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“Anti-typecasting…the theme for the week” from Roberta Inscho-Cox

In Assistantship, Audience Development, Directing, Literary, Producing, Shakespeare Dramaturgy Residency, Uncategorized on April 14, 2017 at 4:27 PM
April_IVP.jpgOn Tuesday, April 11th, I attended the Informed Volunteer Program (IVP), moderated by Lue Douthit, with members of my FAIR 2017 cohort, JaMeeka and Sam. It was a unique experience, especially since JaMeeka, Sam, and I seemed to be the youngest members of the audience. I had no idea what to expect, but this program has created a running theme for the remainder of my week. 
Lue Douthit (or Dr. D, as I’ve come to know her) introduced the two speakers, Dawn Monique Williams, director of Merry Wives of Windsor, and Martine Kei Green-Rogers, dramaturg of UniSon. Both Dawn and Martine spoke to what is going on in rehearsals (or in UniSon’s case, tech). Martine shared with us the experience the cast had on the first night spacing in the Bowmer, how they spent most of the evening playing with sound and bodies within the space, and also how the addition of the projections added a stunning textural element that is “pearl clutching worthy.” After watching the YouTube music video of “Lets talk about the body,” I was already pumped and excited for UniSon’s opening night, but now that I have a little more information, I’m antsy to experience the magic and power of this show. 
Even though I know what’s going on in Merry Wives of Windsor rehearsals, I loved hearing Dawn speak to “what is going on in rehearsals,” “what was her entry point into Merry Wives,” and “what was her experience with the text work?” I never tire hearing Dawn speak to the world of 80s romantic comedy that this Merry Wives lives in, but I can imagine it to feel very exhausting, as a director, having been asked these same questions over and over again. Already in only two weeks, Dawn has had the Merry Wives show intro, the IVP, and countless personal interactions where she is asked to share her vision and points of entry for this play. It takes great skill to make it sound new and exciting every time. Not to mention the need to be consistent. I admire that, because it’s a skill I’m not accustomed to yet, and one that I would need to practice  in order to make it sound as organic and exciting as Dawn Monique Williams does. 
Towards the end of the program, Dr. D opened the panel up to questions from the audience. I wish I could say I was surprised when someone asked what informed Dawn’s choice to cast a woman as Falstaff, but I wasn’t. But what was really moving, was Dawn’s response: “in the spirit of honoring company, I thought ‘why not’ make a statement in life about the facility an actor has to play cross gender, and also, we don’t need to pass up an actor of K.T.’s skill because of gender. K.T. has generosity, comedic timing, and takes great risks in the rehearsal room. Not to mention, she won’t need to wear a fat suit (pause for audience laughter). And I say that, not to be demeaning, but to emphasize that we need to move away from petite actors playing characters of size.” What were they laughing at? Is the notion of casting an actor who doesn’t require a fat suit, funny? Or was it nervous laughter because they are uncomfortable that it’s a plus-size woman playing this role? Or is it both? Fatphobia is a real and true thing. And even within the world of Merry Wives of Windsor, fat jokes are made at Falstaff’s expense. We also see this to the n’th degree in Henry IV, Part One. It’s something that I know, personally, I’m very sensitive to. I could go on and on and on about the daily noise I experience being a plus-sized female director. But I’m also angry that we are still restricted by “type.” Why do we instill this notion in our actors? Just this week in rehearsal, an actor shared their experience being told to lose weight or they wouldn’t be considered for “these roles anymore.” I’m feeling very activated by this, and I am brainstorming in how I can make anti-type casting even more a vital piece of my personal mission as an artist. Stay tuned… 
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