Vol 27 no.2

The Best Actor for the Role, or the Mythos of Casting in American Popular Performance

Casting — the process whereby actors are assigned to particular roles — has largely eluded historical and theoretical inquiry. Casting’s iterative impact lends it a peculiar ephemerality. Once a role is cast, the complex array of criteria informing that decision — not only the methods and techniques of talent assessment but also the interpersonal dynamics, rumors, reputations, and “business” considerations — recedes in importance as the work of performance-making ostensibly begins. Indeed, despite its inarguable centrality in the performance-making project, the inevitably idiosyncratic sequence of events that comprise the process of how this or that actor did (or did not) get the part routinely evades the archive.

I contend that such archival evasions are enabled by what we might call a “mythos of casting,” a constellation of interconnected beliefs and assumptions that have evolved within American popular performance over the last century or so. This “mythos of casting” cloaks within mystery the historical practices – by turns material, creative and proprietary – that guide how an actor’s labor is (and is not) valued as a commodity. This “mythos of casting” simultaneously provides ideological rationale for the acknowledged inequities in the allocation of the paid and unpaid labor of actors while also sustaining faith that the apparatus of casting can (and sometimes actually does) work to identify the “best” actor for a given role.

The “mythos of casting” also guides most academic conversations about casting, which typically operate within one of three discursive modes: the logistical, the (non) traditional, and the mystical.[1] Logistical discourses of casting might be found most frequently on the “practice” side of the theory-practice divide in theatre studies, with conversations about how to audition (or how to run auditions) eliciting conversation and study in the acting studio, the production meeting, or the rehearsal hall. Such discussions, and the written works engaging them, typically rehearse, explicate or strategize the nuances of disparate audition structures, and are often guided by the premise of “entering the profession.”[2] Traditional — or, more aptly, “Non-Traditional” — discussions emphasize how casting operates as a mode of what scholar Angela Pao calls “both social action and artistic exploration” in which the assignment of a particular actor to a role might “dislodge established modes of perceiving,” perhaps especially with regard to the enactment of cultural identity in performance.[3]

Both the logistical and non-traditional discourses of casting prioritize how practitioners might intervene in casting’s machinery to achieve particular ends. By contrast, the third discourse of casting, perhaps the most ubiquitous of the three, fixates on casting as an almost mystical process that defies easy explanation. Such “mystical” accounts arrive in a variety of formulations but always with a fascination for a kind of magic at play within casting decisions. Some such accounts emphasize the “special sight” of creative intuition wherein an ineffable mix of circumstance, luck and discernment combine to guide the director (or teacher, or casting director, or whoever) to the inspired insight that a particular actor is “right” for the role. Often responding to what Joseph Roach describes as “the easy to perceive but hard to define quality possessed by abnormally interesting people” sometimes referred to as “it,”[4] this response informs an inspired confidence like that described by producer Arthur Hornblow recalling his casting Marilyn Monroe in her first featured film role, “As soon as we saw her we knew she was the one.”[5]

Other mystical accounts proffer casting as a kind of alchemical mastery, usually on the part of the genius director, in which art manifests from a deftly assembled configuration of actors. As film director John Frankenheimer famously quipped “casting is 65% the battle.” Director Martin Scorsese later upped the ante, noting that “More than 90 percent of directing is the right casting,” while a recent textbook Fundamentals of Film Directing offered a more conservative assessment, noting that “Casting is 50% of the director’s work.”[6] Casting’s mystical discourses also take fantasy form in the myriad speculative fictions spun within the “what if” scenarios rehearsed in discussions of “miscasting.” From sensational lists like “12 Actors Who Almost Had the Part” and “What If? ‘Pulp Fiction’ Near-Miss Casting” to entire books dedicated to Hollywood’s All-Time Worst Casting Blunders, the fantastic genre of the “what if” casting tale stands among the most recurring in popular performance lore. [7]

Most mystical discourses of casting, however, fixate upon the moment an actor is assigned a role as the signal moment wherein the magic of performance is conjured. Indeed, while logistical and non-traditional discourses of casting propose strategic interventions into the casting process, mystical discourses instead marvel at the ineffability of casting, fetishize the shrouds of secrecy that sustain casting’s unknowable mysteries, and wonder at the transformative power summoned by whoever happens to be the one deciding which actor is to become the role. Mystical discourses of casting hint that mere mortals can never truly know why this or that actor got the part and imply that occasional peeks behind the casting curtain will only ever reveal a partial story. These mystical discourses suggest that some greater power is at work in both the methods and madnesses of casting, and that ours is not to wonder why.

