by Hani Yassine
The Lance – Arts & Culture Writer
The audience inside the Joy room was small, yet it did not make the event less of one to behold.
Inside you had a table read of a film about New York real estate salesmen fighting tooth and nail to keep their jobs. The dialogue, to put it mildly is coarse, with characters releasing their aggression in a workplace environment toxified by masculinity. They trade insults and obscenities towards one another while reaching their separate objectives. All of this is done, with a simple yet significant twist: the words on the page are all read by women.
Part of the Windsor International Film Festival, a table read of David Mamet’s ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ was performed at the Capitol Theatre the evening of Nov.1. Originally a Broadway production, the film is partly known for its stacked all-male cast which starred the likes of Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin and Jack Lemmon. But on top of the read demonstrating the prowess within the script, it was also an act of subversion as the text, which is masculine in its foundation, was read exclusively by women, particularly within the 4th year BFA acting class in UWindsor’s School of Dramatic Art.
“It’s likely not going to be the first thing they might audition for or be cast in,” said dramatic art professor Kelly Daniels, who was in charge of casting people for the read.
Daniels said the casting was based on who was available and whose personalities best fit the characters. All women involved in the read went through the script twice and watched the film to better understand the circumstance and motivation of the characters. In combing through the contents of the script, Daniels said none of the actors hesitated in delivering the lines, saying the reaction was rather sardonic.
“The acknowledgement was but it’s honest, it’s true, it’s real, it’s not to be denied,” Daniels said.
Among the actors who participated was Megan Milette, reading the character of Shelly Levine who was initially played by acclaimed actor Jack Lemmon. With the character’s implied motivation to be a provider for his family, Milette describes Levine as one who “flips between sincerity and his slimier side.” Compared to other roles she has taken on while in the program, Levine was a touch of fresh air.
“As women in theatre, there aren’t many roles that are that vulgar,” Milette said. “We don’t often get the opportunity to be that vulgar with speech so it’s kind of fun to be able to play with that.”
Despite the vulgarity, Milette said it’s not foul for the sake of it. These thoughts are echoed by Aine Donnelly, who read for Ricky Roma, a strategic aggressor played on the screen by Al Pacino. Donnelly says while the language used is harsh, it is justified and matching with the high stakes involved in the characters’ careers. She felt the table read went well, and while going through the script she felt there was potential for a full-fledged female adaptation. Not only would it be a subversive piece of theatre, it could slightly crack open the door a bit further on the roles supposedly fit for women.
“So often when women get angry on stage, it’s to do with a man, or they’re being hysterical, or they’re being emotional,” Donnelly said. “It would be interesting to do this play that is written for men and have women do it and see how people react, and whether they have a different reaction to it just because it’s a woman.”
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