Hi! Caitlin here. Warning: this is a rant and then an awesome interview. So, be prepared for some stream of consciousness complaining. :) Here goes the rant: I have been so annoyed by gender/sex issues lately- mainly, the absense of the discussion. I mean, we all know and love Jean Kilbourne but it's all so 1990's. Who is taking over for the next generation? If I see one more post on facebook for the Dove commercial that exposes "beauty pressure," I'm gonna puke. HELLO EVERYONE!! Dove is owned by the same people who make AXE for men. Here is an example of one of their other commercials:
They don't care about women and their body image. They care about selling their product. WAKE UP! They know that you feel shitty about yourself because they have paid millions of dollars to men and women for the past 50 years to make sure you do. And now, because their target audience (people with $$$) have educations beyond high school, they have changed their tactics in an attempt to sooth their victims! Media literacy has been a public issue since the 60's and we ignored it. It's not being taught in schools. Young girls (and now young men) are helpless victims. This is a never ending cycle of the 99%. I could go into corporate conspiracy but I will refrain.
My choice art form is one of the few still making bold statements and attempting to educate: THE THEATRE. Check out this article in the New York Post on these live, nude, funny women to see what I mean. You may have seen Kelly Ripa recently talk about this theatre piece on her show. You know, the one where she talked mad shit about her body, making fun of her sexuality and how she's depleted, old, saggy, and "boyish" from bearing children? Yeah...
In any case, I wonder, living in LA in 2012, what are the new rules? What is the new definition of one's sex? What does it mean to associate oneself with the gender "female"? What's the stereotypical gay male obsession with beauty all about? Helen Hunt is currently playing the "stage manager" in OUR TOWN in LA, a male role most recently played by the late Paul Newman on Broadway. Does this affect our understanding of the story? Is Thornton Wilder rolling over in his grave- traumatized because a woman can't possibly communicate the wisdom and emotional simplicty needed to juxtapose Emily's youthful, sentimental journey? These questions, and others, led me to interview the lovely Carly Weckstein about her "sex-positive" company, The Illyrian Players, and their current production of MACBETH.
CH: Alright, Carly, tell me a little bit about how the Illyrian Players got started.
CW: Okay. Well, I’ve always been into theatre. I studied acting at UCLA- acting and directing outside of class, and I’ve always been interested in theatre theory. In my senior year there was a focus on how to market yourself on the “outside” and all that, and I was very turned off by the industry and I felt like it was very silly for actors to be limited by the industry and it was dominated by film and television and by how you look and act and I was like... that’s stupid! How do you grow as an actor? And also, I thought, that’s extremely superficial and so I wanted to make a place... I thought, well, no one will hire me so... I have to make my own place. A place where there was an ensemble- kind of a place for actors, a place where we could take risks and could grow. A place that explored issues that I think are interesting like a lot of gender role stuff. Also, ya know, I wanted to create more opportunities for women- a huge part is- there’s so many women actors and so many less woman parts written its just ridiculous. So, I wanted to do this... and I had so many talented friends and I was like what a fucking shame if they- can I say fucking?
CH: Yes, it’s not like on live radio: "Fuck-Beeeep!"
CW: OK , so- what a fucking shame for them to be cast only by what they look like.
CH. Right, like how many roles are there for the cute girlfriend or quirky best friend?
CW: RIght! When they actually have the emotional capacity and physiological depth and intelligence to do so much more than that, so I was like, OK, fine I’m going to do my own show and I ended up casting all these people who had barely or never been used on the main stage at school, who were just the most talented actors who um... derailed brain... um...
CH: That makes sense! You were at school and feeling the the pressure of the “business”. But, I have to ask... doesn’t Sue Ellen Case work at UCLA? Isn't she, like, speaking out against this?
CW: She does. I got to take one semester with her. She’s really smart. She’s super revolutionary and awesome. I remember learning about “Split Britch” from her, that theatre company and it’s so interesting how they that did, Tennessee Williams I think, like, this butch fem thing.
CH: When I was 17 I read Feminism in Theatre by her and the world was changed! I was forever different! Thank you Sue Ellen Case - shout out!
CW: Yeah, totally! She is awesome and I got really interested in the sex positive movement. First of all-
CH: Well, can you explain for us- for those of us that don’t know that is, what sex positive means?
CW:Yes! It’s a term that a lot of people are like, “What does that mean? We should all have sex?" Yes! It’s kinda like... it came out of the feminist movement, it’s like a next level from that in the sense that- obviously the feminist movement was amazing! But also in a lot of ways it was super exclusive, like, it could be super exclusive of, like, bi-sexual’s or whatever or tri-sexual’s that are considered untrustworthy or something, but “sex positive” basically includes anyone- that there aren’t a number of sexualities that you can conclude or categorize.
CH: Sexuality as a spectrum.
CW: Yes, exactly, a spectrum. All human consenting adults should be, you know, should be able to do that they want. A more inclusive “you” and idea of feminism that, like, everyone is equal.
CH: Why do you think it’s important to explore theater through this sex-positive lens?
CW: I think a lot of sex is used in the media. A lot of, like, gay and lesbian culture is starting to be included and transexual is just starting to be included and there's a lot of things that “real-normal” people do that are just starting to be seen as normal, that is explored and exploited to sell everything! But sex is rarely explored with spiritual depth, and it’s something that dictates, like, all of society, pretty much, and gender roles which are so interesting- what does it mean to be a man or a women? A dichotomy rather than, as you said, a spectrum. I think there’s a lot of material that lends itself to that. Also, theatre is the most ancient form of storytelling and we have all this power that we’ve kinda lost, and we’re in this time in the world where we have this new generation where we have people to re-harness that and we’re in this city that is so film dominated and I fucking love TV and film and movies and all kinds of storytelling but, its like, when you're doing theatre... if you’re doing something so naturalistic, why not do a film that can always be preserved and people can see it? When- if you’re doing theatre- you should make it theatrical and it will be a ritual almost- where people actually affect the play when they see it.
CH: Well, if you can see it on TV then what’s the point of doing it on stage?
CW: Right, Exactly.
CH: I spoke a little bit earlier, before this interview, about casting as a director and how I had gender issues on my mind, if you will, as I was interested in potentially casting a male in a female role and the rights came into question and I was like... I have to talk to Carly about this! She get’s it. You have to cast the best actor regardless of sex. By the way... Banquo is fucking hot.
CW: (Laughs) Michelle just has that swag.
CH: Exactly! You can watch this play and if you didn’t know that Banquo was being played by a woman and you looked in the program and saw that the actors name is Michelle and assuming that was a woman’s name, um....you know, just the sexuality of it makes you aware of yourself in a different way and acknowledge your own spectrum that you may or may not investigate in your every day life. That seems important these days.
For some gender-bending, exciting and sexual Shakespeare check out our friends, the Illyrian Player's, Macbeth @ the Lyric Hyperion. Click here to get your tickets now!