The many mysteries of casting might explain why the topic of casting remains so captivating to so many. Indeed, casting’s purported unknowability — that no one can never truly know how casting happens — incites the most passionate conversations about the process, whether in speculative games about who would be better in the role, or in moments of aesthetic outrage (or schadenfreude) over miscasting, or in impassioned outbursts of sometimes politicized fervor within critiques of incidents of exploitation, exclusion or unfairness in casting. Yet, even in such incisive and searching conversations, most assessments of casting controversies resolve with shrugging demurrals or simple judgments of the sort proffered by the author of one best-selling theatre appreciation textbook, who writes “There is good casting and bad casting and, of course, there is also inspired casting.”[8]

The persistence of some version of this reductive good/bad/inspired matrix in even the most sophisticated conversations about casting might well reflect some awareness of the many interpersonal, proprietary, and contractual complexities that all factor into the invisible calculus guiding any casting decision. (Can anyone inside or outside the process ever really, truly or fully know why someone got a part?) Even so, this recurring fixation places too much emphasis on casting’s unknowability (its “mystery”) with too little attention to the power at play in any casting decision. As the default resolution for any and every conversation about casting, the good/bad/inspired matrix both sustains the mysterious power of casting even as it also contributes to the ongoing mystification of the material practices of casting — the mechanisms, techniques and assumptions routing the process to that final casting decision — rendering such practices beyond the archive and thus exempt from historical analysis.

To discern casting’s archive and thus evince its history, performance historians and theorists might explicate the three principles most routinely invoked to explain, excuse or justify the capricious operations of the casting apparatus: equitable access to opportunity, artistic autonomy, and meritocratic achievement. Over the last century or so, these contradictory premises have come to operate in dynamic tension as a “mythos of casting,” which simultaneously sustains creative faith in the capacity of the casting apparatus to identify the best actor for a given role even as it cloaks the material practices of casting in mystery.  As I take up each of these principles — equity, artistry, meritocracy — in turn below, I briefly detail how each principle guided the formation of the contemporary repertoire of casting practices as I also chart the enduring conceptual contours of the “mythos of casting.”


The peculiar notion that casting should be fair appears to have emerged from two distinctively twentieth century points of origin. On the one hand, the growing power of actor unions within the industries capitalizing on American popular performance amplified particular questions of equity. On the other, the extraordinary and rapid expansion of educational theatre programs at the secondary, post-secondary and pre-professional level intensified concerns about access. Over time, the belief that the casting process should be equitably accessible to all eligible or deserving performers became one of the guiding ideals of the American casting process and a foundational tenet of the mythos of casting.

Concerns about fair and equitable access instigated the formation of actor unions in the United States in the nineteenth century, as producers started to hire actors to “play as cast” for only a particular production (and often without guarantee of compensation for rehearsals, truncated runs, or special wardrobes and skills). Worried that they might be shut out of their seasonal “lines of business” employment, professional actors agitated to protect their access to secure employment opportunities. As these nascent actor unions continued to fight for recognition in the early twentieth century (in both the theatre and in the emerging film industry), their organizing efforts shifted from equitable employment access and toward working conditions, wage scales and enforceability of contracts, concerns which animated the historic Actors’ Equity Association [AEA] strike in 1919.[9] In the decades that immediately followed AEA’s 1919 victory, concerns about equitable access to employment did occasionally reassert themselves within the union, perhaps most fractiously in the Depression years with the 1934 formation of the Actors’ Forum (an ad hoc pressure group of member actors who sought cooperative benefits and a minimum wage for all members) and the 1935-39 operation of the Federal Theatre Project (which rankled union leadership by employing non-union actors).[10]

