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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: August ::
Re: Colour-Blind Casting
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1570  Thursday, 7 August 2003

[1]     From:   Syd Kasten <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 06 Aug 2003 16:12:46 +0200
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1568 Re: Colour-Blind Casting

[2]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 6 Aug 2003 13:42:51 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 14.1568 Re: Colour-Blind Casting

[3]     From:   Jeff Michael <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 6 Aug 2003 10:46:42 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1568  Re: Colour-Blind Casting

[4]     From:   Mark Adderley <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 6 Aug 2003 13:48:53 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.1568 Re: Colour-Blind Casting


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Syd Kasten <
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Date:           Wednesday, 06 Aug 2003 16:12:46 +0200
Subject: 14.1568 Re: Colour-Blind Casting
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1568 Re: Colour-Blind Casting

>I doubt whether the permissive casters on this list would
>toss their houses into the success or failure of a film which had a
>one-legged woman as the leading man etc etc.  I doubt it very much.
>
>SAM SMALL

I have read and reread Sam's note and conclude that he is unhappy with
the present state of the theatre.  But I can't understand why he invokes
Sarah Bernhardt.  Is he saying that today's casters, far out as they
are, wouldn't have the courage to hire her? Or that she never was any
good, but got work and praise for reasons other than her talent?  Or
that the present trends he bemoans began a century ago and more?

Just wondering,
Syd Kasten

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Wednesday, 6 Aug 2003 13:42:51 +0100
Subject: Re: Colour-Blind Casting
Comment:        SHK 14.1568 Re: Colour-Blind Casting

"If an overweight Collie dog were to play Richard the Third..."

My best friend is a scholar of Regency and early-Victorian literature
and society. She assures me that there were such things as "dog dramas"
on the Victorian stage. They sound like they'd have been a sort of
theatre-bound "Lassie".

"waugh waugh
His dogges barke"

m

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jeff Michael <
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Date:           Wednesday, 6 Aug 2003 10:46:42 EDT
Subject: 14.1568  Re: Colour-Blind Casting
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1568  Re: Colour-Blind Casting

Colour-blind casting came up often when I was in graduate school (this
was mid-90s, so it was really taking hold in the regional theatre
world).

Our conclusion was that the farther back you go in terms of a play's
creation date, the easier it was to engage in colour-blind casting.
Thus, casting a Greek drama with no regard to the race of the performers
raises no eyebrows, but would be much more complicated for more
contemporary plays.

It seems, if this theory holds any water at all, that Shakespeare is at
a cut-off point; plays older than Shakespeare can be cast colour-blind
and post-Shakespearean works not so much. Does that make sense? Is it
possible that the line will continue to move, so that the farther we get
from Shakespeare, the easier it will be to engage in c-b casting of his
works?  (Easier in the sense that it won't distract any segment of the
audience.)

Jeff Michael

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mark Adderley <
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Date:           Wednesday, 6 Aug 2003 13:48:53 -0500
Subject: 14.1568 Re: Colour-Blind Casting
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.1568 Re: Colour-Blind Casting

Sam Small wrote: "An all female cast at the Globe will get you the grins
of the faithful few but miscasting a feature film costing fifty million
dollars will get you shot.  I doubt whether the permissive casters on
this list would toss their houses into the success or failure of a film
which had a one-legged woman as the leading man etc etc.  I doubt it
very much."

Audience is everything. New York and West End theatres can afford
non-traditional casting because of the diversity of their potential
audiences.  My Shakespeare group performs plays for middle- and
high-school audiences.  I could cast an Asian Macbeth, or a black
Benedick, or a female Hamlet, but there are other kinds of limitations.
A year and a half ago, we shelved plans to perform "Romeo and Juliet"
because the local Chief of Police pointed out to me that the play is
cited in a statistically significant number of teen suicide letters.  I
don't know whether he was right or wrong, since I never followed up, but
for a local group like mine, keeping the Chief of Police happy with us
is far more important than performing the play we wanted to.  We're
ready now -- we have workshops and so forth planned, and we're no longer
in an area where suicide is such a prominent problem.  Another one is
alcohol.  When we played "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in late 2000, we
used Wild West costumes (I know it sounds awful, but it worked pretty
well for our audience).  I had a very funny routine in 2.1, set in a
saloon, with Hermia and Helena knocking back double shots of whisky
while Lysander gapes at them.  They won't let him get at the bottle.  We
performed the play at one particular middle school where there had been
a problem with alcohol recently, and had to do something much more
boring.  It still worked, but I felt like I'd been cheated.  But that's
not important.  The audience is always right.  The people buying the
tickets are the people who help me do what I enjoy doing.  And that's
not so bad; Shakespeare wrote for his audiences as well as for his
players, after all.

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