Woman Troubles

Penny For reasons that are too tedious to go into, I’m – intermittently – playing a woman. This raises a whole set of challenges – in acting, of course, but also in other ways.

I mean, where do you start as a man trying to portray a woman? The only “female” characters I’ve ever played before have been caricatures – panto dames. Anyone who’s ever done a panto dame knows that they aren’t really the most feminine of characters. Not really an experience you can draw on to play an ordinary woman.

I find it an incredibly vulnerable position to be in – I have no idea whether anything I’m doing is right – I don’t know how to stand, sit or walk. I don’t know what to do with my hands. Can I cross my legs? All of this is stuff you just do in real life. I’ve never had to consider any of this before as an actor. I spend some time studying the way that women move, the way that their bodies respond to everyday situations and requirements.

Some things are easy to spot. The huge difference between the ways that men and women sit, for instance. I do find the the costume helps. Wearing a skirt makes you sit differently. The presence of breasts (yes, a stuffed sports bra) does affect posture almost without you consciously doing anything about it (don’t fold your arms, for god’s sake!). I’m very conscious that my legs are not encased in jeans.

I have to do normal, everyday feminine make up. I’ve never done female make up, except panto dame again, and it’s really difficult the first time. It’s much more subtle than the normal make up we do, and more complicated. I’m glad I don’t have to be a woman all the time.

The first time I try it, it takes over an hour, and at the end of it I’m basically blind because I’ve stabbed myself in both eyes with the eyeliner and mascara. My mouth looks lopsided because one side of the lipstick is wider than the other. This is obviously going to take practice, and I’ve started watching youtube make up tutorials presented by California valley teenagers.

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