Yet it was not until the post-World War II years, and amidst growing national concerns about civil rights and desegregation, however, that actor unions – in what one historian has called a “gradual politicization”[11] – reasserted their inceptive investment in equitable access to employment. During the 1940s and 1950s, subcommittees within all the major actor unions began to advocate for fair and equitable access to employment opportunities for minority union members, especially actors of African descent. Through initiatives like the Negro Employment Committee in the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the Committee on Negro Integration in the Theatre in Actors’ Equity Association (AEA), these committees gathered and published data about the number and kind of roles available to minority actors, rehearsing and deploying strategies of advocacy that endure to this day.[12]

Activist actors also, through such endeavors as AEA’s Integration Showcase (staged in 1959), argued for and demonstrated casting techniques that modeled ways of hiring actors of African descent for roles not specifically written with a black actor in mind.[13] This work by actor advocates within their unions in the 1940s and 1950s anticipated the work of AEA’s Non-Traditional Casting Project (which reanimated the premise of the Integrated Casting Committee by expanding it to also include Latina/o, Asian American, and Native American actors, as well as disabled actors).[14] This practice of assembling data and insisting that industrial casting norms adapt to rank and file realities also animated the institution of the “open audition.” The practice of the “open audition” was instituted in the 1970s to insure that all union (or union eligible) actors had access to at least one general audition for every production (or producing season) undertaken under union contract. Even though these “open call” auditions have often come over time to be regarded by many as cumbersome and hollow rituals of union compliance, the institutionalization of the open call, as well as the actor union advocacy that compelled it, not only derived from but also fortified a foundational ideal within the mythos of casting – that equitable and transparent access to the casting apparatus benefitted all actors.

While midcentury actor unions worked within the entertainment industry for equitable access to opportunity for professional actors, the massive expansion of educational theater programs that boomed in high schools, universities and pre-professional training programs in the post-World War II era exerted an even more substantial influence on the idea that the casting process should be fair. Yet, in the 1940s and 1950s, no consensus existed among theatre educators about how to balance the competing priorities of fairness, efficiency and quality when assigning roles in a school or community setting.

Most midcentury theatre educators advocated for some version of “tryouts.” The 1948 Play Production Primer (published in 1951 by the Mutual Improvement Association of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) defined the “tryout” as “a method of selecting talent for a cast. Either parts read from the play, or [a] display of general ability.”[15] In the spring of 1948, a series of short essays in Dramatics Magazine (then a publication addressing both high school and university theatre programs) discussed a striking array of “tryout” strategies. Some, like Blandford Jennings of Missouri’s Clayton High School, instructed students to “come prepared to read anything of their choice for a minute or two” because “reading at sight from an unfamiliar text is no fair indication of the true ability of a young reader.”[16] Others, like Esther McCabe of New York’s Salamanca High School, approached the casting of a play as “a lesson in democracy, reliability and human relationships” and assigned roles by student vote, subsequent to a full reading and discussion of the play.[17] Sam Boyd of West Virginia University affirmed the merits of “competitive reading tryouts” for their “spirit” and the “salubrious, unprejudiced attitude” they encouraged,[18] while Carnegie Mellon’s Talbot Pearson scoffed at even trying to select a single best practice. “There are so many methods of trying out the available players,” Talbot insisted, “that no rules can safely be applied” and “to list the dozen or more differing approaches would serve no practical purpose.”[19] Perhaps notably, none of these educators used the word “audition” to describe their preferred casting method.

Where the word “audition” does appear with some frequency at midcentury is in the advocacy work of organizations like the American Theatre Wing and Theatre Communications Group, especially as such emerging, non-commercial but professional organizations explained their affiliation with professional training programs. For Isadora Bennett, the publicity director of the American Theatre Wing from the later 1940s through much of the 1950s, the audition represented the most effective point of connection between the professional theatre and those aspiring actors emerging from university and other training programs (like the American Theatre Wing’s own Professional Training School which enrolled hundreds of students at the time, most under the GI Bill). In a widely referenced 1955 essay published in Educational Theatre Journal, Bennett affirmed the importance of centralized auditions for “trained” actors so that such actors might be introduced to what she termed the “machinery of casting” and “the ‘technique’ of job-hunting.”[20] For Bennett, such auditions — in which aspiring professional actors might offer a concentrated display of their ability using brief, prepared excerpts from well-regarded plays — promised to serve as “aptitude tests given by warm and friendly but severe experts.” By the end of the 1950s, the idea that a concentrated and pre-prepared demonstration of aptitude before a panel of experts might be the most efficient means of talent assessment had begun to circulate more broadly and had begun to be termed an “audition.” In 1964, Michael Mabry — then the Executive Secretary of the fledgling Theatre Communications Group (TCG) — advocated for the institutionalization of a national audition, to be held annually in Chicago, as the most effective means of “keeping visible on a national scale” all American actors, not only those actors based in New York or Los Angeles but also those “committed…to seasonal employment with resident companies” while also including the “outstanding graduates of educational theatre.”[21] Thus, the significant midcentury influence of actor unions, in tandem with the rise of the educational theatre industrial complex, rehearsed the perhaps incongruous but nonetheless deeply entrenched notion that casting should be fair, and thereby also anchored the ideal of equity as a central tenet within the mythos of casting.


