Casting without Considering Appearance

darion
Understudy
joined:5/4/12
Casting without Considering Appearance
Posted: 1/14/13 at 12:07pm
i wonder what will they do in breakfast at tiffanys? Mickey Rooney played an Asian man in the movie...
AC126748
Broadway Legend
joined:7/15/06
Casting without Considering Appearance
Posted: 1/14/13 at 01:39pm
Madbrian's point is the most salient, IMO. There are certain roles where a certain characteristic--be it race, gender, look, height, weight, etc--is integral to the character. In such cases, the part should be cast with an appropriate actor who fits those characteristics. Aside from that, if there is nothing that would prevent the character being played by an actor of any race, or any time, or any size, then I don't have a problem. The lines blur a bit case by case, of course, but in principal that's what I think works best.
"You travel alone because other people are only there to remind you how much that hook hurts that we all bit down on. Wait for that one day we can bite free and get back out there in space where we belong, sail back over water, over skies, into space, the hook finally out of our mouths and we wander back out there in space spawning to other planets never to return hurrah to earth and we'll look back and can't even see these lives here anymore. Only the taste of blood to remind us we ever existed. The earth is small. We're gone. We're dead. We're safe." -John Guare, Landscape of the Body
g.d.e.l.g.i.
Broadway Star
joined:6/13/12
Casting without Considering Appearance
Posted: 1/14/13 at 05:28pm
I've seen a fat Jesus. It was interesting, to say the least.

I saw the after-effect of one, and I think I feel cheated for not having seen the actual guy. See, this production came just after Ted Neeley's successful Nineties tour, where he pulled a Peter Pan and flew off the cross (hope I'm not spoiling the ending for anyone). It was a snazzy effect that many productions replicated, and this one was no different.

The guy playing Jesus had a great voice, from all accounts, but let's not mince words, he weighed in at around 300 pounds. Well, in this production, Big Fat Jesus (he gave himself this nickname) went into the sepulcher when he was buried, which was actually staged in this rendition, and there was an interlude before the ascension. When he rose from the dead, he was flown by pulleys up into the fly space around 40 feet above the stage.

Now, I don't know if you know about how these fly things work, but they are very carefully counter-weighted on one side of the stage, so that the guy just flips a lever and the rope is released, and these counterweights on the other side just gently let him rise up into heaven. Well, Big Fat Jesus, so the story goes, would slip out of the tomb and have a smoke every night before getting into the harness. The night I saw it, apparently the light in the tomb wasn't working, and Jesus hit his head on the back door of the tomb and needed about a dozen stitches.

They got the Jesus understudy (who'd done a serviceable job as Peter in the rest of the show), and strapped him in, but no one told the stage hand that he was not a 300 pound Jesus. Guy hit the switch, and the audience saw the new Jesus come flying out of the tomb like a rocket, screaming the whole way to Heaven. There was a sickening thud when his head hit the grid, and then one by one his sandals dropped to the stage.

I'll never forget it.

Formerly gvendo2005
Broadway Legend
joined: 5/1/05

Blocked: After Eight, suestorm, FindingNamo, david_fick, emlodik
Updated On: 1/14/13 at 05:28 PM
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Casting without Considering Appearance
Posted: 1/14/13 at 05:33pm
But if a white actor plays a black role, hell breaks loose.

Why is that?


It's not about art and it's not about tolerance.

It's about economics and simple fairness. Minority actors already have fewer roles at their disposal; to take away even those roles in the name of "color-blind casting" is simply wrong.

Now things may change if someday all or nearly all casting is done without regard to race; but we are still a long way from that day.
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Casting without Considering Appearance
Posted: 1/14/13 at 05:38pm
Their opinion was that a black girl can't be a maid. Why is that?

Obviously, African-American women do play maids. We had a very popular and critically acclaimed film called THE HELP last year in which black women did just that.

But the point is that portraying black women as maids is a very heavy-handed cliche in American culture. Some people apparently didn't want the first black Disney heroine to continue that stereotype.

I believe you are European and things may be very different there.

