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Student Blog: Dear Casting Directors: Thin ≠ Healthy, So Erase Your Body Standards

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In order to do eight shows a week, any performer's body has to be able to sustain itself.

When I was seventeen years old, I auditioned for one of the so-called "best BFA musical theatre programs" in the country. I thought this school was my top choice because of that reputation, despite never having visited the campus or met the faculty. So I began my audition with their dance call, standing there in my black leotard and tights, fighting to get through the combination for which I barely had enough stamina at the time. One of the professors watching us noted this to the other one, to which he responded, "Yes, but she has a good body. We can work with that, right?" I stood there with my shaking legs, absurdly racing heart, and blue-tinged nails, aghast at what had just been said.

Did my body, which they had never seen before that day, have more of an influence on my acceptance than my actual performance? Sadly, I knew deep down that this was just one of many instances that awaited me as I delved further and further into auditioning at the collegiate and professional level. As much as the industry preaches health and caring for the body and the whole "eight shows a week is no joke" mentality, performers' bodies are expected to be thin. In reality, thinness hardly equals health- in my case, my "good body" at that audition was a body that had been victimized by self-induced starvation, self-harm, and overwork, and it hardly got me through a one-hour dance call. At this point, it's a commonly known fact among performing arts students that this industry is a hotbed for disordered eating and body dysmorphia, which is a far cry from being healthy, so why do casting directors still standardize on thin bodies?

The old-school mentality that thin bodies are "the best-looking" onstage has wormed itself so far into every performer's head by now that even in this day and age, where almost all performers are collectively rallying for Broadway to exhibit more accepting behaviour, this nasty body standard continues to gnaw at us, convincing us that thinness is more important than health. As we adapt to this post-pandemic life, casting directors and professors need to understand that health looks different on everyone, and in order to maintain an "eight shows a week" body, we need to genuinely nourish ourselves. And if your genuinely nourished body costs you any gig because it isn't a director's idea of a "good body," don't miss out on a meal. Instead, know that they're the ones missing out on you.


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From This Author Student Blogger: Meredith Muirhead