With Virtual Theatre on the Rise, Artistic Director Gets Creative to Excuse Lack of Diverse Casting.
BOSTON, Mass. – With Zoom performances eliminating the need to cast from the limited pool of local actors, Boston Stage Artistic Director Michael DuBarry led his staff in an hours-long session to brainstorm how not to hire actors of color for their upcoming virtual production of Into The Woods.
“With a cast this big, we really had to push ourselves,” says DuBarry. “Boston Stage audiences come not only for predominantly white casts, authors, and creative teams, but for well-constructed arguments as to why we continue to cast white actors in a city as diverse as Boston.” With other local theaters hiring artists of color from the nation’s most segregated city, and casting a broader net for national talent, DuBarry wanted to rise to the challenge. “We don’t want a lynch mob after us.”
Blanche Zimmerman, the Artistic Associate overseeing casting, took on the bulk of the project.
“We got headshots from great actors of color from all over the country, and it was sad to have to ignore them,” says Blanche. “We did cast Christina Lansbury out of Seattle, as the Baker’s White, I mean, Wife. I’m sending her some Red Sox swag to decorate her background so she seems like a local white actor.” Blanche excused herself for a meeting with her intern to discuss the timing of emails informing Broadway actors of color that their headshots had somehow gone to spam.
One lucky local actress of color did land a role: Solange Cobb, born and raised in Mattapan to Haitian immigrants, plays the Witch.
“I didn’t want to play the witch,” she scowled. “I swore to myself after a fringe production of The Crucible that I’d never let another white company cast me as a witch. But I haven’t worked with Boston Stage, and I wanted to get a foot in the door. Turn down a role? In this pandemic?”
Solange is hopeful for a continued relationship with the theatre. During a meeting in DuBarry's office where he asked her why she was so angry, Solange noticed a stack of plays on his desk, in preparation for next season, including MacBeth.