Shakespeare writes about women who dress up as men; he writes about men who wear women’s clothes; he writes about men who are in love with other men, women who take up arms, spirits and fools with undefined genders. And yet, in the 400 years of actors playing Shakespeare, there is no strong record of trans and non-binary actors playing Shakespeare.
In the sociopolitical landscape of contemporary U.S.A. (and the English-speaking world) it is more urgent than ever to illuminate, humanize, and uplift binary transgender and non-binary transgender voices. Shakespeare offers prime opportunity for this work through his unparalleled rhetoric.
In my time studying the Shakespeare & Company (Lenox, MA) pedagogy, I have learned first-hand as an actor that Shakespeare’s words unlock something unique in the human psyche. The Shakespeare & Company training expands the emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual presence of actors and thus allows them to meet Shakespeare’s text with their whole expansive selves. Additionally, it encourages actors not to pretend anything, to let whoever they are influence the character. It asserts that the uniqueness of the actor-as-person creates the character, and that uniqueness reveals layers of Hamlet, or Polonius, or Ophelia, that we never knew before. When authentic people with great training approach Shakespeare’s rhetoric, the hearts, minds, bodies, and spirits of audiences attune and form the groundwork for radical empathy and compassion. This empathy and compassion coupled with acceptance of self is vital not just to transgender and non-binary struggles but to the health of our whole society.
The Non-Binary Divers' Shakespeare, co-founded by director Jordan Scout Palmer (she/they) and dramaturg Noelle Micarelli (they/them), brings together an ensemble of non-binary, transgender, and genderqueer actors to explore Shakespeare’s plays in ways that are authentic to our community and do not rely on cis-centered spaces of inquiry.
Our first project, coming in November and December 2020, is a private, Zoom-based research workshop for the new ensemble to come together and ask, "What IS non-binary and trans Shakespeare?" We will investigate and explore Romeo and Juliet and King John with the aim to begin a record of trans and non-binary Shakespeare and to build a repertoire for productions in the future.
Contact us to donate and get involved.