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Challenging Gender Roles with an All-Female Cast

December 13, 2017

 "Girls on Film"

 

Even as we approach the year 2018, Hollywood is no exception to the “glass ceiling” separating women from true gender equality. Known as the “celluloid ceiling” in the film industry, women are still being sorely underpaid, underrepresented, and undervalued in Hollywood. In fact, according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film, females represented a mere 29% of protagonists in 2016’s 100 top domestic grossing films. Although the climb to equality has been seemingly slow, there have been movies that challenge traditionally male roles. Paul Feig’s 2016 Ghostbusters reboot made headlines with a predominantly female cast, despite several critics attacking the film for “politicizing” the original by bringing feminism into play.

 

As the issue of the women’s representation in film continues to rise, even high school productions have paved new ground for casting women. Recently, a high school director from Sandwich, Massachusetts, staged two separate productions of an adaptation of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, one featuring an all-male cast and the other an all-female cast. Kevin Lasit of Cape Cod, an actor, director, and screenwriter, has been directing high school productions at Sandwich High School since 2012 with the Knight’s Theatre Company. He first conjured the idea of staging two separate productions of Lord of the Flies in December 2016. “I wanted to give the girls a chance to flex their dramatic muscle,” Lasit noted. “The time and age that we live in is such a great time for women to not be playing submissive roles or be in the background.”

 

Director Kevin Lasit offers a departure from the typical, all-male production of Lord of the Flies (above) by directing an all-female show. 

 

Though the delivery and interpretation of lines proved different from one show to the next, Lasit says that the content remained true to Golding’s original tale. “The girls play their humanity, which will be different than the boys. At the end of the day, you get the same thing, which is the power struggle of serving yourself or serving the greater good.” The female who played Jackie, opposite to the menacing “Jack” antagonist, varied in her tactics from her complementary male role. The female version began with an immediate grapple for leadership, with psychological warfare reigning supreme amongst the instinctively mature young girls. In the male production, however, Jack was portrayed as an easy-going guy with increasingly sporadic outbursts of anger. The two productions, although nearly identical in script and content, allowed the cast to portray two contrasting sides of humanity to an eager audience. “I encouraged the two [different] interpretations,” Lasit commented. “You’re still dealing with issues of morality. It was more than just a parlor trick [of switching genders], I thought that the girls could handle the content and interpret it in a way that was different than the boys.”

 

In an interesting coincidence, Hollywood directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel have proposed a “faithful, yet contemporized adaptation” of the classic novel with a female cast. The pitch has received innumerable critiques through social media, denouncing the plot’s validity with girls on the island. It goes without saying that the actions and mindsets of women are entirely different than that of a man, but who honestly knows what could happen in dire times of distress and trauma? The very thought of a female Lord of the Flies being “impossible” is a direct result of society conditioning and perpetuating gender stereotypes. If a small town high school could create something as hauntingly beautiful as a female version of a typically all-male production, then surely Hollywood can do the same. As far as Lasit’s thoughts on scraping the celluloid ceiling, he is overjoyed. “It’s something I think our world is ready to give. Females are so much more capable than the traditional roles that are offered in Hollywood,” The screenwriter notes. “I hope that a move like this gives empowerment to female writers, and even male writers, that can write intelligent female roles to give females more of an opportunity in Hollywood or the stage.”

 

 The full cast and crew of Lasit's production.

 

All photos by Clare Mulroy. 

Cover photo: The all-female cast of Lord of the Flies.

 

 

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