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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: May ::
Re: Color-Blind Casting and Cordelias
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1089  Thursday, 10 May 2001

[1]     From:   Pat Dolan <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 9 May 2001 11:05:55 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 12.1072 Re: Color-Blind Casting and Cordelias

[2]     From:   Vick Bennison <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 09 May 2001 12:14:09 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1072 Re: Color-Blind Casting and Cordelias

[3]     From:   Anne Lower <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 09 May 2001 14:40:06 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1072 Re: Color-Blind Casting and Cordelias

[4]     From:   David Lindley <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 9 May 2001 21:47:36 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1072 Re: Color-Blind Casting

[5]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Thu, 10 May 2001 00:46:09 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1072 Re: Color-Blind Casting and Cordelias


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Pat Dolan <
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Date:           Wednesday, 9 May 2001 11:05:55 -0500
Subject: 12.1072 Re: Color-Blind Casting and Cordelias
Comment:        RE: SHK 12.1072 Re: Color-Blind Casting and Cordelias

Stuart Manger asks:

>>Current touring production of RSC 'The Tempest' in >>UK has a white Prospero
and a black Miranda. Does that work for you?

Are Miranda's teeth straight, even thought she's been living on an
island without dental care all her life? Is she taller than all but the
tallest men who would have been at the Globe?

The point? Those differences (here the difference is race) that distract
us from what we want to get from a performance generally have more to do
with our preconceptions than "the play itself." If she were a good
actor, I'd claim she made it work for me. But in reality, she and the
audience would make it work.

I think I could embrace an Italian Macbeth. A Nigerian one just isn't
that big a stretch for me.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Vick Bennison <
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Date:           Wednesday, 09 May 2001 12:14:09 EDT
Subject: 12.1072 Re: Color-Blind Casting and Cordelias
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1072 Re: Color-Blind Casting and Cordelias

Geralyn Horton said:

>Now, if Miranda were to speak in a different accent than Prospero's,
>given that he has been her only model for speech....

Not quite.  Until the age of 4, Miranda was waited on by more than 5
ladies, and she certainly would have been speaking pretty fluently by
then. I agree, however, that their influence would have wained somewhat
by the time she was 16. And then there's Caliban's influence whose
accent might affect her speech, even if you agree with the Folio that
Miranda taught Caliban how to speak English.  When, for example, I am
around an Irishman, I tend to start falling into an Irish accent, and I
believe this would be true whether or not I had been the one to teach
him English.

- Vick Bennison

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Anne Lower <
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Date:           Wednesday, 09 May 2001 14:40:06 EDT
Subject: 12.1072 Re: Color-Blind Casting and Cordelias
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1072 Re: Color-Blind Casting and Cordelias

Kitchen Dog Theatre in Dallas launched a Tempest with a white Prospero
and black Miranda. In addition, Ferdinand was not the usual dashing
suitor - he was a rather thin ungainly fellow. Miranda was a larger
sized young woman, and I hear that the production was ... magic.  It
gives great thought to "O, brave new world" -for in Miranda's
inexperienced eye, Ferdinand was a thing of beauty to her. I liked the
idea because it spoke deeply of true love and soulmates rather than
physical beauty being the catalyst ....

anne

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <
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Date:           Wednesday, 9 May 2001 21:47:36 +0100
Subject: 12.1072 Re: Color-Blind Casting
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1072 Re: Color-Blind Casting

Answers on the line 'we don't know of what race was Prospero's wife'
miss the point, I think.

If casting is colour- or gender-blind, then it requires that we simply
do not ask questions of this kind.  When, for example, in the Leeds
Tempest a black Ferdinand was reconciled to his father, Alonso, played
by a white woman, it was assumed that we recognised that these were
actors playing parts.  When Vanessa Redgrave played Prospero at
Shakespeare's Globe, it was precisely the point that there was no
particular point to the female casting.

This is very different in intent and effect from, say, Jonathan Miller's
1970 casting of black actors as Caliban and Ariel in order to present an
explicitly nuanced, Mannoni-influenced view of the play.

The gains and losses in this transformation might well provide a topic
for discussion, and one which asks interesting questions about what
exactly is the identification we make between actor and role, and the
kinds of significance we afford to such identification.  In the same
Leeds production, Prospero was played by Ian McKellen. Quite properly,
no reviewer commented on the improbability of a gay Prospero having a
daughter; no reviewer commented on the unlikeliness of a black Ferdinand
as a prince of Naples.  Many reviewers, however, commented unfavourably
on the fact that the lords were played by women, in terms that strayed
far beyond comments on their acting ability. Some kinds of blindness, it
seemed, were more easily accepted than others.

David Lindley
Professor of Renaissance Literature
University of Leeds

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Thu, 10 May 2001 00:46:09 -0400
Subject: 12.1072 Re: Color-Blind Casting and Cordelias
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1072 Re: Color-Blind Casting and Cordelias

We had a very lively debate on this subject in 1998.  If anyone wants to
dust off the archives or start afresh it might be fun, but it doesn't
look as if there is anyone here with the passion brought by Matt
Gretzinger and Stevie Simkin when they served as my foils on the issue.

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