Sean Edgecomb

“It was simply human…”
Gender Subversion in Children’s Performance

Most studies and articles focused on gender and performance center around the analytical interpretation of both amateur and professional projects.   Concerned with the exhibition of subversive and often sex-based themes, gender and queer theory form a genre performed primarily by adults for adults. However, a gaping hole has been left in its application; I suggest that children’s theatre and the technique of gender blind casting is an important early stage to consider in deconstructing standard norms of sex, gender, and desire.   Using a new system of visual diagrams based on Judith Butler’s theory of the heterosexual matrix, I explore the Karamu children’s theatre program in Cleveland, Ohio-circa 1917.  Karamu exemplifies the use of subversive gender and race practice with children decades before Civil Rights or post-Third Wave Feminism.  I also investigate the hegemonic influence on gender blind casting with children. This unintentional norm
commonly puts female-as-male subversion into accepted practice, but less commonly applies a male-as-female gendered performance unless it is in an attempt to utilize camp to portray the feminine as subordinate.