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BWW Blog: The Plus in Casting Plus Sized Women

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Every body type is valid, beautiful, and should be represented onstage.

As I have mentioned previously, I'm a plus-size woman and a firm believer and in the "eff-your beauty standards" movement. Every body type is valid, beautiful, and should be represented onstage. Unfortunately, due to the bias against plus-sized people in the entertainment industry, especially musical theatre, we are often pigeonholed into the roles of sassy side character, learns-to-love-her-body girl, and mother figures. However, many leading lady roles in the musical theatre canon could not only be played by plus-sized women easily but when played by plus-sized women, add an extremely interesting and revolutionary take on the role. Here are just a few of the many that come to mind.

1. Dawn, Waitress

Dawn is terrified of dating because of her fear of rejection. In her big solo "When He Sees Me", she confides in the audience, that her fear is "when he sees me, what if he doesn't like it? What if he runs the other way...what if when he knows me, he's only disappointed?". If a plus-sized woman played Dawn, just imagine how impactful those lyrics and storylines would be. Dawn has always been terrified of men rejecting her, now due to her weight, and is more scared than ever when she finally does find someone and fall in love because he could reject her when they meet in person and he sees that she is plus-sized (been there, done that). To her surprise and delight, she finds a great guy who isn't fatphobic and loves her just the way she is.

2. Elphaba, Wicked

Elphaba as a plus-sized woman just makes sense. Musical Theatre's resident green girl, the foil to perky, peppy, blonde, the definition of conventionally beautiful, Glinda. If Elphaba was plus-sized, it would add more of a reason for her to feel like an outsider. Another reason that she is outcast from her fellow students at Shiz and Ozian Society. She is antagonized and attacked just for her genetics, the physical attribute that she can't control. What's one more?

3. Cossette, Les Misrables

Cossette is an upper-class woman living in Europe in the late 1700s. It makes sense that she would have a little junk in her trunk. There are already enough female characters that can be cast as thin for plot/logic's sake in the show (Fantine and Eponine). Also, is now a good time to bring up the fact that there are almost no operatic/classical soprano sounding roles in musical theatre written for plus size women? Because... yeah. Let us have this one, please.

4. Veronica Sawyer, Heathers

During her transformation to hot-girl Heather, her weight is mentioned, that "Of course, you could stand to lose a few pounds." If the Heathers don't see her as being quite thin enough, why is she constantly cast as someone very thin? Why not make her a plus-sized, hot-girl badass? Plus, a plus-sized person performing Dead Girl Walking? I mean, talk about groundbreaking representation of plus-sized people being treated as sexy with no punch line. Side note, Martha Dunnstock being written as plus-sized does not impact this casting at all. There can and should be multiple plus-sized performers playing leading roles in any given show. Period.

5. Any and all roles where the character being thin (not "beautiful" or "good-looking", because those roles can and should be played by plus-sized women too) is not a plot point

Get more creative and inclusive, theatre-makers. If you can convince an audience member that a fork can do the can-can, a genie can pop out of a lamp, and that a person on rollerskates dancing to bad 80's music is a train, you sure can cast a plus-sized woman as a leading lady and or love interest. Furthermore, you won't even have to convince the audience. They'll believe it because it's what they see in real life every single day.

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From This Author Student Blogger: Emma Rose Dorsch