The Playgoer: Casting Issues

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Casting Issues

by Dr. Cashmere

In case you missed them, it's worth catching up with the two meaty theatre articles in the Saturday edition of The Times.

There's a story about a casting director with a broken ethical compass (updated here). And there's a profile of Bill Rauch, artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, discussing some of the changes he's introduced at the festival:

He recruited Alison Carey, one of the founders of Cornerstone, to run a program called “American Revolutions: The United States History Cycle,” which will commission up to 37 plays about moments of change in the nation’s history.

Some of the writers chosen so far, like Suzan-Lori Parks and Lynn Nottage, have had their plays produced in Ashland before. Others, like the South Korean-born playwright Young Jean Lee and the Navajo playwright Rhiana Yazzie, have not. And a few — like Universes, a hip-hop-influenced theater ensemble, and Culture Clash, a Chicano performance troupe, whose play “American Night” will have its world premiere here next season — represent a fairly large departure from the traditional aesthetic at the festival before Mr. Rauch arrived.

Mr. Rauch has also supported nontraditional casting in situations where previous artistic directors did not. The festival has long cast actors of varied races in Shakespeare plays and has also produced many works with predominantly African-American casts, by writers like August Wilson, Rita Dove, Ms. Parks and Ms. Nottage. But it has not cast nonwhite actors as frequently in revivals of American classics. Mr. Rauch is changing that.

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