Casting roles in theatrical productions often presents difficult decisions, and in some ways, these decisions can be more difficult in University productions. Our student casting pool sometimes means that there are fewer options available than would exist for professional productions. In the Performing Arts Department, we are guided by an educational mission. We are dedicated to fostering a welcoming environment for students of all backgrounds who want to work on our shows, and strive for the highest possible level of artistic work. Below, we share the following principles that guide our co-curricular work in the hope that transparency and a shared set of openly communicated values will encourage positive and enriching experiences for student actors.

  1. Students of all backgrounds are welcome to audition for our shows. We strive to program plays that provide opportunities for actors of all kinds of backgrounds. This may mean roles written with actors of particular identities in mind, as well as roles in which actors of any racial, ethnic, gender identity and/or ability might be cast.
  2. We make every effort to cast a role written with an actor of a particular background in mind according to the express intent and wishes of the playwright. Sometimes, contemporary playwrights amend their casting intentions and recommendations for the more limited casting pools found in college productions. When possible, we reach out to living playwrights to seek their permission to cast actors of backgrounds not matching that of the role to maintain good faith efforts to observe the wishes of the playwright.
  3. When it is necessary to cast across race, ethnicity, gender, or other factors of identity, we follow the principles of “coalitional casting.” This practice, in essence, means that in order to produce plays that center the stories of people from minority backgrounds within a US perspective, we may cast students of other backgrounds. This is not understood as a permission to cast any actor in any role. Coalitional casting acknowledges that it is in some cases better from an educational point of view to cast across background than to not produce a play featuring the stories of under-represented groups. For more information on coalitional casting, please follow these links.
  4. For some plays, especially classical or ancient plays or plays outside of a realist mode, actors from diverse backgrounds may be more easily cast in roles, irrespective of the actors originally envisioned by a playwright. However, in such cases, we observe the principles of “color-conscious casting.” In brief, color-conscious casting holds that the identities of actors are an important dramaturgical factor, even in highly diverse casts or in plays where the stylistic mode or historical origin of the play open up greater casting possibilities. Casting choices should acknowledge this fact and avoid inadvertent harm that might come from adopting a “color-blind” approach to casting. For more on “color-conscious casting” please follow this link.