Playing Your Opposite

Derrick Karas and Sophia Nelson play the young lovers in HHS’s production of The Tempest.  The only thing is that they play their traditional opposite.  Karas plays Mirando, the son of Prospera and Nelson plays Ferdinand, the daughter of Queen Alonsa.  These characters are traditionally a female Miranda and male Ferdinand but with this production, auditions worked out for a gender swapped cast.  We met with these actors to talk about playing characters that are stereotypical opposites of their gender.

Derrick, who do you play and how is that character challenging?

I play Mirando in the Tempest, and I find him/her to be a very interesting character. Mirando was obviously originally written to be a female character, so that in itself brings a whole new host of thoughts to the table that I’ve never had to confront before. Additionally, when I first read through the script I saw Mirando as a young, wide-eyed, somewhat naive young boy who matures greatly through the events of the show. However, when we saw the Royal Shakespeare Company performance, Mirando (Miranda then) was presented to me very differently, as a strong-willed, bold, curious girl. For me, the interesting part about portraying this character has been finding the balance, and putting myself into a place where everything is new to me, which may be intimidating, but is also exciting and formative.

Sophia, what it is like to play characters that are so iconically your opposite gender?

Playing a traditional male character as a female is totally different from anything I’ve ever done. Although I am still a woman in the show I am acting out a man’s role in society. It is odd to be the dominant one but also quite refreshing. The challenge and the fun both come from the dominance factor. I have never had to be the “pants wearer” on or off the stage. It is difficult to push myself to be the initiator but once I let go it is fun to play around with. I think I have made Ferdinand a more caring and mindful character. The other performances I’ve seen he’s been more arrogant. I have gained a lot more respect for men. When gender stereotypes are talked about I think their issues aren’t touched on as much as women’s. The expectations they have to live up to in society are hard, constantly having to put yourself out there and bottled up emotion is tiring.

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