Forget about the quality of the performance – actors can find they have been miscast (just ask Court Theatre) when Rosemary takes centre stage

We are a bit late in alerting readers in the acting business – or who fancy their chances of becoming an actor – to the opportunity afforded by the recasting of “Things I know to be True”.

First, the producers are being picky (some would say precious) about the part.  They are focusing on gender fluidity and are interested not so much on acting ability as on a player’s ability to pass muster as “an appropriate performer from the transgender and gender diverse community’’.

Second, applications closed a few days ago.

Yep. The theatre bosses in this recasting exercise had become ultra-sensitive to critics (few in numbers but strong in influence, apparently) who profess to have been miffed, offended, distressed, or otherwise upset, by a play now being performed in Christchurch.

And so …

The Court Theatre and Circa Theatre are recasting one of the roles in ‘Things I Know to be True’ and are looking for a trans or non-binary performer aged 25-40 years. A full casting brief can be found here:

We are accepting submissions from trans and non-binary performers with a playing age of 25-40 years for this role, of any ethnicity.

Performer must be comfortable performing as both masculine and feminine on stage. For 95% of the play, the role is performed as masculine.

This is a full-time, professional, paid opportunity in a text-based play rehearsing in Christchurch followed by a season in Wellington.

Auditions will be held between 3-6 April in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

The chosen performer will be integrated into an existing production with the full commitment, engagement and aroha of the existing cast and outgoing performer.

Please detail any performing experience by Wednesday 31 March.

What’s this all about?

Well, It seems the Court Theatre is recasting a role in its current play after being criticised for casting a male actor in the role of a trans woman.

This astonished us, here at Point of Order, because we had understood “actors” were in the business of pretending to be someone else, so we consulted a dictionary to make sure were had not misunderstood what playing a role entails.

Sure enough, the Cambridge English dictionary advised us: 

actor

someone who pretends to be someone else while performing in a filmplay, or television or radio programme:

Simon Leary seems to fit  the bill.   According to this rundown on his work:

Simon Leary is based in Wellington. He has performed in 15 shows at Circa Theatre including A Servant to Two Masters, Three Days in the Country, Switzerland, Problems, and recently played ‘Captain Hook’ in Peter Pan: The Pantomime.

Professional theatre has taken Simon all over Aotearoa. He’s performing in various shows at Centrepoint Theatre, The Court Theatre, The Fortune Theatre, and Auckland Theatre Company.

His latest production is the aforementioned play called Things I know to be True.,

It opened in Christchurch recently

“ … with actor Simon Leary playing the role of a trans woman who comes out to her family”.

And how is that working out for him?

Not too well.

In an open letter posted on Instagram, trans activist Rosemary Mitford-Taylor called the casting decision “an act of transphobia violence’’

The problem (let’s get this straight) does not seem to be Leary’s performance.  It’s that one person didn’t think much of him being given this role.

Too bad.  Producers can’t please everybody.

But hey.  In this case, when Mitford-Taylor professed to be displeased, the Court Theatre’s response was extraordinary.

It posted a statement to its Facebook page apologising to the transgender and gender diverse communities.

“We are taking the necessary steps to recast this role with an appropriate performer from the transgender and gender diverse community,’’ the statement said.

“We commit to putting in place measures to ensure this new cast member will be supported, and we are seeking guidance from experts in the trans community as to how best to support someone coming into the role.”

Court Theatre artistic director Dan Pengelly said they had made a mistake and wanted to make it right as soon as possible.

“I am not in this job to hurt people. We hurt a community that doesn’t deserve any more hurt,” he said.

We look forward to future casting decisions based on consultations with different groups  as the newly sensitised theatre company avoids hurting other communities.

We especially look forward to hearing what steps they are taking to get the right people to play – let’s imagine – The Elephant Man, the Hunchback of Notre Dame or Stephen Hawking, the famed scientist who developed motor neurone disease.

Or – this will be a challenge – Dr. Hannibal Lecter, the serial killer created by Thomas Harris who eats his victims.

And what would they say if they were asked about the decision by Kiwi director Taika Waititi (with Maori and Jewish ancestry) to to cast himself as a paunchy Hitler in Jojo Rabbit?

To pass the Mitford-Taylor test, this role could only have been played by an Austrian-born white supremacist.

On the other hand, we note the claim by actor Kate Winslet that gay Hollywood actors are keeping their sexuality secret because they fear their careers would be destroyed if their sexual leanings were known and they would be stopped from being cast in straight roles.

The Oscar winning actress said she was aware of ‘at least four actors’ who weren’t making their sexuality public as they were ‘terrified’ it will ‘stand in the way’.

Winslet, 45, told The Times’ Culture Magazine: ‘I cannot tell you the number of young actors I know – some well known, some starting out – who are terrified their sexuality will be revealed and that it will stand in the way of their being cast in straight roles.’

Rosemary Mitford-Taylor might like to alert the public to the violence that is bound to result when “straight” people are played by gays and gender-fluid actors.  .

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