Cross-gender acting refers to actors or actresses portraying a character of the opposite gender.
Traditions of male-only performance cultures
Many societies prohibited women from performing on stage, so boys and men took the female roles. In the ancient Greek theatre men played females, as they did in English Renaissance theatre and continue to do in Japanese kabuki theatre (see onnagata). In Chinese opera specialized male actors who play female roles (dàn) are referred to as nándàn (男旦); the practice arose during the Qing dynasty due to imperial prohibitions against women performing on stage, considered detrimental to public morality.
Japanese Kabuki theatre began in the 17th century with all-female troupes performing both male and female roles. In 1629 the disrepute of kabuki performances (or of their audiences) led to the banning of women from the stage, but kabuki's great popularity inspired the formation of all-male troupes to carry on the theatrical form. In Kabuki, the portrayal of female characters by men is known as onnagata. The practice is detailed in a story of the same name by the Japanese writer, Yukio Mishima. All roles in Japanese Noh dramas are traditionally played by male actors; actors playing female roles wear feminine costumes and female-featured masks. The Takarazuka Revue is a contemporary all-female Japanese acting company, known for their elaborate productions of stage musicals. Takarazuka actresses specialize in either male or female roles, with male-role actresses receiving top billing.
In ancient China, nearly all the characters in Chinese Opera were performed by men, so that all the male actors, who played the role of a female were crossdressing. A famous cross-dressing opera singer is Mei Lanfang. From early 20th century, Yue opera is developed from all male to all female genre. Although male performers were introduced into this opera in 1950s and 1960s, today, Yue opera is still associated as the only all female opera and the second most popular opera in China.
In Renaissance England it was illegal for women to perform in theatres, so female roles in the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporary playwrights were originally played by cross-dressing men or boys. (See also Stage Beauty.) Therefore, the original productions of the above-mentioned Shakespeare plays actually involved double-cross-dressing: male actors playing female characters disguising themselves as males. Academic research into the contemporary attitudes towards the practise have yielded a variety of interpretations. Laura Levine argues that "an all-male acting troupe was the natural and unremarkable product of a culture whose conception of gender was "teleologically male""; she also suggests that contemporary protests against the practise (believing it made young actors "effeminate") reflected "deepseated fears that the self was not stable and fixed but unstable and monstrous and infinitely malleable unless strictly controlled.
Women as men as well
Cross-dressing in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spain was frequent among actors, and the theater was at the time the most popular form of entertainment. There was a fascination with female cross-dressers particularly (women dressed as men), who were "extremely popular" in the "Golden Age Comedia". Male actors might play the "women dressed as men" parts. Spain eventually found this cross-dressing to be threatening to social order, and passed laws targeting female transvestites throughout the 1600s. Despite the negative reactions and disapproval, it continued to remain very popular in the comedia.
Theatre, operas, plays, ballets and pantomime
A travesti is a theatrical term referring to the portrayal of a character in an opera, play, or ballet by a performer of the opposite sex. More specifically, a theatrical or operatic role in which an actress appears in male clothing is called a "breeches role" ("pants role" or "trouser role"), and roles once performed by a male soprano castrato may instead be performed by a female mezzo-soprano or contralto.
In the late 19th century, one of the most famous actresses was Vesta Tilley, who worked in a music hall from age five well into her fifties. In the late 1890s, she was the highest paid woman in Britain. What made her so famous was her tendency to dress as a man and act out "masculine" scenes and roles. Centuries before, Julie d'Aubigny, aka "La Maupin" (1670–1707), had also been famous for her breeches roles.
In 1904, Nina Boucicault originated the theatrical tradition of cross-gender casting for Peter Pan, continued thereafter by Maude Adams, Marilyn Miller, Eva Le Gallienne, Sandy Duncan, and Cathy Rigby, among others. In 1954 Mary Martin portrayed the title character in the musical Peter Pan. "The boy who would never grow up" is a classic trouser role, as is Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro (by Beaumarchais).
In pantomime plays that are traditionally adaptations of fairy tales and performed around Christmastide, the role of lead male was once commonly played by a principal boy—a young, attractive, female. This practise has fallen out of favour recently, with popular male television and pop stars taking these roles. Conversely, the role of a pantomime dame, a middle aged woman played by a man in drag for comic relief, is still one of the mainstays of panto.
