Practicing a theory/theorizing a practice: An introduction to Shakespearean colorblind casting

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

16 Scopus citations


The systematic practice of nontraditional or colorblind casting began with Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival in the 1950s. Although colorblind casting has been practiced for half a century now, it still inspires vehement controversy and debate. The black playwright August Wilson famously decried: “Colorblind casting is an aberrant idea that has never had any validity other than as a tool of the Cultural Imperialists. … It is inconceivable to them that life could be lived and even enriched without knowing Shakespeare” (Wilson, 29). Wilson’s focus on Shakespeare within his argument against colorblind casting relies on several important but unmentioned suppositions about the relationship between England’s most famous playwright and this twentieth-century casting practice. First, the practice of colorblind casting is inextricably enmeshed in the contemporary history of Shakespearean production. Second, the immense and enduring weight of Shakespeare’s cultural legacy has helped to create the perceived need for colorblind casting. And finally, the popular notion that Shakespeare’s plays are “universal” lends itself to the theory that casting agents, directors, actors, and audiences can be “blind” to race, color, and/or ethnicity. These fascinating suppositions, which have been critically neglected, are the focus of Colorblind Shakespeare. This collection explores both the production history of colorblind casting in cultural terms and the theoretical implications of this practice for performing Shakespeare in a contemporary context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationColorblind Shakespeare
Subtitle of host publicationNew Perspectives on Race and Performance
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9781135867041
ISBN (Print)0415978025, 9780415978026
StatePublished - Jan 1 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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