Oh, and we were typecast, too
No one talks about it much, but we were typecast in almost every show or piece we did. The same students would be cast in the same roles over and over, regardless of if they wanted them or not. Taller kids would play the parents in scenes, shorter kids the children. Petite girls would play ingenues while bigger girls were resigned to comic relief characters. Our class only had four guys, so we were always in demand to play male roles. Though race and ethnicity did not cause too many problems in multicultural Miami, the minority Black and Asian students were indeed more likely to be "saved" for the Black and Asian roles (even if they would've preferred something else).
It's nice to see that a decade on, many theaters are reexamining their casting biases and decisions. These days, there's more experimentation in regard to gender, ethnicity, and an actor's physical characteristics than ever before. Unfortunately, our program and teachers were not the least bit woke like this, especially in the late 2000s.
Beyond physical characteristics, we were also typecast by personality. Quiet people played shy roles. Talkative people played loud, extroverted characters. I was nerdy, skinny, and small, and so I was often cast as the brain or neurotic worrier. You'd think four years in an educational setting would allow for some variety; perhaps we might branch out and try characters that were a little different from our usual. You'd be wrong. There wasn't anything barring us from doing so; there was just no impetus for variation.
I'm not saying we had to throw all social conventions out the window, but this was the classroom, after all. We were supposed to be there to learn. If nowhere else, school should've been the one place where anyone could try any role. Scripts could've been gender swapped. A short boy could've played parent to a taller girl. The sassy gay character did not have to unquestionably be played by the sassy gay guy in the class. The "slut" did not inherently need to be portrayed by the class "flirt."
And of our casting conventions, the inverse was also true: if you had a certain type of role you did well, that was all you were ever expected to play. [REDACTED] found her niche early on, expertly playing a stereotypical "Southern belle" as a sophomore. She nailed the voice, personality, and charm of this stock character. For the rest of her drama magnet career, it seemed like this was all she was ever encouraged or expected to do.
Similarly, a few boys in the class of 2010, one year our junior, were suave, smooth talkers (flirts, manwhores, what have you). The four guys in our own class didn't have personalities like that, and so these guys were brought in whenever a show or competition piece called for a Casanova. Could our guys have perhaps risen to the occasion and, you know, acted, trying out parts not typically associated with them? I guess we'll never know.
I'm not saying we needed to be so off-the-wall with our casting that audiences wouldn't buy it; simple changes here and there would've been fine. But of course, no teacher ever cared to think that deeply about it.
That's what's frustrating about this whole system: not the lack of diversity in casting, but the utter lack of thought. . . about anything. As I describe in the multitude of other stories, our teachers didn't consider educational value or meaning in their choices. Everything we did was mindless, just like the typecasting. A play needed to be cast, so whoever looked the part was cast. There was no further reflection or consideration than that. And unfortunately, our young minds were never challenged to think about it any differently, either. ◊