In animations it is not unusual for female actors to voice young male characters. One example is Nancy Cartwright voicing Bart Simpson in The Simpsons. An example of a man voicing a female character is Bob Peterson as Roz in Monsters, Inc..
- Nancy Cartwright helped pave the way for cross dress voice acting for female voice actors such as Tara Strong
When the casting director of a production decides to employ cross-gender acting, selecting the actors in this way is sometimes also called "cross-gender casting" or simply "cross-casting".
In film and television
|1914||A Busy Day||Charlie Chaplin||"Wife"||male to female||comedic||English||Short comedy.|
|1914||Sweedie the Swatter||Wallace Beery||Sweedie||male to female||comedic||English||The first of a series of Sweedie films, made between 1914 and 1916|
|1921||Little Lord Fauntleroy||Mary Pickford||Cedric Errol||female to male||dramatic||English||Mary Pickford starred as both Cedric Errol and Widow Errol|
|1924||Peter Pan||Betty Bronson||Peter Pan||female to male||dramatic||English|
|1936||Stars on Parade||Arthur Lucan||Old Mother Riley||male to female||English||The first of 17 films with Old Mother Riley|
|1936||Sathi Leelavathi||M. K. Mani||Lakshmi||male to female||dramatic||Tamil|||
|1939||Wilton's Zoo||Annie van Ees||Jan Grovers (Boefje)||female to male||dramatic||Dutch||45-year-old Annie van Ees plays the 16-year-old Boefje. She had played this role since 1922 in theatre.|
|1949||Kind Hearts and Coronets||Alec Guinness||Lady Agatha D'Ascoyne||male to female||comedic||English||Alec Guinness plays eight members of the aristocratic D'Ascoyne family.|
|1954||The Belles of St Trinian's||Alastair Sim||Headmistress Millicent Fritton||male to female||comedic||English||Alastair Sim plays both Millicent Fritton and her brother, Clarence Fritton.|
|1957||Blue Murder at St Trinian's||Alastair Sim||Headmistress Miss Fritton||male to female||comedic||English|
|1959||The Mouse that Roared||Peter Sellers||Grand Duchess Gloriana XII||male to female||comedic||English|
|1977||Sjors en Sjimmie en het zwaard van Krijn||Mariska Fikkie||Sjimmie||female to male||dramatic||Dutch||In the titles Mariska's name is abbreviated to more male sounding Mar Fikkie.|
|1977||Die Vorstadtkrokodile||Birgit Komanns||Kurt||female to male||dramatic||German||A disabled boy, Kurt, was played by Birgit Komanns, who was wheelchairbound in real life; Kurt's voice was dubbed by Oliver Rohrbeck|
|1978||Monkey (Saiyūki)||Masako Natsume||Tripitaka (Tang Sanzang)||female to male||dramatic||Japanese||Maria Warburg provided Tripitaka's voice in the dubbed, English version.|
|1979||Monty Python's Life of Brian||Terry Jones||Mandy Cohen (Brian's mother)||male to female||comedic||English|
|1981||Göta kanal||Christer Lindarw||Queen Silvia||male to female||Swedish||Cameo|
|1982||The Year of Living Dangerously||Linda Hunt||Billy Kwan||female to male||dramatic||English||Hunt won Academy Award for best actress in a supporting role|
|1985||Didi und die Rache der Enterbten||Dieter Hallervorden||Florentine||male to female||comedic||German|
|1986||The Golden Child||J.L. Reate||The Golden Child||female to male||dramatic||English||Reate was nominated to a Young Artist Awards|
for Best Young Actress
|1988||Hairspray||Divine||Edna Turnblad||male to female||comedic||English|
|1988||Coming to America||Arsenio Hall||"Extremely Ugly Girl"||male to female||comedic||English||Hall has a minor role, as girl trying to pick up Akeem and Semmi at a bar.|
|1989||Back to the Future Part II||Michael J. Fox||Marlene McFly||male to female||English||Michael J. Fox plays three characters - Marty McFly,|
Marty McFly Jr. and Marlene McFly.
