Age-Blind Casting

April 21, 2017

 

 

Scott Lange (Leonato) has been involved with Pigeon Creek since 2003. He directed the first production of our 2017 season, Titus Andronicus. He was nominated for a Wilde Award for his role as Ariel in The Tempest. He has previously appeared as Rosalind in As You Like It, Leontes/Autolycus in The Winter’s Tale, Macbeth in Macbeth, Tartuffe in Tartuffe, John Worthing in The Importance of Being Earnest, and Feste in Twelfth Night. Scott has also acted and musical directed with Stark Turn Players in Grand Rapids, AP Theatrical in Holland, Grand Valley State University, and Aquinas College. Scott has a B.A. in Theatre from GVSU, and has also studied with the London Theatre Exchange. Scott also serves as President on PCSC's board of trustees.

 

One of the things that you’ve most likely read quite a bit about on this blog is a tenet or original practices called “gender blind casting.” In Shakespeare’s time period all of the actors that performed in his plays were male. Teenage boys would be cast to play the female roles. In modern theatrical performance, however, Pigeon Creek doesn’t adhere strictly to these practices. We do occasionally produce a play with a single gendered cast (*ahem* Titus Andronicus *ahem*). But for the most part we cast actors in the role for which they best fit, regardless of whether the actor’s and character’s gender match.

 

But something we don’t talk about often is AGE-blind casting. This is the idea that any actor, regardless of their age, can play any role. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll do something totally off the wall like cast an eighty year old man to play Romeo and an eighteen year old woman to play Juliet (although I bet that might have been done.) But it does mean that Pigeon Creek tries to not be TOO tied down to typical casting practices in regards to age.

 

I’ve often played characters that are older than me. But I’ve only recently begun to really feel comfortable playing those roles. I’m sure to a certain extent that just comes naturally with aging and gaining life experience. Playing a character who is sixty when I’m thirty-five is easier than playing that same character when I’m eighteen. But I’ve also learned a few theatrical tricks that can aid me somewhat.

 

When I played King Henry IV last summer, the person cast as my son, Prince Hal, is older than me. I don’t believe we honestly look that much different in age, and there really is no way to disguise the fact that I am NOT old enough to be his father. But I did want the audience to look at the two of us together on stage and suspend their disbelief at least a little bit. So I shaved my head and grew a pretty wild beard that I colored gray and white for performances. I felt like this gave us enough of a physical difference to tell the proper story.

 

With King Henry, however, I didn’t want to play his age that much physically. Part of this is because we were combining the two parts of Henry the Fourth into one play. So in our production, Henry was a warlike King in act one and a sickly dying monarch in act two. So I already had physicality that I was trying to portray. But I felt different with Leonato. Here, again, is a character who is not OLD, but definitely referred to as an older man, and someone who is a father. I didn’t want to walk around with my normal everyday physicality. Also, everyone in this cast is pretty close in age, so I wanted to stand out in the way that I moved and carried myself.

 

A few weeks in to the rehearsal process I started to really pay attention to how I moved. I tend to walk and talk very quickly, and do everything on stage with a ton of energy and forward momentum. I decided that what I wanted out of Leonato was someone who didn’t go through life with quite so hectic a pace. He’s not a soldier, and has probably spent his whole life in the same tiny Italian town eating pasta and drinking wine. I decided that he didn’t need to have as much physical urgency and I tend to have in my everyday life. So I worked specifically on slowing down how I moved. I focused on slowing down my walk and smoothing out my hand gestures. Most people, when they get agitated, tend to be very sharp and pointed with their arm and hand movements. Leonato doesn’t spend a whole lot of time agitated. There are a few moments where his urgency and agitation to spike to a pretty high level, so I wanted those moments to really stand out as aberrations in the way my character moved and acted. By slowing down the speed at which I walk, smoothing out my hand gestures, and finding ways to hold my body “at rest” that were relaxed and unhurried, I hoped to find the physicality of a character that was older, wiser, and in less of a rush than the rest of a “younger” cast.

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