Mark Rylance Swaps Genders in Twelfth Night

10.22.2013

By Benjamin Solomon

He'll also show his masculine side in 'Richard III'

There isn’t a great Shakespearean role that Mark Rylance can’t play. And this month, the Tony Award winner (Jerusalem) is bringing two of the Bard’s greatest characters to Broadway’s Belasco Theatre: the titular despot in Richard III and Olivia, noble lady of Illyria, in an all-male production of Twelfth Night. This isn’t the first time Rylance has swapped genders for the stage. Here’s what he’s learned from years playing women.

It’s Second Nature
“I was picked on a lot when I was young for being girly, so it’s been interesting to
use that side of myself when I play women. The first job I had in London, in 1980, was when I was 20, playing Madame in a version of Genet’s The Maids.”

The Kabuki method
“I’ve been very inspired by Kabuki actors. They give the appearance of a woman by really minimizing their movements and living very richly internally.”

His Wife’s a Fan...
“She prefers me playing women to Henry V or Hamlet.”
...But Not Everyone is
“When I played Cleopatra at the Globe, I actually had a man shout out, ‘What’s wrong with real women? Why do we have to watch these fucking faggots?!’ I had to stop the show and, as Cleopatra, say: ‘Tell them Queen Cleopatra says you can have your money back.’”

Twelfth Night & Richard III are now in previews. Official opening night is Nov. 10.

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