And I thought the solution of making the heroine a cook who dreams of opening her own restaurant was an elegant and refreshing twist on old stereotypes.
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Casting without Considering Appearance
Posted: 1/14/13 at 05:45pm
This whole "race thing" is getting extremely one sided. That needs to stop.

Amen, Carlos. The truth is the vast majority of theater artists in every area are unemployed most of the time. Resenting minority artists because once in awhile they catch a break is dishonest and unfair.

And the assertions that minorities will react with violence if they don't get the part they think they deserve is ridiculous. We have plenty of examples on this board of minority members being quite gracious about unfair casting.

I think the problem is that white people notice if a role is reserved for actors of color. The same white people don't notice that 90% of roles are reserved (even if "unofficially") for white actors.

Personally, I don't think affirmative action has worked against me as a white man very often. But on the few occasions where it did, I had to assume there were countless more instances where being white and male gave ME the unfair advantage. So I didn't waste any time feeling resentful.
Dave19
Broadway Star
joined:12/23/11
Casting without Considering Appearance
Posted: 1/14/13 at 06:16pm
"Minority actors already have fewer roles at their disposal; to take away even those roles in the name of "color-blind casting" is simply wrong."

I think "minority" has nothing to do with casting. Casting directors should erase that word from their minds. They should always go for the best person.

Gays are a minority too, but why can't a straight actor play a gay role? Are those roles "exclusive" for gay people? Should casting directors reject the best person because he happens to be straight? Because they want to stand up for the minority? If he/she is the best at the audition they should hire him/her, that's all that matters in casting.



Updated On: 1/14/13 at 06:16 PM
Dave19
Broadway Star
joined:12/23/11
Casting without Considering Appearance
Posted: 1/14/13 at 06:35pm
About Tiana, I am from Europe yes, and you are right, that subject is not such a big deal over here. It seems like a lot of African-American people over here are much more colorblind already.

For example, the girl that voiced Tiana here was not black and no one cared. She was great. I suppose it would have been a big problem if that happened in the USA.......

When it comes to casting, I think only the film/the end product counts. For example, Linda Larkin, a white blonde voiced princess Jasmine in Aladdin. She was great. Who says a role like that is reserved for Arabian-Americans? Who cares that Arabian-Americans are not usually cast for white roles? That may sound hard, but when it comes to casting, people should not care about minorities and personal issues. The end product is all that counts.

For all I care a 50 year old man can voice a little black girl, if he is the best at the voice test.
ComingUpRoses2
Leading Actor
joined:3/14/11
Casting without Considering Appearance
Posted: 1/14/13 at 06:42pm
Unless there's a good reason for them not to, I can't why any talented actor of any race can't play any given role.

A white actress playing one of the maids in The Help is a terrible idea, because it makes no sense and cheapens the whole thing. Unless there's an actor out there who could do it in blackface (and offend lots of people in the process) and make me believe she (or he?) is a black woman in the 60's south, they should give the role to a black woman. Maybe Tracey Ullman could do it. She played a black woman once and did it flawlessly, but talent like that is rare.

Jon
Broadway Legend
joined:2/20/04
Casting without Considering Appearance
Posted: 1/14/13 at 07:40pm
As an actor "of size", it really offends me when skinny actors are made to wear fat suits, like the actor who played Nicely-Nicely in the last (awful)Guys and Dolls revival.

There's nothing in the script that says the character must be fat. Skinny actor Walter Bobbie played it quite well in the (wonderful) 1992 version. But if the director is so set on having a fat Nicely-Nicely, then damn it, cast a fat actor!
Matt Rogers
Broadway Star
joined:10/4/04
Casting without Considering Appearance
Posted: 1/14/13 at 08:39pm
Dave, you are making yourself sound like a complete raving lunatic.

Even setting you racist chicken wings comment aside, you have repeated your same stupid points here about 30 times each.

And what is your obsession to have a white Rachel in The Bodyguard? Did your best girlfriend get denied a role? From what I've read, Heather Headly is the one and only reason to see that show.

