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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: July ::
Re: Colour-Blind Casting
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1489  Wednesday, 23 July 2003

[1]     From:   Patrick Dolan <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 22 Jul 2003 07:07:31 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHAKSPER Digest - 18 Jul 2003 to 21 Jul 2003 (#2003-124)

[2]     From:   Colin Cox <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 22 Jul 2003 06:08:24 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1484 Re: Colour-Blind Casting

[3]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 22 Jul 2003 14:03:47 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1484 Re: Colour-Blind Casting


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Patrick Dolan <
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Date:           Tuesday, 22 Jul 2003 07:07:31 -0500
Subject:        Re: SHAKSPER Digest - 18 Jul 2003 to 21 Jul 2003 (#2003-124)

>The politically correct lefties will come
>tramping out declaring that
>skin colour matters not - in anything - in
>any way - in any play. It's
>nonsense, of course. Skin colour is a
>physical attribute - like age,
>gender, height, and weight. A director casts
>his play or film and
>selects the attributes that best suit the
>script. There is nothing more
>complicated than that.

It may be the case that some politically correct lefties do engage in
colour-blind casting because they believe (I doubt it) or want to
suggest (more like it) that skin colour doesn't matter.

More likely, though, the casting is done to suggest that skin colour
does matter. What makes it more complicated is that there are a whole
range of physical characteristics on the stage. The person playing
Hamlet today, regardless of skin colour, is more than likely taller and
has straighter teeth than the people who played him in the early 17th
century. No one remarks upon that in the way that they notice skin
colour. Certainly, most actors are better looking than I imagine the
"real" Hamlet to have been.  Surely the point of casting against racial
expectations is to explore how skin colour continues to matter more than
other physical characteristics to us all, politically correct lefties
and embittered right wingers.

Has anyone chosen to play Othello as an Arab lately? I know there's a
strand in the 19th and early 20th century that a black Othello couldn't
be as noble as Shakespeare made him (it is, they suggest, just not
realistic), so he must have been a North African.

By the way, Nancy Mairs, a fine, prickly writer who has MS, does a
wonderful little beat in one of her essays about how she prefers the
word "crippled." I have no idea if she's the only one who is attempting
to reclaim and revalue the word, but I've seen it done in print. And
very well, too.

Cheers,
Pat

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Colin Cox <
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Date:           Tuesday, 22 Jul 2003 06:08:24 -0700
Subject: 14.1484 Re: Colour-Blind Casting
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1484 Re: Colour-Blind Casting

>>one wonders why directors and actors insist on forcing audiences to
>>suspend their disbelief more than is usual by idiosyncratic casting
>>choices.

As one who lives and works in one of the most diverse cities in the
world, I have followed this thread in horror. You have got to be joking!

And talking of idiosyncratic casting choices, let's follow the master.

William Shakespeare in Midsummer Night's Dream gives us a dramatis
personae with the following characters: (note setting Athens, Greece,
somewhere around 1250 BCE).

Theseus, Athenian monarch, best friend of Hercules; Hippolyta, Queen of
Warrior Women nation in Southern Russia; Titania, also known as Circe,
homeric goddess; Oberon, also known as Auerbach, Teutonic dwarf, wields
large axe; Puck, nasty elf of Scottish descent; a host of fairies, need
to fit into acorn cups; Helena, aristocratic Greek youth, six foot tall,
Hermia, aristocratoc Greek youth, four feet tall; Lysander and
Demetrius, generic young leading male types; Bottom, Snout, Snug,
Quince, working-class, English artisans of distinct Elizabethan flavour;
Starveling also Elizabethan artisan, very tall (looking for John Sincklo
type).

That my friends would be a Hollywood nightmare! What more suspension of
belief can even the wildest director possibly add to that? As always,
Will is the Master! 'Coz in the end  . . . The play's the thing, right
guv?

Colin Cox
Artistic Director
Will & Company

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Tuesday, 22 Jul 2003 14:03:47 -0400
Subject: 14.1484 Re: Colour-Blind Casting
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1484 Re: Colour-Blind Casting

>If we were to restrict ourselves to casting realistically the world
>would never have seen Peggy Ashcroft's extraordinary Queen Margaret.
>Obviously she couldn't be both an enchanting sixteen year old and a
>haggard old woman, so how could she play both the Margaret of Henry VI
>part 1, and of Richard III?

Makeup, prosthetics, lighting, costuming and, of course, acting skills
invoked by differing movements, gestures, etc., appropriate for the
varying ages.  Did Dame Peggy play the 16 year old Margaret looking like
a 70 year old dowager?

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