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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: August ::
Re: Colour-Blind Casting
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1547  Friday, 1 August 2003

[1]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 30 Jul 2003 18:15:30 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1539 Re: Colour-Blind Casting

[2]     From:   Tom Reedy <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 30 Jul 2003 23:46:01 -0500
        Subj:   Re: Colour-Blind Casting

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Wednesday, 30 Jul 2003 18:15:30 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 14.1539 Re: Colour-Blind Casting
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1539 Re: Colour-Blind Casting

Of course, color matters. Unfortunately, even in today's world,
something is made of the fact when a role is filled by someone who does
not match a certain profile for the part even when that profile is not
specified in the text.

BUT the point I believe is not gimmick casting. Of course, directors may
choose to go that path if they so choose. And usually such casting rings
hollow. But why is the casting of color (and specifically the point
being made in this thread is connected to black actors) so important?
Why is no one outraged by all male and all female casts at the Globe?
What is the problem if the actors cast in those roles are good in them?
I don't recall any issue being made publicly about Adrian Lester being
cast as Hamlet by Peter Brook or as Henry V by Nicholas Hytner. And that
is how it should be.  If an actor is simply good, these issues of color
seem to fade away. I find it highly encouraging that Adrian can play
these roles without politicism.  He's good. It doesn't matter that Henry
V was historically as white as snow. I seem to recall that Henry VI in
the RSC's first tetralogy from winter 2001 was cast simply because he
was the best actor for the part. It was the press that noted he was the
first black actor to play an English monarch in a Shakespeare play.

I think that those who wish to protect these roles for the historical
"realism" of their skin color need to take a hard look at their real
motivations. I noticed for a full 10 seconds that Henry VI happened to
be black. Then I was entranced by his performance and was completely
unaware of his skin color. To somehow hint that Adrian Lester should
only play Othello is insulting to the actor's craft and smacks of
segregationism. Of course we will never be totally unaware of skin color
at all times. But then again, when are we unaware of physical qualities
- both strengths and weaknesses - at any time? Let the actors play and
let us judge them on their talent alone.

Brian Willis

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Reedy <
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Date:           Wednesday, 30 Jul 2003 23:46:01 -0500
Subject:        Re: Colour-Blind Casting

Terry Gross had an interesting interview with Nigerian-born actor
Chiwetel Ejiofor on Fresh Air today in which he talks about playing
Romeo at the National Theatre. The interview is archived at
http://freshair.npr.org/.

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