In the news, the policy directive on reinstating the ban on transgender soldiers from serving in the military was issued to the Pentagon from the President of the United States. Add to that the recent White House fallout regarding the violence in Charlottesville by white supremacist and neo-Nazis, race relations and equality for the LGBTQ have been set back from progress. Theater should be a powerful voice to counter these dangerous regressions. Geva Theater Center with the Blackfriars Theater's current production of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" boldly showcases the casting of women for all roles even for the male characters. The set and atmosphere is a speakeasy in the 1920's with flowing background jazz music and five original songs for the play.
From Jeff Spevak's article in the Democrat & Chronicle (D&C), Blackfriar's artistic and managing director Danny Hoskins said that the line-up of productions "paid attention to the social and political climate we live in." He wanted to give voice and empower the women in the community.
From Susan Trien's article in D&C, she quoted "Twelfth Night" director Alexa Scott-Flaherty explaining her idea, "In Shakespeare’s time, men played all of the female roles, like Cleopatra and Juliet, and (audiences) accepted it." She wanted to make the story more accessible to their patrons with a fun atmosphere and Shakespeare's role reversals with women running the show.Everyone who once studied or are studying in all girls' and all boys' schools do surely know that in stage productions, they play all roles, they don't go out and just hire the other gender roles. Thus, it shouldn't be a big deal if women play male characters or men play female characters. However, in the face of "encouraged" bigotry and misogyny (by powers-that-be), the voices and exposure of minorities, people of color, diverse women of ages and body types must be at the forefront to spread the messages of tolerance, acceptance and equality. Gender issues in any way or form must again become a political statement.