Further to the last post regarding Non-Traditional Casting and Criticism I have received permission from Tony Nardi to post this email.
Dear Don Rubin,
I just heard about your event at Tarragon Theatre on Sunday, Nov. 21, to debate the subject of “Non-Traditional Casting and Criticism.” I hope I can make it. I hope Rocco Galati (Constitutional lawyer and producer of the filmed version of "Two Letters... And Counting!") can make it, as well.
It's too bad I wasn't informed earlier about this panel. Given the subject of Letter Two, which specifically takes issue with cultural stereotyping by critics, directors, actors (even those from non-Anglo and non-Franco
backgrounds), and from a centuries-old infestation of colonial mindsetting, it would have been interesting to be a part of it.
I confess, I find "Non-Traditional Casting and Criticism" problematic. It presumes that there exists a normal, standard position, set by a casting God, and another standard that deviates form the norm, and, that there are
people who are "like this", 'this tight' with the casting God and could define normal for all the others. Is casting a white Canadian male as Treplev or Trigorin with a phony affected English accent considered traditional (normal) casting in
Is it traditional (normal) for white Canadian actors to slap a phony English accent on almost every role in any classic of world theatre in translations published by Penguin? Yes. It has always been ‘yes’. We have a history of a (white) Canadian theatre scene that has, for the most part and consistently, been pathologically inauthentic and therefore largely irrelevant. Even Domiano Pietropaolo’s translation of Pirandello’s Six Characters … was
performed (on stage and on CBC radio) with stiff upper lip English accents by Shaw Festival actors, and, it
was directed by an east-European director.
We have a Playwrights Canada Press that has refused to publish Canadian plays written (and produced professionally) in languages other than English and then refuses to publish the plays once they have been translated into English. This practice, according to many English Canadians, is okay. It’s the norm. It’s the tradition.
I did some research two years ago. Eighty percent of the plays performed yearly in
course, wouldn’t make sense to the Group of Seven. It wouldn’t have made sense to Tyrone Guthrie, either, when he left
would thrive, or become vital and relevant, unless the theatre artists reflected the landscape, the ‘climate’, and the people with whom they shared both.
The problem is tribal. Cultural. Non-traditional casting sidesteps the issue. Because the issue is tribal, cultural, and political and no one wants to touch it. Like with education. Could you imagine a Canadian politician
going on television and telling
years right up to the mid 1970s?
In the mid 1970s Canadian author Neil Bissoondath was assigned to
have been sent to bilingual
Apparently, we don’t have the same problem today, he and others argue. Yet, a January 12, 2009 Toronto STAR headline read: Study (done at
And that’s at a university, your university, where, in a 30-year span, since Bissondath’s graduation, society’s more ‘enlightened’ have apparently been gathering, learning and hashing out progressive, non-traditional-casting ideas.
A flat tire cannot be changed when the car is travelling at 100 miles an hour. Impossible. The bi-cultural
Why are the two “founding nations” excluded from the list that defines multicultural
I agree with these words by author Pat Duffy Hutcheon, though I do not agree with his proposed solutions.
actual situation is much more ambiguous and complex, and that the earlier vision driving the country has altered drastically and rapidly over the past several decades until, today, it seems to many Canadians that we have
arrived at a place envisioned by very few and sought by no one. In the vague hope of achieving an intercultural society with room for all-comers, we appear to have been propelled from the dark vision of two non-communicating founding nations within one country through a failed attempt at an inclusive biculturalism. In the process, we have seen our long-time vision of equal opportunity for individuals within an integrated intercultural nation change drastically to what looks suspiciously like one of race-based apartheid in a mere geographical territory housing a multitude of isolated ethnic groupings. A look at the course of this revolution may prove enlightening….A successful pluralist culture is one that is continuously enriched and altered by innovation from within, and by the subcultures being carried into it by immigrants.”
Well, we’re nowhere close.
Here's some logic that derails.
“In fact, most new Canadians have chosen to come to
If this is true, why should new Canadians leave their cultural baggage at customs while the “old” (English) Canadians (those who were here first) still cling to their inauthentic Victorian and pre-Victorian pasts?
Last I checked
I wish Douglas Campbell were alive. He would be a much-needed tonic at any roundtable on theatre and non-traditional casting. I wish Nathan Cohen were alive. I quoted him in Letter Two. And
As for the following question taken from the release:
“Could critics and audiences, for example, accept the notion of a female Hamlet or a female Lear?”
What year are we in? Is this a serious question?
Did Sara BERNHARDT not play the title role of Hamlet in 1899? Did she play it in French with a stiff upper lip English accent, or in English with a pointu’ French accent? She travelled the
This is why no one takes theatre seriously. We entertain questions that often sound better in a parlour, with a gin tonic in hand, low lighting, and at about 2:00A.M.
Could you imagine doctors today holding conferences and discussing medical advancements introduced in 1899 as if they were just brought in today? Would those doctors not be helped to a straight jacket and a permanent visit to the
Here’s a word on Tony Howard”s book: Women as Hamlet: Performance and Interpretation in Theatre, Film and Fiction.
“Tony Howard’s lively and informative study draws our attention to the fact that the extensive history of Shakespeare’s most famous character includes an extraordinary and rather unexpected presence of women including, remarkably, the first Hamlet on film and, in all likelihood, the first Hamlet on the radio (1). Howard tells us that since the mid nineteenth century more than two hundred professional actresses across the globe have played the role of the procrastinating protagonist and his Women as Hamlet impressively examines a wide selection of those performances in the theatre and on film as well as looking to representations in other media including the visual arts and fiction. The project starts by situating some of the most famous female Hamlets among the number of en travesti roles on the professional stage. This includes, of course, Sarah Siddons in the
eighteenth century along with Charlotte Cushman and Sarah Bernhardt in the nineteenth.”
I could understand if the press release that came my way today had been written in the 1950s, just about the time that Tyrone Guthrie left
Come to think of it perhaps we in the theatre - should all buy a comfortable coffin, like the famous coffin Sara Bernhardt apparently often slept in, in lieu of a bed, “claiming it helped her understand her many tragic roles”. Maybe we’ll have a better understanding of our Canadian reality if we slept in one of those comfy coffins. Our theatre, after all, is a string of mausoleums with bars and liquor.
By the time we leave the theatre we’re too drunk to discuss Peter Brook’s dead theatre and actually make fun of it, like we just invented the wheel, live theatre, and non-traditional casting.
BTW. Kamal was invited to moderate Letter Two in 2006 and 2007. He never
edits: corrected typos and a couple of capitilizations