Still, at play in every conversation about providing equitable access to actors, the mythos of casting also activates the question of whose authority guides the assignment of actor to role. For the actor, the casting process is their opportunity “to be cast” in a production and thus be given the equitable opportunity to work; for the one doing the casting, however, the casting process can take on additional valences of creative authorship, artistic autonomy and freedom of expression. In his genre-defining college textbook Introduction to the Theatre (1954), Frank Whiting of the University of Minnesota argued for the “executive ability” of the director: “Many factors must be considered in casting [and] many systems of tryout have been evolved, ranging from well-rehearsed, memorized scenes to informal interviews. None are perfect. All have advantages and disadvantages.”[22] Most educators publishing in Dramatics through the 1950s agreed that the directorial discernment should balance the pedagogic and artistic ambitions in a school production and that such judgment should remain the primary guide the final assignment of actor to role. Even Esther McCabe, whose proposed model of electoral casting marked the most dramatic departure, affirmed that she as director “reserved the right to change an unsuitable choice” once the election results were tallied.[23]

Toward the end of his career, iconic theatre director Harold Clurman saw few artistic merits, for either actor or director, in the midcentury turn toward what he called the “absurd” and “arduous” “‘open market’ method of casting” in American theatre.[24] Such critiques of the American casting apparatus had been foundational in Clurman’s theatrical philosophy since the late 1920s, when “he prophesied that ‘immediate future of the theatre is in the actor,’ who must reject ‘type-casting’ for ‘long painful self-training.’” In co-founding the influential Group Theatre, Clurman sought a permanent ensemble company in which there would be only small parts and no star actors. Within a decade, however, the challenges of casting proved an unexpected drag on the galvanizing vision of the Group Theatre’s ensemble structure, as the number interested actors persistently far exceeded the available roles. The situation inspired Clurman to exclaim, in 1939, “Every piece of casting in the Group is a tragedy.”[25]

Even so, several decades later, in his widely taught 1972 memoir of the craft On Directing, Clurman maintained his faith in the transformative potential of the ensemble as he drew unfavorable comparisons between the atomizing mechanisms of American casting (in which the actor worked as a freelancer, playing only as cast) and those used by the permanent repertory companies of Europe. Because “the American theatre has no such companies,” Clurman railed, “We proceed on the basis of ‘piecework’: for every new production an entirely new cast must be found – somehow, somewhere.” He continued, “The main business of casting [in the United States] is accomplished by means of auditions or readings,” which Clurman characterized as “a species of theatrical shopping” wherein the actor is “reduced to a commodity and gradually comes to regard himself in that light.”[26] Clurman’s contemporary and sometime colleague Elia Kazan also disliked the American casting apparatus. When asked by an interviewer about his preference for prepared auditions or cold readings, the director retorted, “I don’t do it that way. Well, sometimes I do, if it’s for a bit, but… [it] usually gets you misinformation.”[27] Where Kazan dismissed the American casting apparatus for its ineffectiveness, Clurman disdained its disruption of the creative process and its imposition of artificial, inhumane and confining limits on the artistic autonomy of the director. By so emphasizing the intangible authority of creative and executive discernment as essential to directorial autonomy, Clurman and Kazan, alongside their less famous educational counterparts, also mystified casting a constitutive and sacrosanct feature of a director’s artistic expression.