And now you're starting to blabber about straight people playing gay roles. Really? Sean Penn in Milk? Tom Hanks in Philadelphia? Cast members of Broadway's The Normal Heart? What about the original leads of La Cage???? They were STRAIGHT. Pray tell, who are all these horrible gay people stealing gay roles from your straight brothers and sisters?

I don't know what your problem is but maybe it's time for you to find something new to obsess about.
GavestonPS
Broadway Legend
joined:6/10/12
Casting without Considering Appearance
Posted: 1/14/13 at 10:10pm
I think "minority" has nothing to do with casting. Casting directors should erase that word from their minds. They should always go for the best person.

Dave, you throw around the word "best" as if it had an objective meaning on which we can all agree when it comes to casting. The fact is there are dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of excellent actors for every role in a major film or theatrical production.

Final casting decisions almost always come down to the eccentricities of personal taste, so why shouldn't simple fairness be included in the equation?

The fact is white people (directors, casting directors and even BWW posters) tend to assume a character is white unless the script specifically says otherwise. To suddenly stand on principle and demand that white performers be cast in minority roles simply adds insult to injury.
Taryn
Broadway Legend
joined:1/24/04
Casting without Considering Appearance
Posted: 1/14/13 at 11:25pm
Every time someone brings up the "if minority actors can be colorblind cast in traditionally white roles, why can't white actors get cast in minority roles" argument, I want to scream.

There is a reason why this "race thing" is so "one-sided," and it's because white people do not have a history of being systematically marginalized by society. Like most industries, theatre has a history of supporting white artists and white shows and white casts over minorities. The number of roles out there for white actors are monumental, because everything that is not otherwise specified is pretty much assumed to be white. The number of minority roles is, in comparison, minuscule.

All I really hear when this argument comes up is "why can't white people have all the roles." They already have 99% of them!
FindingNamo
Broadway Legend
joined:7/22/03
Casting without Considering Appearance
Posted: 1/15/13 at 12:37am
Someday, maybe soon, there will be a heavyset Elphaba. I mean, look at the success of "Girls" on the Home Box Office.
"Colbert is toast after this latest flap." -- Mr Roxy "Read 'Atlas Shrugged'." -- Gothampc
Idiot
Broadway Star
joined:10/9/10
Casting without Considering Appearance
Posted: 1/15/13 at 01:07am
The 'Big Fat Jesus' story above made re-checking this thread TOTALLY worth it.
ajh
Stand-by
joined:5/6/11
Casting without Considering Appearance
Posted: 1/15/13 at 08:31am
Agreed re "Big Fat Jesus" story. Crying with laughter here.

Does anybody know if there were any white "John"s in Miss Saigon in the Broadway production or any of the major Tours? I know in the original London production the first John was Peter Polycarpou (who is of British-Greek descent I believe) and his understudy was Ray Shell, who is black. But for the rest of the West End run the role was always played by black actor-singers, although there were sometimes white understudies.
darquegk
Broadway Legend
joined:2/5/09
Casting without Considering Appearance
Posted: 1/15/13 at 09:56am
There is an additional punchline to the Big Fat Jesus story, and I'm surprised it wasn't reported here...

After Jesus hit the ceiling and his sandal smacked down on the stage, there was a hideously tense silence. The director pushed the nearest stage manager onto the mic and told him "Say something!" Terribly flustered and worried about the actor, the SM turned on the god-mic and said the first thing that came to his lips.

"Uh, ladies and gentlemen... Jesus Christ will not be returning. Good night."
Patash
Broadway Legend
joined:5/27/08
Casting without Considering Appearance
Posted: 1/15/13 at 10:26am
duplicate post

Updated On: 1/15/13 at 10:26 AM
Patash
Broadway Legend
joined:5/27/08
Casting without Considering Appearance
Posted: 1/15/13 at 10:26am
Opera has done if for years. LaBoheme has had dozens of obese women playing Mimi -- who is dying of consumption. But the worst I saw was a fairly recent Carmen at The Met, where Carmen was played by a hugely overweight woman who could barely move. The seductive dance sequence was truly a joke and the whole concept of men falling all over themselves because of her beauty was really silly.