|1991||Hook||Glenn Close||Gutless||female to male||English||Cameo|
|1991||Nothing but Trouble||John Candy||Eldona||male to female||comedic||English|
|1992-1997||Martin||Martin Lawrence||Sheneneh & Mama Payne||male to female||comedic||English|
|1992||Swordsman II||Brigitte Lin||Invincible Asia||female to male||English||Asia is a man who has castrated himself.|
|1992||Orlando||Tilda Swinton||Orlando||female to male||dramatic||English||Orlando is a man the first 2/3 of the film|
|1992||Orlando||Quentin Crisp||Elizabeth I||male to female||dramatic||English|
|1993||The Beverly Hillbillies||Diedrich Bader||Jethrine Bodine||male to female||comedic||English||Bader also plays Jethrine's twin brother Jethro.|
|1995||Filmpje!||Paul de Leeuw||Annie de Rooij||male to female||comedic||Dutch||Paul de Leeuw introduced the character of Annie de Rooij in 1992 in the third seasons of his television show De schreeuw van De Leeuw. Annie was married to Bob de Rooij, also played by Paul de Leeuw.|
|1996||A Very Brady Sequel||RuPaul||Mrs. Cummings||male to female||English||Minor role as the High school teacher|
|1996||The Nutty Professor||Eddie Murphy||Mama Klump, Grandma Klump||male to female||comedic||English|
|1999||Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo||Big Boy||Fluisa||male to female||comedic||English|
|1999||Tyrone||Coolio||Cherone||male to female||comedic||English||Coolio also plays Cherone's brothers Tyrone en Jerome|
|2000||Nutty Professor II: The Klumps||Eddie Murphy||Mama Klump, Granny Klump||male to female||comedic||English|
|2000||Big Momma's House||Martin Lawrence||Big Momma||Male to Female||comedic||English|
|2002||EvenHand||iO Tillett Wright||Toby||female to male||dramatic||English|
|2003||Girls Will Be Girls||Jack Plotnick, Clinton Leupp, Jeffery Roberson||Evie Harris, Coco Peru, Varla Jean Merman||male to female||comedic||English||All the female characters in this film were played by males.|
|2004||De duistere diamant||Peter Van Den Begin||Tante Sidonia||male to female||comedic||Dutch|
|2004||My Nikifor||Krystyna Feldman||Nikifor||female to male||dramatic||Polish||Feldman won 2005 Polish Film Awards for best actress|
|2005||Diary of a Mad Black Woman||Tyler Perry||Mable "Madea" Simmons||male to female||comedic||English|
|2005||Transamerica||Felicity Huffman||Bree Osborne||female to male||dramatic comedy||English||Huffman won many nominations and awards including the Golden Globe for Best Actress|
|2005||Alatriste||Blanca Portillo||Emilio Bocanegra||female to male||dramatic||Spanish|
|2006||Madea's Family Reunion||Tyler Perry||Mable "Madea" Simmons||male to female||comedic||English|
|2007||I'm Not There||Cate Blanchett||Jude Quinn||female to male||dramatic||English||Jude Quinn is stylized after Bob Dylan|
|2007||Hairspray||John Travolta||Edna Turnblad||male to female||comedic||English|
|2007||Norbit||Eddie Murphy||Rasputia||male to female||English|
|2007||St. Trinian's||Rupert Everett||Miss Camilla Dagey Fritton||male to female||comedic||English||As in the earlier St. Trinian's films, a man plays the character of the Headmistress, Miss Fritton.|
|2007||Negima!!||Yukina Kashiwa||Negi Springfield||female to male||Japanese||Live action adaptation of the manga Negima! Magister Negi Magi. The main character, Negi Springfield, is a 10-year-old mage.|
|2008||Meet the Browns||Tyler Perry||Mable "Madea" Simmons||male to female||comedic||English|
|2009||Madea Goes to Jail||Tyler Perry||Mable "Madea" Simmons||male to female||comedic||English|
|2009||St. Trinian's 2: The Legend of Fritton's Gold||Rupert Everett||Miss Camilla Dagey Fritton||male to female||comedic||English|
|2011||Jack and Jill||Adam Sandler, David Spade||Jill Sadelstein, Monica||male to female||comedic||English||Sandler plays both Jack and Jill Sadelstein|
|2012||Cloud Atlas||Hugo Weaving||Nurse Noakes||male to female||English|
|2012||Cloud Atlas||Ben Whishaw||Georgette||male to female||English|
|2012||Cloud Atlas||Zhou Xun||Talbot / Hotel Manager||female to male||English|
|2012||Cloud Atlas||Susan Sarandon||Yosouf Suleiman||female to male||English|
|2014||Black Butler Live Action||Ayame Goriki||Earl Kiyohara Genpu (Ciel Phantomhive)||female to male||dramatic||Japanese|
|2014||Mrs. Brown's Boys D'Movie||Brendan O'Carroll||Agnes Brown||male to female||comedic||English|
|2015||Bon Bini Holland||Jandino Asporaat||Judeska, Gerrie||male to female||comedic||Dutch|
|2018||Suspiria||Tilda Swinton||Dr. Jozef Klemperer||female to male||dramatic||English/German||One of three roles played by Swinton in the film|
- Tootsie (1982) - The character Michael Dorsey (portrayed by Dustin Hoffman) star as Dorothy Michaels in the show-within-show soap opera Southwest General
- Victor Victoria (1982) - Victoria Grant (portrayed by Julie Andrews) pretends to be Count Victor Grezinski and finds work as a female impersonator.
