Monday, September 29, 2014

Vote for Comment of the Week

Voting ends Friday, noonish.

Student #1 has left a new comment on your post "Actors of Color Gain Ground":

As a woman and as a person of color who potentially wants to be in the entertainment industry, I understand why television wants to see more representation. I too wouldn't mind seeing more hispanics, women, or other people of color on television but I feel like a lot of times articles like "Actors of Color Gain Ground" forget that women and people of color do have ground. Modern Family and Scandal aren't the only TV shows airing strong women and people of color and the roles they portrayed have been portrayed for years. The Cosby Show was on television in the mid-eighties showing the life of a successful and loving African American Family. I Love Lucy, about a strong smart, successful, American woman, started airing in the 50s and was produced by cuban, Desi Arnaz, who also was a lead actor for it. Women and people of color have been on TV for a long time. Although all shows on television don't portray actors of color or strong women, America isn't completely made up of people of color or strong women, there are caucasian families and women who aren't part of major leading jobs, con tries, or corporations in America too. We aren't really breaking ground, nor do I think it is completely necessary at act as if we are. I appreciate the commotion about people of color and women being more present in entertainment, but I wish it wasn't at the expense of losing recognition of how much ground we have already earned.
Student #2 has left a new comment on your post "Ruby Rae Spiegel’s Play ‘Dry Land’ Confronts Abort...":
"The extreme also make an impression," is what comes to my mind in reading what this playwright is trying to do. The topic of abortion is a very touchy subject for a lot of people of both genders. Some see it as a form of taking a future great life while others see it as giving the mother/ parents the choice to take care of their own life. While one approach always seems highly selfish on the surface I get the sense that the playwright digs deeper into this issue. The other approach pushed forward the believe in destiny and fate and that our lives are predetermined and that free will is nothing more than a misconception which while is a big theme seen in a lot of plays, it looks to be not the route the playwright is taking. Theater is meant to mimic real life and get the audience thinking while sometimes also entertain but more at it's core inspire everyone to change and look at the world around them with more openness. I applaud the playwright for what they are trying to accomplish.
Student #3 has left a new comment on your post "What a piece of work is a (wo)man: the perils of g...":
This reminds me very much of how everyone that saw the senior thesis show Oleanna two years ago was still talking about it even a month after the show closed. That production promoted a huge amount of discussion about how gender roles effect questionable situations, and how people's reactions would have differed if the casting was the traditional male teacher and female student, or vice versa, or if both characters were male. 
I wouldn't go so far to say that equal opportunity "should never be applied to theatrical casting", because it can most certainly be applied, but there's only so much changing you can do to a script before it A) becomes a different show, or B) stays the same but loses the integrity of its message because it was not cast the way it was written to be cast. Shakespeare is especially difficult because not only do you have to consider how characters played by the opposite gender have to justify how their characters would think, feel, and act, but you also have to make accommodations in the writing to keep the iambic pentameter. How much rewriting can you do until you're creating a knock-off version of your original show in order to prove your point? Or, as another example, how would a director go about changing the script when he or she decides to produce an all-white production of The Color Purple? For some plays, yes, gender-crossing is extremely doable and can be done so to prove a point, like Oleanna. But for other shows, it would almost be an injustice to the playwright to simply do away with how they wrote their characters.
Student #4 has left a new comment on your post "Ruby Rae Spiegel’s Play ‘Dry Land’ Confronts Abort...":
Theater is about making a point, or conveying a message, or starting a movement. People want to see risks being taken and life being explored; thats what makes theater so interesting. Rather than finding this conversation of abortion, shocking, I find it brave and admirable. If theater is too afraid to confront controversial topics, than it's not really fulfilling its purpose. I'm strongly supporting the idea that theater is not about playing things safe, but rather exploring boundaries, and testing limits. I also find it interesting that the playwright is barely 21. But I think this gives us insight into the new up and coming generation. Our future is starting to be more involved and further engaged in social awareness. I also saw "Obvious Child", the indie film that also touched the topic of abortion, which I think further emphasizes this shift in entertainment that is accompanying the shift in generation. I'm so excited to watch this unfold as I think this strengthening connection between art and social awareness is vital.
Student #5 has left a new comment on your post "What a piece of work is a (wo)man: the perils of g...":
While I agree it's important to be wary about changing the rules of the world when cross-dressing/casting any roles, Lawson's argument gets into some problematic territory. Because we live in a world of more fluid sexualities and gender expression on a spectrum rather than a binary, we ought to reconsider how we present our largely hetero-normative theatrical cannon. Yes, a production that does not decide to change the pronouns for all women playing men's roles might be confusing at first...but then again, shouldn't individuals have the right to choose their own pronouns? (Then again, I would have to make a case for such a production being modernized. This acceptance of non-binary gender expression would not be as welcome in Shakespeare's time, or even as recently as the early 20th century, and therefore the production ought to reflect the time and place in which such gender expressions could be welcome and normalized in the world.) As for changing the psychologies of the characters by changing the casting, doesn't the gender-spectrum model also defy this view, given that a biological woman can think like a man? I didn't miss the Freudian implications in Propera's and Miranda's relationship in Taymor's Tempest (and in fact such implications make me a little uncomfortable reading the original text), but instead I see how a father's fear of letting go of their child is the same as a mother's fear. 

Lawson drives his point home later by claiming that such gender changes would be met with much more apprehension in more contemporary texts. It may be more obvious for us to see how contemporary playwrights write with gender-specific psychologies in mind, since we are more familiar with their modern expressions of gender. But isn't the fact that gender identity is constantly changing and being reconstructed by society even more a testament to the fact that we should challenge these standards in casting? 

This all comes together for me thinking about the BFA Thesis production of Oleanna two years ago, which cast two women and made the conflict between the teacher and student over race and altered the conflict based in gender. Some people took issue with the fact that the teacher had a husband offstage (originally, the male teacher has a wife), so that the teacher's sexuality did not become a threat to a female student, who files a harassment charge. Though the evidence may not have been explicit, how do we know that the female teacher was not a bisexual or lesbian woman still in the closet? And did her sexuality even matter in that situation, if rape and harassment are more about power than about sexual desire? 

I think these are the very questions theater ought to be exploring as we redefine gender and sexuality as a society.

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