By the 1990s, however, the question of whether such casting decisions were an independent expression of a performance-maker’s creative authority garnered a different measure of critique. High-profile casting controversies (like that surrounding the 1991 Broadway production of Miss Saigon) amplified how “traditional” casting habits rehearsed by the “open market” impinged upon employment opportunities available to minority and women performers. Legal scholars Jennifer L. Sheppard, Heekyung Esther Kim and Russell K. Robinson each separately examined whether a hypothetical plaintiff might challenge a particular casting decision as employment discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which held, in part, that employer prerogative was inadequate justification for favoring one identifiable group over another in matters hiring; in tandem, the scholars also assessed whether casting decisions might be considered protected speech under the First Amendment.

Though their discussions remained in emphatically hypothetical (especially given the tricky and unresolved legal question of whether entertainers were rightly considered employees under federal law), all three scholars agreed that any legal challenge to a casting decision under employment law would certainly confront (and likely fail) the test of whether a director’s or producer’s casting decision might be considered a form of creative expression and, thus, a form of protected speech. For Russell K. Robinson, “our constitutional commitment to free speech does not exact a wholesale abandonment of antidiscrimination requirements,”[28] while both Kim and Sheppard advocated for voluntary shifts in casting practice and aesthetics so that, as Sheppard concluded, “employment opportunities for minority actors may be increased, while artistic freedom is preserved.”[29] (283). Thus, as casting became increasingly understood as a constitutive feature of a theatre-maker’s creative expression, claims of artistic authority, autonomy and freedom also animated the mythos of casting in American popular performance.


The “open market” of American casting, which Isadora Bennett so celebrated and which Harold Clurman so loathed, was itself premised on the third core principle of the mythos of casting: meritocracy. Indeed, embedded in the mythos of casting is the promise that equitable access to the casting process permits the best performers to be seen, thereby presumptively enabling directors, producers and others to identify those performers best equipped to execute their artistic vision. Underlying this promise lay the ideal that, if the flow of supply and demand could be effectively marshaled, the best actor would certainly get the role. Indeed, this meritocratic ideal — matching the best actor to the role — bridged the democratizing impulse of equitable access to casting opportunities with the discerning exactitude of artistic autonomy. But even such an emphasis on finding the “best actor” for the role was itself a noteworthy, twentieth century turn.

It is an intriguing historical coincidence then that the same years that remake the American casting process as something of an “open market” also mark the arrival of several high profile contests in which the notion of “best actor” falls into particular relief within the American entertainment industries. Beginning with the Oscars in the 1920s (continuing with the Tonys in the 1940s, the Obies in the 1950s and all the way through SAG’s “The Actor” in the 1990s), these notably ritualized, annual anointings of actors as “the best” emerge as a peculiarly hallmark facet of American popular performance. To be sure, competitions among actors were not an innovation of the twentieth century, with stories reaching all the way back to the acting competitions in fifth century Athens. Even so, most previous historical contestations among actors — whether between La Clairon and Madame Dumesnil in eighteenth century Paris or between Forrest and Macready in the New York of 1848 — also staged a contestation over distinctions of region, social class, aesthetics, and philosophy, with the embodied work of actors manifesting those particular divisions. Yet, in these twentieth century American contest, this multitude of best actors are so named not for enacting cultural values but for the cultural value of enactment itself.

These many annual rituals also verify the meritocratic ideal of “best actor” that animates the American casting process. Within the mythos of casting, the anointing of “best actor” connects all segments in the great theatrical chain of being, drawing a connection between the tween actor pretending in her bedroom to the acclaimed icon accepting her trophy in a glittering televised ceremony. Arriving as a sort of post-dramatic conclusion to the ostensible performance, every “best actor” award tacitly ratifies the effective (and largely hidden) operation of a casting mechanism that first delivered this particular actor to the very role that then earned them the honorific of “best actor.” The “best actor” trophy then stands as a tangibly material symbol of the twined ideals of equity, artistry and meritocracy that mutually constitute the mythos of casting in American popular performance.

The mythos of casting might be invoked to sustain aspiring artists in the leanest times; likewise, it might be summoned to sustain a perhaps illusory sense of affinity amidst a casting controversy. Even among those who maintain diametrically opposed points of view over the best way to determine who the best actor for the role might be, the mythos of casting affirms that the quest for the best actor remains an ideal worth pursuing. At once a lubricant and a palliative, as much a weapon as it is a shield, the mythos of casting works to provide assurance not only that there is a method to the madness of the casting process but also that the machinery of casting works. All the while, the mythos of casting continues to accomplish its primary purpose – to mystify the actual working conditions of actors, especially as they labor to find work.