- Flickan vid stenbänken (1989) - Carolin (Anna Edlund) briefly portrays a man in a (show-within-show) play.
- Shakespeare in Love (1998) - The character Viola de Lesseps (portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow) disguises herself as Thomas Kent and then plays the part of Romeo in the show-within-show Romeo and Juliet.
- Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) - Daniel Hillard (Robin Williams) dressed up as a nanny, to try to spend more time with his kids. (His wife and him just split up) Although this movie is not completely about cross-gender acting, it takes it down to a minimum.
- Cross-dressing in film and television
- Cross-dressing in literature
- Köçek, a Turkish term for a young male entertainer dressed as a young woman
- List of transgender-related topics
- List of transgender characters in film and television
- Huang Tingting (2016-08-17). "Peking Opera struggles to preserve tradition of male actors playing female parts". Global Times. Retrieved 2018-04-24.
- Guanda Wu (2013). "Should Nandan Be Abolished? The Debate over Female Impersonation in Early Republican China and Its Underlying Cultural Logic". Asian Theatre Journal. 30 (1). doi:10.1353/atj.2013.0008. ISSN 1527-2109. Retrieved 2018-04-24.
- Globe Theatre Female Roles
- Howard, Jean E. (1988). "Crossdressing, The Theatre, and Gender Struggle in Early Modern England" (PDF). Shakespeare Quarterly. 39 (4): 419. doi:10.2307/2870706. Retrieved October 21, 2012.
- Watson, Brian. "Crossdressing, Crossculture: Conceptions and Perceptions of Crossdressing in Golden Age Madrid and Tudor-Stuart London": 6.
- Seagraves, Rosie (August 2013). "SHE AS HE: CROSS-DRESSING, THEATER, AND "IN-BETWEENS" IN EARLY MODERN SPAIN": 1.
- Watson, Brian. "Crossdressing, Crossculture: Conceptions and Perceptions of Crossdressing in Golden Age Madrid and Tudor-Stuart London": 5.
- Steinbach, Susie L. . Understanding the Victorians. London: Routledge, 2012. 192-193. Print.
- Pilkington, Angel M. "Peter Pan: Myth and Fantasy", Archived 2009-01-08 at the Wayback Machine Midsummer Magazine, 2000, reprinted at the Utah Shakespearean Festival website, 2007
- Sathi Leelavathi (PDF) (press book). Coimbatore: Manorama Films. 1936.
- "Maria Warburg". www.monkeyheaven.com. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
- "Awards for J.L. Reate", IMDb. Retrieved 10 September 2011.
- Hammond, Stefan; Wilkins, Mike (1996), Sex and Zen & a bullet in the head, Simon and Schuster, p. 80, ISBN 978-0-684-80341-8
- Orlando is a drama film and the film's press kit reads "[The director's] research has shown that Crisp's portrayal of Queen Elizabeth may be more than simply an interesting political or comic move", Press kit, sonyclassics.com. Retrieved 12 September 2011.