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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: May ::
Re: Color-Blind Casting
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1099  Friday, 11 May 2001

[1]     From:   L. Swilley <
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        Date:   Thursday, 10 May 2001 10:05:56 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1089 Re: Color-Blind Casting and Cordelias

[2]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Thursday, 10 May 2001 08:15:14 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1089 Re: Color-Blind Casting and Cordelias

[3]     From:   Jack Heller <
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        Date:   Thursday, 10 May 2001 11:49:28 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1089 Re: Color-Blind Casting and Macbeth

[4]     From:   Adrian Kiernander <
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        Date:   Friday, 11 May 2001 17:15:59 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1072 Re: Color-Blind Casting and Cordelias


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           L. Swilley <
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Date:           Thursday, 10 May 2001 10:05:56 -0500
Subject: 12.1089 Re: Color-Blind Casting and Cordelias
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1089 Re: Color-Blind Casting and Cordelias

Isn't all of this rather like opera's use of overweight performers in
romantic roles?  After the initial shock and amusement, the audience
tends to forget everything but what they paid to see and hear: the
story, the voices, the interpretation.  They won't be distracted from
those interests unless the lines or actions bring them back to the
inconsistencies - as did Ethan Hale's recherche "Hamlet" with its
continuing references to kings and queens and such in a
big-modern-business context that kept reminding us of the differences.
And, then, of course, accidents on stage can bring back unwanted
references: there was that unfortunate performance of "La Boheme", when
the alas-too-hefty Rudolpho, in his grief, fell over the dying Mimi -
and collapsed her bed!

L. Swilley

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Thursday, 10 May 2001 08:15:14 -0700
Subject: 12.1089 Re: Color-Blind Casting and Cordelias
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1089 Re: Color-Blind Casting and Cordelias

Following up David Lindley's informative comments, the Oregon
Shakespeare Festival's current production of *The Tempest* has a woman
actor cast as Prospero.  I will not see the show until late June, so
these comments are second hand.

It has been very ill reviewed.  I have seen two print reviews, and spoke
with two students who saw it.  All were scathing.  I tired to learn if
the dissatisfaction was discomfort with a woman playing Prospero, in
other words a spot of prejudice, or if the production was just a
misfire.  The responses were mixed.

I understand that the text has been adjusted so that Prospero is
Miranda's MOTHER, not her father.  "Your father was a piece of
virtue..."  I trust not.

It is also noteworthy that Ashland usually casts a woman in male roles a
couple of times a year, without text adjustments.  This has been true
for the past three years that I have noticed, and possibly longer.

I'd welcome comments correcting anything that I have misunderstood, and
a learned history of women actors playing male roles in Ashland.

All the best,
Mike Jensen

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Heller <
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Date:           Thursday, 10 May 2001 11:49:28 -0400
Subject: 12.1089 Re: Color-Blind Casting and Macbeth
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1089 Re: Color-Blind Casting and Macbeth

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

It seems that I heard that Andre Braugher once played Macbeth. If so,
would anyone who has seen this care to comment? I can't think of anyone
I'd rather see trying that role.

Jack Heller

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Adrian Kiernander <
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Date:           Friday, 11 May 2001 17:15:59 +1000
Subject: 12.1072 Re: Color-Blind Casting and Cordelias
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1072 Re: Color-Blind Casting and Cordelias

I've just rejoined the group, so forgive me if I'm repeating anything
that has already been said.

The Bell Shakespeare Company in Australia did a Tempest with a
white-skinned Prospero and a dark-skinned Miranda. As far as I am aware,
the audience had no trouble linking skin colour to the actor and not to
the character, and there was no justification offered in the production
(the skin colour of Prospero's wife would have been a quite irrelevant
question), except that Paula Arundel is a wonderful performer.

They repeated this with Henry V in 1999, where Paula Arundel played
Princess Katherine, again wonderfully, in an otherwise white-skinned
French court.  This time the production did draw attention to skin
colour to the extent that her hairstyle and costume emphasised that this
Princess of France was (inexplicably and without any dramatic logic) a
black woman. Not a single critic drew attention to this fact (perhaps
for fear of being accused of racism; after all, why shouldn't a black
actor play a white role? Should we even notice?) but I have argued in a
recent conference paper that in this case the casting was not at all
colour-blind but had the effect of engaging the production in a very
topical debate within Australia about the relationship between
white-skinned and non-white-skinned Australians.

Of course there are many good industrial and political reasons for not
giving any role which can and should be played by a dark-skinned actor
to one with white skin.

Adrian Kiernander

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