Brian Eugenio Herrera’s work examines the history of gender, sexuality and race within and through popular performance. He is author of Latin Numbers: Playing Latino in 20th Century US Popular Performance (Michigan) and The Latina/o Theatre Commons 2013 National Convening: A Narrative Report (HowlRound), as well as articles in Theatre JournalModern Drama, and TDR. Herrera is presently developing a scholarly history of casting in American entertainment. He is Assistant Professor of Theater at Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts.


[1] A noteworthy and productive departure from this pattern can be found in Daniel Banks, “The Welcome Table: Casting for an Integrated Society,” Theatre Topics 23 no. 1 (March 2013), 1-18.

[2] The pioneering template of this genre is Michael Shurtleff’s Audition: Everything an Actor Needs to Know to Get the Part (New York:  Walker Publishing, 1978); a more contemporary model might be Jen Rudin’s Confessions of a Casting Director: Help Actors Land Any Role with Secrets from Inside the Audition Room (New York: It Books, 2013).

[3] Angela Chia-yi Pao, No Safe Spaces: Re-casting Race, Ethnicity, and Nationality in American Theater (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2010), 2.

[4] Joseph Roach, It (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007), 1.

[5] Claire Boothe Luce, “The ‘Love Goddess’ Who Never Found Any Love,” LIFE Magazine (August 7, 1964), 64.

[6] Stephen B. Armstrong, ed., John Frankenheimer: Interviews, Essays, and Profiles (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2013): 89; as quoted in Casting By, directed by Tom Donahue (2013; Brooklyn, NY: First Run Features, 2014), DVD; and David K. Irving, Fundamentals of Film Directing (Jefferson, NC: McFarland Publishing, 2010), 30.

[7] Treye Greene, “12 Actors Who Almost Had the Part,” Huffington Post, 24 January 2013, accessed 5 December 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/24/actors-recast-in-movies_n_2543452.html; David Weiner, “What If? ‘Pulp Fiction’ Near-Miss Casting,” ET Online, 13 November 2013, accessed 5 December 2014, http://www.etonline.com/movies/140840_What_If_Pulp_Fiction_Near_Miss_Casting/; and Damien Bona, Starring John Wayne as Genghis Khan: Hollywood’s All-Time Worst Casting Blunders (New York: Citadel Press, 1996).

[8] Robert Cohen, Theatre, 5th Edition (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005), 535.

[9] For usefully comparative summaries of early twentieth century actor union activity, see Sean P. Holmes, “All Work or No Play: Key Themes in the History of the American Stage Actor as Worker,” European Journal of American Studies 2 (2008), online; and Pamela Robertson Wojcik, “Typecasting.” Criticism 45 no. 2 (Spring 2003), 225-26. For an aptly detailed narrative account of the 1919 AEA strike and its impact on the union, see Robert Simonson’s Performance of the Century: 100 Years of Actors’ Equity Association and the Rise of Professional American Theater (Applause: New York, 2012), especially 14-61.

[10] An efficient overview of AEA’s conflicts with both the Actors’ Forum and the Federal Theatre Project can be found in the epilogue to Sean P. Holmes, Weavers of Dreams, Unite!: Actors’ Unionism in Early Twentieth-Century America (University if Illinois Press: Urbana, 2013), 173-178. See also Simonson, 72-73.

[11] Holmes (2013), 177.

[12] Stephen Vaughn, Ronald Reagan and the Struggle for Black Dignity in Cinema, 1937-1953, The Journal of Negro History 77 no. 1 (Winter 1992), 8-9; “Committee on the Integration of the Negro in the Theatre,” Box 36 Folder 1, Actors Equity Association Records, Tamiment Library/Wagner Archives, Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, New York University. See also the “Equality” chapter in Robert Simonson’s Performance of the Century, 44-173.

[13] “‘Integrated Showcase’ Well Performed, but Did Show Prove Its Point?,” Variety (22 April 1959): 78, 82; “Orson Bean Rebuts on ‘Integration’; Says Race Consciousness Is Brief,” Variety (29 April 1959), 69-74.

