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Home :: Archive :: 1993 :: September ::
Re: Color-Blind Casting and More Ado
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 581.  Friday, 24 Sept. 1993.
 
(1)     From:   Ellen Edgerton <EBEDGERT@SUADMIN
        Date:   Thursday, 23 Sep 1993 08:52 ET
        Subj:   Denzel Washington and race-blind casting
 
(2)     From:   Timothy Bowden <
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        Date:   Thursday, 23 Sep 93 06:49:43 PST
        Subj:   Re: Denzel Washington, Race, and Casting
 
(3)     From:   Celine Gura <
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        Date:   Thursday, 23 Sep 1993 09:57:02
        Subj:   Re: Denzel Washington, Race, and Casting
 
(4)     From:   David Richman <
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        Date:   Thursday, 23 Sep 1993 15:40:58 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: Denzel Washington, Race, and Casting
 
(5)     From:   William Godshalk <
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        Date:   Thursday, 23 Sep 1993 16:21:29 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Keanu Reeves
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ellen Edgerton <EBEDGERT@SUADMIN>
Date:           Thursday, 23 Sep 1993 08:52 ET
Subject:        Denzel Washington and race-blind casting
 
Just wanted to add one more thing, in response to Nina Walker's comments
on this subject:  The Royal Shakespeare Company first cast a black performer
in a lead role in 1985 -- Josette Simon, who played Rosaline in *Love's
Labour's Lost*.  If I'm not mistaken, one of her costars in that production
was Kenneth Branagh, who played the King of Navarre.   If so, he certainly
would have had an opportunity to observe the pros and cons of race-blind
casting in that production.
 
Ellen Edgerton
Syracuse University

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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Timothy Bowden <
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Date:           Thursday, 23 Sep 93 06:49:43 PST
Subject:        Re: Denzel Washington, Race, and Casting
 
> From:           Nina Walker <
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 >
 
> ---------to the best of my recollection Branaugh's casting is a first
> in film. Thus it takes on an added significance. It's a breakthrough, I
> hope, albeit a little discussed one.
 
Any truth to the rumor Shakespeare in the Park is mounting in New York a
production featuring a Harlem street troup of black actors and actresses
of _Othello_ with Tom Hanks in the title role?
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Celine Gura <
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Date:           Thursday, 23 Sep 1993 09:57:02
Subject:        Re: Denzel Washington, Race, and Casting
 
I think we are spending way too much time arguing over the casting and
missing a significant point to the creation of this film.  About the only
contact most American high school students have with Shakespeare is in the
classroom with a reading of Romeo and Juliet and if they are lucky the also
get to see the one of several movie versions of it.  The general public is
not too interested in Shakespeare and about the only place you here
conversation regarding the bard is in Universities.  I applaud Branagh for
his wide variety in actors because they represent and attract several
different stratas of society that would not normally be interested in
Shakespeare.  Given I can not stand Keanu and think he really stinks as an
actor. "Canoe" as a group of my friends and I call him here is very
attractive and addresses the teenage crowd who probably would not go to a
movie if they were told it was Shakespeare but tell them that Keanu is in it
and they would grealty consider it.  Denzel speaks to the African Americans
and I would say everyone.  He is a brillant actor and has broadened his
audience with the great performance of Malcom X.  He addresses the African
Americans who would normally shun away from Shakespeare and shows that it is
not just a "white thang" while also becoming a role model for young African
American Actors and Actresses who aspire to play significant roles in the
movies. Just a little side note- this is not Denzel's first dab at
Shakespeare he has done Othello on the stage in his earlier years.  I also
think Michael usually known for his comedic roles addresses the older adults
who are not interested in Shakespeare.  His most recent role was in Batman
who is a character from a lot of the baby boomers childhood.  By casting
these actors Branagh is breaking the form that has been imposed on
Shakespeare over the years.  That Shakespeare's plays are not for the normal
public to understand.  You ask a complete stranger on the streets to name a
play by Shakespeare and if they can answer it certainly won't be Much Ado.
IF you do get an answer besides "Who?" it would probably be Romeo and
Juliet.  Shakespeare wrote for the general public and should still be for
the general public.  Hats off to Branagh for his attempt to make Shakespeare
part of everyone's life through the screen.  I hope he continues to do
screen versions of Shakespeare.
 
Celine Gura
Media Acquisitions
Coordinator
Rush University
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Richman <
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Date:           Thursday, 23 Sep 1993 15:40:58 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Re: Denzel Washington, Race, and Casting
 
One of the things I admired most about the *Much Ado* film, about which I
admired many things, was Washington's performance.  For me, he was
appropriately authoritative and wry.  His scene with Beatrice "Will you have me
lady?"-- a difficult and delicate one--could not, in my view, have been done
better. Of course, he and Branaugh broke important new ground in the area of
"color-blind" casting.  But he also belonged in that film.  I'm not sure
that Don John or Claudio did.
 
David Richman
University of New Hampshire
 
(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Godshalk <
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Date:           Thursday, 23 Sep 1993 16:21:29 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Keanu Reeves
 
I realize that Keanu Reeves has taken a good deal of negative criticism for his
interpretation of Don John. However, I found his Don John right on target:
young, petulant and not very dangerous. Were he dangerous, Don Pedro would
hardly give him the run of the house.
 
Nor did I think the American actors were perceptibly inferior to the Brits.
Come on! Give us yanks a break.
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 

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