should sometimes look for a balance that better fits the 21st century and advances greater equality on stage.

Her predecessors at the Globe tackled the issue to some degree. Dominic Dromgoole, whom Rice succeeds, commissioned new plays with eponymous female leads, including Jessica Swale’s Nell Gwynn, which is about to transfer to the West End . Notably, Ms Rice’s first season will include a “reclaimed” Cymbeline, tweaked and renamed after Imogen, the main female character and Cymbeline’s daughter.

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