Performer’s Body: Cross-Gender Casting as an Estrangement Technique in Theatre

  • Ognjen Obradović Faculty of Dramatic Arts, University of Arts, Belgrade
Keywords:
cross-gender casting, gender, queer, abjectuion, travesty, Mrs Minister, Skup/Assemblage

Abstract

The main thesis of the present article is that cross-gender casting can function as a Brechtian estrangement technique, an approach which denaturalizes gender and other social constructs. The term “cross-gender casting” is preferred to the term “travesty”, which is mainly used by Serbian theatre critics, because it is more precise and refers directly to gender studies. The theoretical framework of our analysis is constituted by theatre and performance studies on the one hand, and gender studies on the other. The concept of performance introduced by Erica Fischer-Lichte helps us to understand the tension between the “phenomenal body” and the “semiotic body” of the performer, which is increased by cross-gender casting. The result of this tension is the phenomenon we call “cross-gender effect”. The new amalgam-body is best described as queer because it is simultaneously perceived as both male and female. The ambivalent impact it has on the audience could be understood through the concepts of otherness and Julia Kristeva’s abjection. In order to explain the difference between male-to-female and female-to-male cross-gender casting, we discuss two Serbian performances: Gospođa Ministarka / Mrs Minister (Boško Buha Theatre, 2013) and Skup (Yugoslav Drama Theatre, 2002). The cross-gender effect is more intense in the first example because female physical bodies are generally more easily absorbed by male semiotic bodies. By its capacity to denaturalize “the normal” in the patriarchal worlds of Nušić and Držić, the cross-gender technique brings about new meanings, some of which may even have eluded the creators of the analyzed performances.

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Published
2020-11-07
How to Cite
Obradović, Ognjen. 2020. “Performer’s Body: Cross-Gender Casting As an Estrangement Technique in Theatre”. Issues in Ethnology and Anthropology 15 (3), 879–897. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.21301/eap.v15i3.10.