Holden Caulfield, female. Juliet, male. Gatsby, female. Lady Macbeth, male. This year’s school musical, “1776,” will be following these footsteps.
The musical “1776” is implementing gender neutral casting. Actors participating in the musical have been very optimistic and excited about director and producer Amy Moorhead’s decision to do this play, said junior Jane Simonetti, who is playing Benjamin Franklin.
“It’s just something new to try, a different type of musical,” Simonetti said.
During her musical research, Moorhead said that it was brought to her attention that “1776” was performed at an all girls high school and she immediately thought that it was a great idea.
“It had never even occurred to me to do it, and then do it with gender neutral casting,” Moorhead said.
Moorhead took into account that there are only two female characters in this musical, Moorhead said.
“I think my initial intention was not to make a point but to just give all genders the opportunity to take on some of these really great roles,” Moorhead said. “[And] to give girls the opportunity to play these historically male characters, an opportunity they wouldn’t typically have.”
Moorhead said that she was not trying to make a political statement, but that this musical can stand for the political and social imbalance in the world today.
“I’m not doing it for that reason, but I think it will have the added benefit of making people think,” Moorhead said.
Moorhead is very passionate about giving all of those who auditioned a fair and equal opportunity to get any role they wanted, Moorhead said.
“All the roles were wide open to both genders from the get go,” Moorhead said. “There weren’t any males who expressed interest in female roles. If they had, they definitely would’ve been given strong consideration.”
Moorhead said that a lot of the time in theatre there are more girls than boys.
“I think given that so many more girls tried out than guys, it was just natural that it was going to go in the direction that it did,” Moorhead said. “The two female roles are being played by females and that a bunch of the male roles are being played by females.”
Simonetti said she has minor concerns over playing a part of a different gender than her own.
“It is gonna be difficult encompassing a female’s physique into a male’s,” Simonetti said. “They sit a certain way, hold themselves a different way,”
However, Simonetti said that she sees the biggest challenge of the role as who the person she is depicting is, not their gender.
“I’m not scared about being a guy, I’m scared about being on stage, giving a character justice,” Simonetti said. “If Ben Franklin was a girl, I would feel the same.”
The actors, who show little concern over embodying a different gender, are welcoming the new method very comfortably, Simonetti said.
“I can play the role either way, I’m not too worried about it,” said junior Margo Donahue, playing Andrew McNair.
“1776” is about the creation and the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the events leading up to it in the continental congress in Philadelphia Moorhead said.
“I chose this musical because it’s very different from what we did last year,” Moorhead said. “I like to vary the style of the musical and the era of the musical each year so that students who do the musical each year are exposed to different kinds of shows.”
Overall, the participants in the musical have shown much optimism for what they believe will come out of this experience not only for them, but for everyone who sees it Simonetti said.
“I think it can be a gender transformative experience not only for the actors but also for the people who come see it,” Moorhead said.