Gender-Bending Shakespeare

Dear Liza,

Rusty Tennant as ‘Lady’ Jacques and Jacquelle David as Phebe

This is a post about gender. Gender means being a boy or a girl. For a long time, girls had to dress in ruffles and pink, they were supposed to like dolls and be afraid of spiders. Boys were supposed to dress and act a different way, like wearing jeans and boots and playing rough, and never showing their feelings.

Rusty Tennant again, as Touchstone, and Evan Tait as Audrey

Also for a long time, people thought you had to be a girl OR a boy. There was no neither, and no in between. Now there are. I have friends who have taught me about it, and plays like As You Like It help me see it more clearly.

Many people are saying we should be able to decide how we want to act and dress, no matter what gender we are born with. There are lots of words for this, but the one I used when I first learned about it was “gender-bending”.

Cat Miller as Rosalind, pretending to be Gannymede

I like this idea, and this word. I was always the girl in jeans and thirty feet up a tree, or under the car learning about engines. I wasn’t very good at being a ‘girl’.

Paul Bright as Duke Senior, admitting that he is fifty years old

This weekend we went to see As You Like It, a Shakespeare play, at Reed College. It is a play about gender, and gender-bending, and it was written 420 years ago! So you see, this gender thing isn’t new.

Alex Blesi as Orlando

The play was really interesting because in addition to Mr. Shakespeare’s gender bending characters falling in love, some of the actors who played men were played by women, and the other way ’round. You had to pay attention to keep things clear… but it was worth it!

Kate Cummings as Olive and Evan Tait, again, as Le Beu

The actors from the Portland Actor’s Ensemble are incredibly talented. As well as being great actors, they are comics, singers, boxers, and sword fighters. Many actors played two or three roles, sometimes switching costumes and roles while walking across the stage. It was a amazing to see. The staging was fun, too, with lots of making faces and playing with the audience.

Counting out the kinds of Courtly Lies

The basic story of the play is that some people from a noble castle are exiled to the forest, meet and fall in love with people there, then return home. There are three or four sets of people in love with other people, and it all gets confusing and funny. There are beautiful music, bad poetry, goats, speeches, and tantrums.

Sofia Molina as a tree, which has been hung with odes to Rosalind by the lovesick Orlando

It is all of human nature… but louder. I loved it.


Oh, yes…the goats sang, too!

Grandma Judy

As We Like It

Dear Liza,

On Saturday we did laundry and dishes and such chores around the house, had lunch, and then headed over to Laurelhurst Park for another Shakespeare play, called As You Like It.

Brothers Oliver and Orlando arguing

This is one of my favorite plays, and one that my momma liked very much, too. It is about people who, because of a big fight in their family, leave their fancy castle and go live in the forest. There, they meet other people and find out that they can be happy wherever they are, as long as they are with the people they love. There is wrestling, and cross-dressing, singing, people falling in love, and lots of puns and jokes.

The Forest Lord makes a speech

The play was great, but what made the afternoon perfect was the lovely park. On the little rise in a clearing of linden trees, dappled shade keeping us cool, every breeze shook tiny leaves down, we sat on our comfy lawn chairs and loved every minute. Not far away across the grass a wedding party was setting up (more about this later).

This play had a Prompter, who did the usual job of reminding actors of their next line, but also wore a referee’s striped shirt and whenever she felt the need, would blow her whistle.

When the wedding party got loud because of a pinata, she blew her whistle. “We’ve got quite a pinata party happening here behind me, can you repeat that line please?”

When Orlando was confused about who he was falling in love with, she blew it again. “Orlando, how do you feel about this? What’s going on here?”

This made everything fun and friendly, and also cleared up some points of the play that I have never understood….like why the old Duke was in the forest to begin with, or that there are, indeed, two characters named Jacques.

We watched the play to the end and even got to talk to the young actor who played one of the Jacques, then we headed home because Grandpa Nelson and I were having dinner with Gary, who was best man when Grandpa Nelson and I got married, and his wife Carol. We drove to get there because the restaurant, Seasons and Regions, is over on the southwest side of town, on SW Capitol Highway. They serve mostly seafood and it is absolutely delicious.


The four of us talked for 3 hours, catching up on our jobs, kids, parents, and the trials and joys of life. And of course, I forgot to take pictures! Then we drove home, talked about our day until we were sleepy, and conked out.

Love, Grandma Judy