Color-conscious casting (was: Tituss Burgess is Rooster in ANNIE LIVE)
Last Edit: Chromolume 08:14 pm EDT 08/12/21
Posted by: Chromolume 07:59 pm EDT 08/12/21
In reply to: re: Tituss Burgess is Rooster in ANNIE LIVE - Singapore/Fling 07:21 pm EDT 08/12/21

You’re referring to color blind casting, and we’re discussing color conscious casting.

I was going to post on this very thing before, but somehow didn't. It seems to me that "color conscious casting" is much more the focus now indeed. Which is taking some adjustment on my part, because I, like Snowysdad, have been supportive of the idea that the race of the actor shouldn't matter in terms of the character - but I get the idea now that BIPOC actors don't necessarily want to "disappear" into a (typically white) character in that way, and don't wish to be seen that way. Understood completely.

I had an interesting moment in a class earlier this year. Two of my students were working on a musical scene (socially distanced) written with 2 white characters in mind, but the male actor in this case was black. (It was "Falling Into You" from The Bridges of Madison County.) We had a guest member of the faculty observing the class that day (a black male - himself a teacher and director at the college) and he asked me afterwards if we had talked at all about how the casting of the male role as black influenced how the students worked on and presented the scene. I was initially surprised at the question, as I wasn't looking at the literal race of the students as it pertained to the material, just treating this as "color blind." I also admitted to the guest that as a white man, I didn't feel altogether comfortable bringing up that question. He was very understanding of that, but said that it would in fact be acceptable, as a teacher, for me to bring it up. He also mentioned all of this to the students, and I do remember we all had a short talk about it (the students saying they were interested in exploring that with each other), but unfortunately I don't remember that we ever discussed it in depth in terms of the work after that.

But it did make me think more about this in general. If this is where BIPOC performers (or at least an appreciable number of them) now want to be - making their ethnicity a visible and important part of their characters instead of ignoring it, I absolutely applaud that. But it does add a new dimension to the way we view such casting (especially as Caucasians, who may not always be comfortable seeing things this way). I think it's been one thing to translate an entire show or story to a different ethnicity (the famous all-black revivals of Hello Dolly, Guys And Dolls, etc, or shows like The Wiz), but I think it's another to cast a show with a mixed company, often in cases where BIPOC ethnicity was not originally considered, or where historically that wouldn't have *realistically* worked, where each actors' ethnicity IS a visible and purposeful part of the story.

The problem out here on ATC is that I tend to think that we are mostly white men (and some women) all making comments on this, without a visible and strong BIPOC perspective on it. I wish we had more of an active BIPOC presence here so that we could really hear all sides of the debate. I think that's so important. Trying to approach this only as Caucasians means we're missing a lot of the story, and we're also, I daresay, assuming a lot.

But yes, if we are in a world where "color conscious casting" is now the goal, I am very supportive of that. And what that idea brings to any given show will, I hope, provoke some thoughtful and needed discussions. (I would also be interested to hear from BIPOC members specifically how Hamilton plays a part in this, or doesn't - is that purely an example of "diverse casting," or does the show also go far enough in celebrating that diversity through the characters as cast?? I tend to assume the general consensus would be that it doesn't go far enough - but that's just an assumption.)

And as always, since discussing issues of race can be a tricky thing, if I have said anything in a way that anyone feels is offensive in the slightest, I apologize and will be happy to try to re-phrase or re-think. Thank you!!

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