Sunday, August 9, 2009

Non Traditional Casting

Before I even begin expressing my opinion about nontraditional casting for Dreamgirls, I felt it was necessary to research the definition of non-traditional casting. 
Here is the definition that i found most informative: 

Non-traditional casting is defined as the casting of ethnic minority and female actors in roles where race, ethnicity, or sex is not germane...Non-traditional casting is actually realistic casting...

I believe that theatre is about expression through the telling of a story. In my opinion it is the job of the director to bring that story to life in a manner that is engaging and most importantly, believable. When a person believes what they are seeing or reading, they are more receptive to listening and hopefully through an engaged audience, the voice of the play's message can be heard. 
Although Dreamgirls has many universal themes, such as the importance of relationships and the whole notion of pursuing one's dream, the story is told through the African American experience. Therefore, the script makes reference to prominent African American establishments (where the majority of people were "African American"), African American lingo and experiences regarding racism toward African Americans in the mid 20th century.  Furthermore, the characters are inspired by real people; prominent African Americans who had flourishing careers in the music industry during the late 50's, and through out the 60's and 70's. 
With all this being said, it would seem (or in my opinion, should seem) out of place to see any  race other than African American, portraying a story that is derived from an African American setting and experience.  Non traditional casting for Dreamgirls, in my opinion, would not be germane, and therefore unrealistic. 
However, I do find it interesting that the producers of the 2009 Broadway Revival of Dreamgirls have produced the musical with an all-Korean cast in Seoul....hmmm, interesting. In this case, I am sure that the theme of this production isn't focused so much on themes of segregation and discrimination based on racism. And as society is pushing forward and becoming more and more socially integrated, maybe it makes sense to see themes that are more relevant to our time, being focused upon. My only question is, "I wonder how much it distorts the historical context of the play, as well as the intent of the playwright?" 

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