As a male identifying person in the School of Theatre, I cannot say that I have been let down by casting in any way. I have been given many roles that I am proud of. However, the thing that scares me about the casting process in this institution is the fact that I will never know why I received the parts that I have been given. I am extremely aware of the fact that casting opportunities are greatly skewed when comparing the opportunities allotted to men and woman. Because there are a lot of girls and far less guys in the casting pool itself, it goes without saying that there are more opportunities for guys to receive “significant” roles. When it comes to actors, guys are in demand. This is how it’s always been. Although I see it as inherently unfair I recognize that I must also learn to acknowledge it as a truth. On the surface, this is a truth that benefits me. Like I said before I have been given “significant” roles. But the CFA in itself is a bubble; a microcosm that does not directly relate to the real world. Just because I’m being given roles here does not mean that it will be the same way once I enter the industry professionally. And this is the thing that keeps me up at night.
I don’t mean to say this in a self-depreciating way. I don’t think that I am a bad actor or anything. I just know that in an environment where the pool to pick from is so small, the odds of getting cast are vastly different from the odds of getting selected out of hundreds of others. And then, once considering the fact that I am a male of color, the pool gets even smaller. Many of the roles I’ve been given have been relatively specific to who I am, whether it be because of my race, gender or sexuality. And even though I’m extremely proud and grateful for the work I’ve been able to do as an actor in this program, I can’t help but wonder if I’d work in the same way if I was being selected from a larger pool of actor like me. Sometimes I wonder if I’m merely a placeholder; an actor cast to fill a particular role merely because of its specific qualifications.
This issue may not be rooted in any sense of reality and may just be a result of my overly critical mind. Although I do feel as though I am being confronted by this issue right now. In my career I want to explore gender in unconventional ways. I don’t want to be confined to playing only roles that were specifically written for male-identifying actors. In fact, it has always been a dream of mine to explore playing a female role in Shakespeare. Because of this I have decided to audition for the Femm Shakes production of Richard III. Femme Shakes is traditionally an all female production of a Shakespeare play. I decided to audition because, similarly to women being given the opportunity to explore a male-identifying character, I figured it would be the perfect opportunity for me to explore a character who’s gender is different than mine. However, the odds are that I will not be cast in this production. This quarter in particular is especially short on men and therefore there is little to no leeway for a man to play something other than one of the traditionally male roles. Although I understand this dilemma it also hurts me. Even though I have not yet auditioned for Femme Shakes and therefore do not know if I’m even being considered for a role, to know that I might not get a chance to be a part of a production I feel strongly about merely due to the fact that I am a male makes me feel let down. And again, I realize that it is a privilege to be considered for any role at all, but to know that I am needed to fill a role based on my gender makes me feel like I’m being cast based on my qualifiers and not based on my actual abilities as an actor. For all I know I may have nothing to complain about, and when it comes down to it I am grateful for whatever comes my way. I just hope I am cast based on who I am, not what I am.