And while I'm pretty open to color blind casting, a production of West Side Story I saw at Stratford, Ontario really missed the boat with an Asian Maria. It just plain didn't make sense, but then neither did the wimpy little very effeminate Tony.

Updated On: 1/15/13 at 10:26 AM
suestorm
Broadway Legend
joined:1/15/13
Casting without Considering Appearance
Posted: 1/15/13 at 10:56am
we will never have full equality until people stop with this black this, white that... so sick of it, and most of it im afraid is from my progressive friends whose hearts are in the right place.... where does it end? Must someone playing Pocahantas be Native American? if so must she be from the Algonquian tribe? Would a Sioux playing her be offensive? What about Anna Karenina? Must she be Russian? or would Ukrainian be considered an insensitive? Evita is from Argentina,so lets make sure shes an Argentinian....well we saw where that got us, a mediocre Evita.
we even got a taste of the looniness when Cinderealla had BROWN HAIR!!! ugh we are being strangled by over sensitivity.


FINDINGNAMO, SNAFU, THEATERDIVE, JORDANCATALONO, LIZASHEADBAND, PALJOEY: You all claim to "IGNORE ME" I wish you would and stop constantly commenting on my posts. Thanks ...................................................................................................................................... The MOST POPULAR and DANGEROUS Poster on BWW! Banned by the PTA, PTC and the MEANGIRLS of BWW..................................................................................................................... ...Ukraine Girls really knock me out, they leave the west behind..........................
Updated On: 1/15/13 at 10:56 AM
Dave19
Broadway Star
joined:12/23/11
Casting without Considering Appearance
Posted: 1/15/13 at 12:17pm
Matt, what is your point about straight people playing gay characters?

Is there ANYTHING wrong with majority actors to play minority roles?

I don't think so.

Do you? If yes, why?


newintown
Broadway Legend
joined:3/3/10
Casting without Considering Appearance
Posted: 1/15/13 at 12:27pm
The latest uproar: "Bunty Berman Presents" casting:

"Seeking:Equity Female Dancers:Female Dancers. 20s-30s. Need to be able to play South Asian but open to all ethnicities."

There's some vocal objection going around among the South Asian acting community to the effect that only actors of (sufficient) South Asian background be permitted to audition. One (part-South Asian) actress claims that her submission was rejected because she didn't look South Asian enough.

I look forward to seeing how this plays out.

I remember seeing a Charles Mee piece some time back, with an ethnically diverse ensemble who all played multiple roles, most actors representing Asian, South Asian, Middle Eastern, white, African-American, Israeli, etc. Worked fine for me.
Bunty Casting
suestorm
Broadway Legend
joined:1/15/13
Casting without Considering Appearance
Posted: 1/15/13 at 12:56pm
CarlosAlbert, since youre so vocal about casting i am sincerely interested in how you would feel if Mel Gibson was cast in the broadway version of the Harvey Milk story?

FINDINGNAMO, SNAFU, THEATERDIVE, JORDANCATALONO, LIZASHEADBAND, PALJOEY: You all claim to "IGNORE ME" I wish you would and stop constantly commenting on my posts. Thanks ...................................................................................................................................... The MOST POPULAR and DANGEROUS Poster on BWW! Banned by the PTA, PTC and the MEANGIRLS of BWW..................................................................................................................... ...Ukraine Girls really knock me out, they leave the west behind..........................
Updated On: 1/15/13 at 12:56 PM
Phyllis Rogers Stone
Broadway Legend
joined:9/16/07
Casting without Considering Appearance
Posted: 1/15/13 at 02:08pm
Most people who think critically about what's called color-blind casting don't give two shIts about the hair color of an actor. It's a silly kind of straw men created by people who want to pretend they are just taking color-blind casting as far it can go down a slippery slope that only they have created, when it's really just to troll people who have well thought out and defendable arguments in favor of color-blind casting.

