Assessing color blind casting in American theatre and society
The primary investigation in this research is the socio-political consideration of color blind casting practices in American theatre, how the concept and practice have resonated in the minds of Black American and White American theatre practitioners and participants, and some general directions for its appropriate use in the new millennium.
The world of American theatre is undergoing major transformations since the politics of race began to permeate its environment fifty years ago. The discussion of race had intermittently crept into the arena of theatre arts throughout history but overt systematic dialogue involving White and Black Americans did not reach a national level until the mid 1980s when Actor's Equity Association completed a four year study which addressed policy-making around racial casting and the Non-Traditional Casting Project created a nationwide forum to explore the theoretical and practical applications of a more race-inclusive theatre society. While major changes in theatre practices were not made following this first foray into race and theatre politics, the idea of a theatre reformation was planted in the minds, if not the practices, of American theatre artists. Ten years later, the idea came under severe scrutiny in the form of a nationally known debate between two prominent figures in theatre arts: August Wilson and Robert Brustein. The late Pulitzer-prize winning playwright August Wilson and drama critic Robert Brustein participated in a very public Town Hall debate in 1997 which was supposed to shed light on the issues of race and art in theatre. The event culminated in harsh divisions (primarily along color lines) amongst its participants and the struggle to resolve questions of race and art in theatre had, once again, reached an impasse. Policy-making, particularly where funding and artistic choice are concerned, is greatly affected by racial divisions in the theatre arts which leads to a greater concern—the future socio-psychological outlook of Black American theatre and society. Color blind casting as a concept and practice carries significant implications for our society as a whole and should be comprehended and implemented with care.
0631: Ethnic studies