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Casting

Much of the content in this section deals with questions about and advice for authentic casting, whether in terms of race (yellowface in the American theatre, whitewashing Latinx stories, or casting non-Native actors in Native roles to ensure productions) gender (trans* actors and the character breakdown), ability (with regard to physically disabled characters and neurodiverse ones), or another characteristic. For an overview of the importance of casting, check out the Theatre History Podcast episode with Dr. Amy Cook about her book Building Character: The Art and Science of Casting, Lavina Jadhwani’s essay color-conscious casting, or Sophia Skiles’ piece on learning how to talk about casting.

The Latest

No Longer Your “Token Black Bitch”
Essay
No Longer Your “Token Black Bitch”
by Latrice Richardson
8 August 2022
Gender Euphoria, Episode 2: The Case for QTPOC Slice-of-Life Drama
Podcast
Gender Euphoria, Episode 2: The Case for QTPOC Slice-of-Life Drama
With Dillon Yruegas
by Nicolas Shannon Savard, Dillon Yruegas
23 February 2022
Casting Roles with Nudity: Body Checks and Why They Never Should Have Existed
Essay
Casting Roles with Nudity: Body Checks and Why They Never Should Have Existed
by Katrina Stelk
17 February 2022
A Black performer wearing patterned headband and yellow shirt on stage
No Longer Your “Token Black Bitch”
Essay

No Longer Your “Token Black Bitch”

8 August 2022

Theatremaker Latrice Richardson addresses the ongoing misogynoir in storytelling by detailing one of her past experiences and advocates for better representation of Black women in theatre.

Gender Euphoria teaser image.
Gender Euphoria, Episode 2: The Case for QTPOC Slice-of-Life Drama
Podcast

Gender Euphoria, Episode 2: The Case for QTPOC Slice-of-Life Drama

With Dillon Yruegas

23 February 2022

Gender Euphoria, the podcast, host Nicolas Shannon Savard sits down with playwright and performer, Dillon Yruegas to talk about two productions of his play The Brunch Crowd. They talk about what a slice-of-life, kitchen sink play full of trans of color characters looks like and what kind of intervention that makes in the theatrical landscape. They dive into the importance of trans joy and queer friendship and its absence on stage. Finally, Dillon reflects on how expansive approaches to casting trans and non-binary characters and how identity-based casting might open up dialogue and create space for a much wider range of faces and experiences to be seen on stage.

Several actors standing or sitting in a practice space.
Casting Roles with Nudity: Body Checks and Why They Never Should Have Existed
Essay

Casting Roles with Nudity: Body Checks and Why They Never Should Have Existed

17 February 2022

Katrina Stelk discusses the role of nudity in theatre and the problem with requiring body checks during the casting process.

Gender Euphoria teaser image.
Gender Euphoria, Episode 1 Part 2: Transgender Legibility: Have We Really Reached the Transgender Tipping Point?
Podcast

Gender Euphoria, Episode 1 Part 2: Transgender Legibility: Have We Really Reached the Transgender Tipping Point?

With Joshua Bastian Cole

16 February 2022

Nicolas Shannon Savard and Joshua Bastian Cole continue their conversation about transgender representation. They critique Time magazine’s 2014 declaration of the “transgender tipping point” of cultural visibility and explore the ways in which Hollywood’s handling of trans narratives bleeds over into the theatre, politics, and daily life for trans and gender nonconforming people.

Gender Euphoria teaser image.
Gender Euphoria, Episode 1 Part 1: Transgender Legibility beyond the Tropes
Podcast

Gender Euphoria, Episode 1 Part 1: Transgender Legibility beyond the Tropes

With Joshua Bastian Cole

9 February 2022

In episode 1 (part 1) of Gender Euphoria, the podcast, host Nicolas Shannon Savard sits down with Joshua Bastian Cole to talk about popular tropes in transgender representation, gender legibility on stage, and the implications of each for trans and nonbinary theatremakers.

an empty audition room
Identity-Conscious Casting
Essay

Identity-Conscious Casting

Moving Beyond Color-Blind and Color-Conscious Casting

2 February 2021

Text-based director and adaptor Lavina Jadhwani chats with casting director Victor Vazquez about her shift from using “color-conscious casting” to “identity-conscious casting,” the importance of casting being seen as part of a show’s design and dramaturgy, and more.

two actors onstage
Towards a Fat Theatre
Essay

Towards a Fat Theatre

Reimagining Bodies Onstage

26 October 2020

Jeff Bouthiette notes that the pandemic has provided an opportunity to reevaluate and rethink everything about the way theatre is created in America, argues that this work has to include fat people, and offers suggestions for a way forward.

three actors onstage
Casting a Wider Net
Essay

Casting a Wider Net

White Institutions Must Seize the Moment

5 August 2020

David Valdes shares the main excuses theatres give when not programming shows created by and with BIPOC artists, how moving to online theatre offers new opportunities, and what the benefits are of making change.

a group of youth actors onstage
Trans Theatre Is More Than a Cast List
Essay

Trans Theatre Is More Than a Cast List

24 March 2020

AJ Schwartz responds to Will Wilhelm’s recent HowlRound piece about trans inclusivity in theatre casting, arguing that, while that’s important, theatre companies have to go a lot further.

