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Gender-Neutral and Color-Blind Casting

I have been doing a lot of research for this Dramaturgy class lately, because our final project is due on Friday.  This project entails creating a hypothetical website and production outline for a show.  I chose Wreckage by Caridad Svich and have had a wonderful time discovering more about the playwright and her beliefs.  One task for the project is choosing a theatre and director to put on this hypothetical performance.  I had chosen a theatre and director a couple weeks ago but had a change of heart and started looking for something else.  It was during this bout of Googling that I cam across a lovely little theatre called New Theatre in Miami, Florida, that I believe fits perfectly for my project.

I found this theatre while searching for companies that promote gender-neutral casting as this play deals a lot with gender role reversal.  The only specific guidelines were for two characters: Nurse and Broadcast (VO), which were to be male.  The rest of the cast can be assumed male or female, but I wanted that to be open.  I also knew that even if the director stuck with the genders suggested, I wanted a company that had an audience that was okay with crossdressing and questioning of gender roles.

There was a story from August of 2011, when New Theatre cast a black female as Henry V in Shakespeare’s play.  The article defends color-blind and gender-neutral casting and supports its help in the community: “It’s a sign of evolving norms in South Florida theater. Color-blind casting and gender-neutral casting are becoming more common. It’s partly an inescapable by-product of a multi-ethnic acting pool and audience demographics in a region where interracial families and diverse workforces are too common to even be noticed.”

The people auditioning for the roles should 100% affect the season selection process and theatre companies should 100% embrace whoever fits the part the best.  If that means a black female will play Henry V then so be it.

At first I thought gender-neutral and color-blind casting would only be utilized in order to make some grand statement, to carry on the aesthetic of the play.  In reading this article, I realized that casting a person rather than their race or gender does not have to be making some statement on race or gender issues in this country.  By casting a gender or race that isn’t “typical” for a certain role, the director is merely choosing who is the most talented.  That’s how all theatre should be! Gender and race are important in certain shows, but for the most part I think it is lovely to see anyone play a part as long as they are good.

As long as this person can thrive at his or her part then I don’t see the problem with gender-neutral and color-blind casting, in fact I hope to implement it in my own work soon.

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