Anyone who has been on the board for any period of time knows threads like this come up all the time, and I've learned to measure what I say (or at least try to) lest I find myself trying to have a serious discussion against a contingent of unserious people crowing about why there are no white Effies and every other idiotic and easily debunked comparison argument. I'm not saying this isn't a topic that's ripe for discussion, but years on this board have taught that that lots of people who post what they think are clever or provocative "counterarguments" are just people trolling or so deeply steeped in their own privilege that they don't want to have a serious discussion.

Weight and sex (and even sexuality) are completely separate issues from race, both when it comes to talking about them onstage and off. Conflating them all into one big group and then decrying "PC gone amok" is either wildly uniformed or wildly disingenuous (and on BWW, they could very well be both). I think most people know this, but I guess it bears repeating When we we are talking about race (and I mean this most specifically about the United States) we can't not take into account the years of systematic racism designed and perpetuated to keep African-Americans (and to an extent, all minority races) in a second-class system.

The reason why many times a role that was originated by an black actor remains played by a black actor (say Deloris in Sister Act, Tom Collins in Rent, John in most professional American productions of Miss Saigon, etc) most likely does has to do with the relative dearth of roles for black actors in the theatre. Yes, there are your Raisins, and Dreamgirls, and August Wilson plays, etc, but for those who continually seem to have something stuck in their craw about seeing a black face in a musical or play that isn't "historically correct" seems to speak to a deeper pathology, one that probably can't be worked on on a forum such as BWW. Yes, all those shows exist, but to be of the mindset that "they have those shows, why do they need need to be in WHITE shows" seems to express a notion that black performers should be ghettoized into shows that only deal with the experience of being black.

As to the all Thai version of Miss Saigon that Chooka watched on youtube, was that not performed in Thailand? I'm not sure how a show like that fits into this discussion, since those whole conservation falls apart when we discussing racial issues in countries that a) are almost predominately one race and b) Don't carry the same scars that racism leaves behind in Western countries, where the majority race is Caucasian and the races that aren't Caucasian suffer at the hands of hundreds of years of white privilege. It's as much of a straw man as complaining about a blonde Cinderella or a straight person playing a gay person. And anyone who can't (or more likely, won't) understand that really has no place in this discussion.

It must be nice to believe that if you stop talking about "black this" and "white that" that all sorts of systematic racism will magically evaporated. It's wrong (and ignorant) but still, it must be nice.


CarlosAlberto
Broadway Legend
joined:6/29/10
Casting without Considering Appearance
Posted: 1/15/13 at 02:15pm
@ suestorm, I highly doubt that Mel Gibson, a known homophobe would consider or even be considered to play Harvey Milk.

But let's pretend he wasn't. Let's say he wasn't a mysoginist or a an anti-semite, or a raging homophobe. Well, then I wouldn't object as he is an actor and should be given the opportunity to play a wide variety of characters.

Jeffrey Wright, who just happens to be one of my all time favorite actors is a great example. He won a Tony and an Emmy for playing a hispanic homosexual nurse in ANGELS IN AMERICA. He is neither hispanic, homosexual or a nurse.

But I was talking more race - - - not sexual orientation.

One of my all time favorite performances is Natalie Wood as "Maria" in WEST SIDE STORY. She wasn't Puerto Rican and on top of that she couldn't sing and was dubbed. It's considered her most memorable role.

Updated On: 1/15/13 at 02:15 PM
suestorm
Broadway Legend
joined:1/15/13
Casting without Considering Appearance
Posted: 1/15/13 at 02:17pm
fair enough carlos!
FINDINGNAMO, SNAFU, THEATERDIVE, JORDANCATALONO, LIZASHEADBAND, PALJOEY: You all claim to "IGNORE ME" I wish you would and stop constantly commenting on my posts. Thanks ...................................................................................................................................... The MOST POPULAR and DANGEROUS Poster on BWW! Banned by the PTA, PTC and the MEANGIRLS of BWW..................................................................................................................... ...Ukraine Girls really knock me out, they leave the west behind..........................