Verulamium Roman Theatre 1970s colour

Did you know…. that Roman Theatre played with gender norms.
In the main, actors were men, playing male and female roles. There are a few examples of female actors, who would not don the famous masks of comedy & tragedy that we associate with Roman Theatre, but they would often participate in mime sequences, and therefore not have active or speaking roles. Thus, many scholars have interpreted the many examples of so-called ‘cross-dressing’ in ancient theatre, with men playing both male and female roles, as an expression of fluidity and relaxed boundaries around gender expressions.
For example, a very popular and well known story in Ancient Rome was that of Achilles – drawn from Greek mythology where the Romans got many of their ideas. He was disguised by his mother as a girl, to save him from the Trojan War. Achilles, as a girl, lives among the daughters of Lycomedes, the king of Scyros during the Trojan war, possibly named as "Pyrrha" (the red-haired girl).
The theatre at Verulamium was mainly used for temple-related activities rather than plays. There was very poor public opinion of actors at the time, and many Roman actors were slaves.
(Based on research completed by Stephanie Eastoe, 2017)
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