Color-Blind Casting in “Romeo and Juliet” Production
Skin color plays no role in Bartlett High play
ANCHORAGE - In the world of theater, the practice of non-traditional casting – also known as color-blind casting –has been used to give members of ethnic minorities roles that traditionally have gone to white actors.
At Bartlett High School, a production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet this weekend features a young Caucasian man and a young African-American woman as the “star-crossed lovers” of the famous tragedy.
"I enjoy being Juliet. And this has been the greatest experience of my life so far," said Shae Lisa Metoyer-Anderson.
Metoyer-Anderson did not expect to snag the lead female part in Bartlett High School's production of Romeo and Juliet.
"I actually didn't think I would get in at all because of my complexion. But when I finally got the part… it still hasn't hit me that I’m Juliet," she said.
It happened because director Marty Decker chose to ignore race in casting.
"I probably could have cast in such a way that nobody looked too different in the Capulet family or too different in the Montague family, but I actually went the opposite direction… which was to seek differentiation, and definitely to allow the strongest performers to play the roles they were born to play," Decker said.
The practice of non-traditional or color-blind casting originally arose because of a shortage of strong theatrical parts for minorities.
For Decker, it was partly a practical matter, given the racial mix at Bartlett. "Romeo is Caucasian, Juliet is an African-American girl; Romeo’s father, Montague, is Hispanic; his mother is Anglo; his cousin Benvolio is a Korean kid."
"I think it's actually better in a way, because just to have like this new society that we're in, about how everyone is trying to get rid of what we say [is] racism now, it helps kind of, a little bit, by showing that not only a certain type of ethnicity needs to play a certain part, that anyone can do it," said Zachary Hunter, who plays Romeo.
"I hope that they don't see it like, they don't go, oh, he's Asian or oh, he's white or oh, he's black. I just hope they focus on the story more… because it doesn't matter about who's playing who. It just matters about who is who," said Hunter.
A black actress also played Juliet at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in England in 2008.
There will be public performances of the Bartlett production tonight and tomorrow night at 7 p.m. The play lasts about two and a half hours.