« Case Studies in Criticism in the Interactive Age |
| Ministers, mechanics and merits »
"I am offended that Phylicia Rashad is playing a white woman’s role in “August: Osage County.” … Let’s keep white actresses playing white roles and blacks playing black roles."
Posted on June 07, 2009 in Theater Elsewhere | Permalink
You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.
What a silly person. Maybe I have an advanced intellect (okay, I know I do), but the first thing I thought when I heard about Rashad playing Violet was NOT, "Hey, she's black!" but "Isn't she a little young for this role?" Turns out she's turning 61 this month, but I think she looks a lot younger. Deanna Dunagan was 68 and Estelle Parsons was 81, right?
Rob Kozlowski |
June 07, 2009 at 01:01 PM
Anyone who thinks a black woman can't have white children needs their eyes poked out with a poker because they obviously aren't using them...
(and using the "Porgy and Bess" reference is lame - Porgy and Bess is clearly a story about the black experience, whereas there's nothing [that I'm aware of] that pegs A:OC as a white experience play)
What a dolt
June 08, 2009 at 11:34 AM
That letter writer's final comment reminds me of a hilarious line in a show that Danny Scheie, the onetime artistic director of Shakespeare Santa Cruz, penned after his dismissal from the company. (As I recall, there were complaints that he was too "gay" in his approach to the bard -- I never saw any of the pieces he directed there, but saw several plays he helmed in the Bay Area that were quite good).
Danny wrote a piece, whose name escapes me, about a regional theater director who decides that the way to make money is to keep doing the cash cows, only bigger and more bloated. So she uses the dark arts to conjure both Charles Dickens and Shakespeare to work on a new adaptation of A Christmas Carol. The line I'm remembering (and I only saw this in an evening of excertps, not in a full production, so it may have changed) is from the artistic director's acceptance speech for a regional Tony, in which she is extolling the virtues of the eternal conservative verities of theater.
Or, as she puts it, "Let's get the boys out of the dresses, put the girls back into the corsets, and let the horsey ones play the maids!"
Kerry Reid |
June 08, 2009 at 12:32 PM
I'm also confused by his being "offended." I can understand how someone less capable of suspending disbelief or who just hasn't been exposed to multiethnic casting on a regular basis might say "I'm not buying it," or "I'm confused," or "I think this introduces an element that perhaps isn't really part of Letts' play and I'm afraid it takes me out of the story." I would disagree with all those assessments, but I could kinda see where someone is coming from in making such an assessment. I think we all have our interior prejudices or simply our ideas of how a character is supposed to look and sound that can sometimes get in the way of seeing them in a different way. (See for example Hedy Weiss' recent review of Signal Ensemble's "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie," in which she essentially said the actor portraying Brodie wasn't enough of a hottie. I disagree with that, and I wish she had said more about Patricia's operformance, rather than her physique and physiognomy, but clearly Hedy had a very definite idea of how Brodie is supposed to LOOK and seeing something different than that interfered with her reception of the show.)
But "offended?" Really? That's going pretty far.
Kerry Reid |
June 08, 2009 at 12:38 PM
And this is why I can't wait to finish school and get the hell out of Pittsburgh...
John Z. |
June 08, 2009 at 06:56 PM
I agree with Kerry, the use of the word "offended" here is pretty ridiculous. Check out The@er for a little more on the subject.
Benno Nelson |
June 09, 2009 at 07:54 PM
Whoa whoa whoa, John Z. There is nothing wrong with Pittsburgh. As if there aren't ignoramuses in every town in America (what a heinously asinine comment, really).
I grew up in Pittsburgh and I'm quite proud to be from there. It's a beautiful city with friendly people, world-class universities (one of which you are apparently at), some of the most innovative hospitals in the country, great sports, and a fine cultural presence. The city was rocked by recession for many many years and finally started coming back this decade. I'd consider moving home if the theatre scene had more opportunities, quite honestly.
What do you dislike about so much about Pittsburgh? Or were you just being reductive for the fun of it, because really belittling an entire city based on such an observation is every bit as ignorant as the letter-to-the-editor in question.
If Pittsburgh's just too small-time for you, then I can't wait for you to get the hell out either.
Scott Barsotti |
June 11, 2009 at 12:31 PM
To clarify a point, so as not to be labeled a hypocrite: the theatre scene in Pittsburgh has some great quality work, the scene is just small, especially compared to Chicago. The majority of theatres in Pittsburgh are Equity, and there isn't a great deal of new literary development (from my experience), and so it isn't a great scene for a non-union actor/young playwright looking for exposure. This is to say nothing about the city's quality at large or to imply that the city/scene is too small-time for me and that's why I'm not there, because that isn't true. A play of mine is being produced in Pittsburgh this fall, and I'm thrilled about that, I've been actively seeking a production in the city for years because I love it there and want to work there. Incidentally, Go Penguins.
Scott Barsotti |
June 11, 2009 at 01:04 PM
Haha...I should probably let this go, but just read this this morning:
Pittsburgh was again voted the most livable city in the US by US News and World Report last summer. This May, Pittsburgh was voted the most livable city in America, 29th in the world, by the British publication the Economist.
Also, the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup last night and the Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl in February.
I'm just saying, John Z. I'm just saying.
Scott Barsotti |
June 13, 2009 at 12:00 PM
It's weird to be offended by multi-ethnic casting on stage. Theater is not realism... and plus, for most members of the audience the actor is yay big (squeezes fingers together) anyway. It's not like you're noticing skin tone when you watch a play.
Rashad was fine in the role but to me the actress playing the oldest daughter was the truly great performance in the current (and last) Broadway cast.
Nathaniel R |
June 22, 2009 at 11:20 AM
Are any of us taking into consideration August Wilson's quite deeply felt and expressed opinions about cross racial casting? Or for that matter approving of directors who racial background isnt directly related to the specifics fo the narrative?
I agree that "Offended" at this casting is a silly way to go through life, but the sentiment behind the statement reverberates along statements made by one of our most beloved and racial defined theatrical powerhouses.
July 01, 2009 at 10:41 AM
The comments to this entry are closed.
Subscribe in a reader
Any opinion expressed here is solely that of the author or commenter. No opinion expressed here can be assumed to represent the opinion of Time Out Chicago magazine.