One of my favorite original practices the Grassroots Shakespeare Company incorporates into their shows is cross-gender casting. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea that Shakespeare’s heroines were originally played by young men and I love the idea that if I had lived in Elizabethan England, I could have had a shot playing Ophelia or Juliet.
Since that experience, I’ve always hoped for another chance to play a female role in a Grassroots show, so I was thrilled and slightly terrified when the opportunity to take on the role of Lady Macbeth presented itself. I was determined that I would use what little time and what limited abilities I had to make this an experience that would be satisfying for both myself and the audience.
Tapping into the psyche of Lady Macbeth was especially complicated in comparison with other Shakespearian women because the character chooses to specifically shun everything that is traditionally associated with the feminine. She literally calls upon supernatural forces to remove her womanhood in order to better accomplish her desire of obtaining the kingdom. In scenes where Lady Macbeth is especially harsh and domineering, it was difficult for me to maintain a feminine physicality and vocal pattern while making choices that would appear physically and verbally abusive. While women can definitely possess those traits, my mind would automatically conjure up masculine images to support those choices and I had to worker harder to figure out feminine examples of that behavior. One actress I drew inspiration from for these moments was Cate Blanchett in her portrayal of Lady Tremaine in Disney’s latest adaptation of Cinderella (a film which, some would say, I harbor a mild obsession for). Blanchett’s performance exquisitely embodied the cruel, domineering, power-hungry woman who could be simultaneously charming and extremely feminine that I wanted to see in Lady Macbeth.
More than anything else I have wondered whether or not I possess something worth bringing to the character of Lady Macbeth. The role has been played by so many fantastic actresses over the years that it’s been easy for me, especially as a man, to feel inadequate, but this loving and talented cast has been an amazing source of support and reassurance to me. They’re the best reason to be a part of this show and I can’t wait to share all our hard work with you.
***Only three more chances to catch Jordan’s Lady Macbeth. Please don’t miss it: http://www.grassrootsshakespeare.com/tickets.html
“Jordan Kramer’s performance of Lady-M is worth the price of admission alone!”