King Charles III: Genderless casting

Amleia Feiner, Staff Writer

When director Benjamin Posner was casting The Horace Mann Theater Company’s (HMTC) production of King Charles III, he left out one notable casting criteria: gender. Four main, male characters in the script were changed to females characters.

In fact, the original production of the play featured only two principle female characters, Jordan Ferdman (10) said. She plays Jane Reece, the press secretary to the royal family. However, her character was originally named James Reece.

“There’s a part of the show where I talk to Harry’s girlfriend about an intimate photo of her that has been leaked to the public,” Ferdman said. “Talking to her girl-to-girl makes my rudeness to her a bit more personal, because it’s less that I don’t understand and more that I don’t care.”

Another originally male character is Prime Minister Evans, played by Amelia Feiner (11). When cast as the role, Feiner did not know what gender she would perform as.

“For a little while, Mr. Posner and I experimented with not assigning a gender to my part and keeping my gender unimportant because it doesn’t define who the character is, but when costumes came in it started to get kind of complicated,” Feiner said. Now, she plays Ms. Evans instead of Mr. Evans.

One of the consequences of the switches was the change in power dynamics of the entire play, because in the original version, women occupied very few of the influential positions, such as the prime minister, Ferdman said.

“In the original production, [the king and the press secretary] are both older white men, but here, you can very clearly see the power imbalance and that the king is the one making the final decision,” she said.

A particular moment that demonstrated the importance of the difference in gender was the need to cut parts of a monologue by Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, regarding the roles of power occupied by men, Ben Rosenbaum (12) said.

Posner did not plan on specifically switching any roles before casting, but specified in the casting call announcement that he would be open to doing so, he said.

When Posner switched a role’s gender, he said it was because he thought a specific actor or actress would play that role the best. For example, Feiner was one of the few who were passionate about the talking-heavy role of Prime Minister Evans.

“We’re not doing it as a political statement,” Posner said. “It’s more important to me that [the actors] understand what the character is saying and doing and representing in the play than whether or not they can convince me that they are a man or a woman.”