two actors onstage
Gender Is Performance
Essay

Gender Is Performance

Why Trans* Actors Should Transcend the Character Breakdown

24 February 2020

Will Wilhelm argues that trans* actors are particularly skilled at performing gender and questions why it is so rare to see them perform on large stages.

 two actors onstage
Unmanly Grief
Essay

Unmanly Grief

Performing A Trans Hamlet

10 September 2019

Aley O’Mara reflects on Daniel Winder’s Hamlet and speaks to the lead—trans actor Jenet Le Lacheur—about the titular character in this production being nonbinary and transfeminine.

a group posing for a photo
A New Identity for Oklahoma
Essay

A New Identity for Oklahoma

7 August 2019

Tara Brooke Watkins discusses how Oklahoma! has shaped the state’s cultural identity, the Tulsa Race Massacre, and Spinning Plates’s production of the musical with an all-black cast.

gender explosion initiative event rainbow stripes logo
The Gender Explosion Forum
Video

The Gender Explosion Forum

Creating a Space for Gender Diverse Theatre

Tuesday 20 November 2018
Boston, Massachusetts, USA

StageSource in Boston presented the Gender Explosion Forum—a moderated panel discussion on ways to foster gender diversity in the New England theatre community—livestreamed on the global, commons-based peer produced HowlRound TV network at howlround.tv Tuesday 20 November 2018 at 6:30 p.m. EST (Boston) / 5:30 p.m. CST (Chicago) / 3:30 p.m. PST (Vancouver) / 23:30 UTC +0 (London).

a group of people on stage
Men and Women and Non-Binary People On Boats
Essay

Men and Women and Non-Binary People On Boats

Exploring New Styles of Gender Diversity

26 September 2018

Theatremaker Sloth Levine uses the casting conceit in Jaclyn Backhaus’s play Men On Boats as a jumping off point to explore gender diversity in casting.

two actors onstage
Casting An Actor with Albinism
Essay

Casting An Actor with Albinism

The Importance of Authenticity On Stage

2 August 2018

Playwright and scholar Julie Taiwo Oni reflects on the experience of casting an actor with albinism for her play Chisel, and discusses why authentic casting is worth the work.

When the Pen is Mightier Than the Casting Couch
Essay

When the Pen is Mightier Than the Casting Couch

8 July 2018

Emily Snyder encourages playwrights to write juicy, complex characters for people who have not historically been cast in leading roles.

a group of people sitting onstage
How to Respond to a "Casting Controversy"
Essay

How to Respond to a "Casting Controversy"

5 July 2018

Director Lavina Jadhwani summarizes conversations about casting she's been involved with in the past, and offers advice to artists and producers who find themselves facing criticism for their choices.

Theatre History Podcast #58
Podcast

Theatre History Podcast #58

What We Think About When We Think About Casting: Dr. Amy Cook’s Building Character: The Art and Science of Casting

6 March 2018

Dr. Amy Cook of Stony Brook University joins us to discuss her new book, Building Character: The Art and Science of Casting.

Cripping the Crip—Is It Time to Reclaim Richard III?
Essay

Cripping the Crip—Is It Time to Reclaim Richard III?

21 February 2018

Kaite O’Reilly considers how Richard III has been portrayed on stage, the alignment of atypical embodiment with evil and suffering, and her inspiration with The Llanarth Group to create a new staging of Richard III.

Conscious Casting and Letting Playwrights Lead
Essay

Conscious Casting and Letting Playwrights Lead

14 February 2018

Playwright David Valdes discusses the importance of writing more diverse and intersectional characters, and reflects on the conundrum of “color conscious” casting.

Autistic Actors, “Autistic Archetypes,” and Acting, in General
Essay

Autistic Actors, “Autistic Archetypes,” and Acting, in General

23 January 2018

Sam Ethan Rubin writes about being an actor on the autism spectrum.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia vs Loving
Essay

Who’s Afraid of Virginia vs Loving

Learning How to Talk About Casting

22 August 2017

Theatre practitioner and educator Sophia Skiles interrogates unconsciously artificial and increasingly antiquated casting practices and urges understanding of casting practices that advance equity, inclusion, and access.

“Too Big and Not Big Enough”
Essay

“Too Big and Not Big Enough”

Body Representation On Stage

25 April 2017

Jonna Capone discusses her experience as a plus-size actress and the body positive movement, advocating for better representation of body sizes on stage. 

Matter and Myth
Essay

Matter and Myth

Rethinking the Body Onstage

18 January 2017

Abbey Fenbert examines the intersection of theatre and physical discrimination, and considers what is the responsibility of artists interested in transcending, rather than reinforcing, the myths society projects upon the body?

The Crisis in Casting for Stage and Media Panel at Emerson College
Video

The Crisis in Casting for Stage and Media Panel at Emerson College

Friday 14 October 2016
Boston, MA, United States

Emerson College presented the panel discussion The Crisis in Casting for Stage and Media livestreamed on the global, commons-based peer produced HowlRound TV network at howlround.tv on Friday 14 October at 12 p.m. PDT (Los Angeles)/ 1 p.m. MDT (Denver)/ 2 p.m. CDT (New Orleans)/ 3 p.m. EDT (Boston).