It has been a while since I wrote a new article exploring my theory on audition technique. I have been focused on other endeavors, dealing with personal health issues, and as I write this I am currently between roles. Most of my time has been occupied with searching for work, leaving the website here to collect some dust in the meantime: but no more!
Years ago now, I wrote an article that stressed the importance of understanding your "character type." I come here to say that I am happy to announce that I was WRONG about Character Types! At least, I was incorrect about their necessity in choosing audition materials. While it can offer guidance at times depending on the creative team's vision for a show, there are several issues I now take up with using it as a method for the selection of repertoire.
This is something I have corrected already in the website's database, but I have since removed and replaced "Character Types" as a part of the database filter options for a variety of reasons. As our industry and the world learn and grow, it has become very apparent the harm that traditional "type casting" used in the arts and entertainment industry places on marginalized communities, such as the diversity of race in the BIPOC community or regards to sexuality and gender within the LGBTQA+. Casting for the industry is FINALLY starting up to meet diversity, equity, and inclusion standards that the vibrant and diverse artistic community supposedly boasts to welcome. We still have a lot of progress to make and work to accomplish when it comes to making our industry more equitable and welcoming to all.
The industry has been needing to make changes, and they are just now beginning to in recent years thanks to the introduction of shows like Hamilton, which took a similar idea from The Wiz by retelling a familiar story from the lens of black American Motown, funk and RnB music. After this came the recent 1776 revival starring an all-female, trans, and non-binary cast in a typically male-dominated show. Another example of non-traditional casting came in the form of the recent replacements of actors in Hadestown where Lilias White replaced Andre DeShields as Hermes, and the Chicago revival with Angelica Ross as the first Trans Actor to play Mamma Morton on Broadway -- Quick side note: My old colleagues at Cabrillo Stage in Santa Cruz County, CA beat Broadway to that milestone with casting the incredibly talented Dwaine Wells to play Mamma Morton in their 2016 production of Chicago, but I digress... :)
So here are the main reasons why I have changed my viewpoint on Type Casting and Character Types:
1. Bias creates exclusion: There is an inherent bias within the idea of typecasting that limits the ways we have typically told stories on stage or screen. More and more people are demanding that our culture is reflecting the communities that develop them. More often than not, utilizing this idea of a Character Type has often resulted in the exclusion of marginalized groups, particularly those of minority races, diverse body types, and non-cisgender artists. Perpetuating character types can have gendered language or implications or descriptors. Disrespectful stereotypes and tokenism can rear their ugly heads quite easily under the guise of mere generalizing or speculation. There is a litany of other reasons that other writers have put better. For instance, an article on Amazon Studios discusses the harm of stereotypes that prevents positive representation of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in storytelling. dei.amazonstudios.com/general-stereotypes/
2. Objectivity vs. Subjectivity: The entire point of Audition Source is to try to quantify the audition selecting process in some way. The whole idea of character types is subjective and really wouldn't and shouldn't hold a lot of weight to the formula I am hoping to eventually develop for this database. However, there is still at least some weight it can hold, especially with older shows that lean into stereotypes on purpose as a form of storytelling, and therefore warrants at least some consideration, but not enough to justify holding Character Type in its entire filter category anymore. Certain character traits or descriptors, however, can be included within a new filter that has been added to the mix: Themes and Keywords, which encompasses a lot of the more aesthetic descriptions of a character and/or the song they are singing.
It is refreshing to be able to correct this, and update the site and the database formatting after all of this time. I hope that I can continue to build on this concept further, and I believe that I am now much closer to figuring out a method that will help to establish a formula for Audition Source that can be used for matching materials. We still have a ways to go, but I feel that this change was necessary and a catalyst for making the site and database this much more useful.
I would love for Audition Source to become a community for theatre artists and I would love to know your thoughts on type casting, character types, and their validity in deciding audition material! Tell me your thoughts in the comments and make sure you also follow my other channels linked here for additional content like this: linktr.ee/jordansidfield
As always: Break a leg!
- Jordan Sidfield
Audition Source Founder