[14] See Angela Pao’s account in tandem with that of Ana Deboo’s briefer summary in, The Non-Traditional Casting Project Continues into the ’90s,” The Drama Review 34 no.4 (Winter 1990), 188-191.

[15] Play Production Primer: A Handbook for the Beginner or the Experienced Drama Director and All Who Are Curious About That Alluring World Behind the Footlights, Revised Edition. (Salt Lake City, UT: General Boards of the Mutual Improvement Association, 1948),185.

[16] Blandford Jennings, “Rehearsing the School Play,” Dramatics Magazine (March 1948), 9-10.

[17] Esther McCabe, “Casting One-Acts in a Small High School,” Dramatics Magazine (February 1948), 13.

[18] Sam Boyd, Jr. “Techniques of Play Rehearsal,” Dramatics Magazine (April 1948), 6-7.

[19] Talbot Pearson, “Rehearsal Procedures,” Dramatics Magazine (May 1948), 6-7.

[20] Isadora Bennett, “The Training Program of the American Theatre Wing,” Educational Theatre Journal 7:1 (March 1955), 32.

[21] Qtd. in Richard Schechner, “Ford, Rockefeller, and Theatre,” The Tulane Drama Review 10:1 (Autumn 1965), 35.

[22] Frank M. Whiting, An Introduction to the Theatre (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1954), 157.

[23] McCabe, 13.

[24]  These quotations are drawn, variously, from Harold Clurman, On Directing (New York: Macmillan, 1972), 65-68.

[25] Helen Krich Chinoy, The Group Theatre: Passion, Politics and Performance in the Depression Era (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 14, 252.

[26] Harold Clurman, On Directing (New York: Macmillan, 1972), 65-68.

[27] Elia Kazan, Kazan on Film: The Master Director Discusses His Films, ed. Jeff Young (New York: Newmarket Press, 2001), 130-131.

[28] Russell K. Robinson, “Casting and Caste-ing: Reconciling Artistic Freedom and Antidiscrimination Norms,” California Law Review 95, no. 1 (2007), 4.

[29] Heekyung Esther Kim, “Race as a Hiring/Casting Criterion: If Laurence Olivier was Rejected for the Role of Othello in Othello, Would He Have a Valid Title VII Claim?” Hastings Communication and Entertainment Law Journal 20 (1997-1998), 397-419; and Jennifer L. Sheppard, “Theatrical Casting – Discrimination or Artistic Freedom?,” Columbia-VLA Journal of Law & the Arts 15 (1990-1991), 267.



“The Best Actor for the Role or the Mythos of Casting in American Popular Performance”

by Brian Eugenio Herrera

ISNN 2376-4236

The Journal of American Drama and Theatre
Volume 27, Number 2 (Spring 2015)
©2015 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center

Editorial Board:

Co-Editors: Naomi J. Stubbs and James F. Wilson
Advisory Editor: David Savran
Founding Editors: Vera Mowry Roberts and Walter Meserve

Editorial Staff:

Managing Editor: Phoebe Rumsey
Editorial Assistant: Fabian Escalona

Advisory Board:

Bill Demastes
Amy E. Hughes
Jorge Huerta
Esther Kim Lee
Kim Marra
Beth Osborne
Robert Vorlicky
Maurya Wickstrom
Stacy Wolf
Esther Kim Lee

Table of Contents

  • “The Best Actor for the Role, or the Mythos of Casting in American Popular Performance” by Brian Eugenio Herrera
  • “Visibly White: Realism and Race in Appropriate and Straight White Men”  by Kee-Yoon Nahm
  •  “Capable Hands: The Myth of American Independence in D.W. Gregory’s The Good Daughter” by Bradley Stephenson
  • “Rooting Out Historical Mythologies; or, William Dunlap’s A Trip to Niagara and its Sophisticated Nineteenth Century Audience” by Samuel Shanks



Martin E. Segal Theatre Center:

Frank Hentschker, Executive Director
Marvin Carlson, Director of Publications
Rebecca Sheahan, Managing Director

©2015 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center
The Graduate Center CUNY Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue
New York NY 10016

One Comment

  1. Posted April 30, 2015 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    thanks for reading!

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