Moments of escape can be moments of clarity!

"Oh, had I but followed the Arts"-William Shakespeare

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Bits & Bobs: The Cast of Maine

I was asked by Kate Kaminski of Bluestocking Film series  to do a follow-up to an interview I did in 1995 for Cast & Crew magazine on Acting opportunities for minorities in Maine.

I have been an actor/singer for over 20 years here in Maine. My first role was Tiny Tim's sister Martha in "A Christmas Carol" when I was 9yrs old. I have been in love with song & stage since then.

The Acting Community in Maine (Actors, Film, Theater & agents) is very tight -knit. Most of the time they go for the tried & true: people they have worked with over & over or their friends. So, basically the people they have in their lives & most know maybe one or two people of color, so they go with what they see before them.  The people that look like them.

I was clued into that very early, when a Theater decided to do "The Wiz". The pivotal roles went to white actors, even the role of Dorothy. I was cast as Glenda, but declined. My reason being the lack of Black actors in any leading roles. My fellow Black actors re-named it "Annie goes to Oz". It hasn't really changed much since then.
I have gone on hundreds of auditions since I started Acting. When I show up to Audition for the Season plays at various Theater's I am consistently given only the sides that specifically call for a Black person, instead of all the roles that call for a woman of my age & type. When I ask for the other sides, I am given them reluctantly & ultimately only offered the  "Black" roles.

When it comes to Film, I am mostly offered roles when the client uses the code words that mean person of color: different, cultural, ethnic. I have had agents that were progressive & put my name in for any role they felt I was qualified for, and I am grateful, because I did get some of those roles. The client just changed their vision, when they saw my audition.

On the practical side, when I do get cast, I ALWAYS come prepared with my own make-up. Usually the make-up artist has two shades of powder & foundation for people of color: very, very dark & very, very light also the make-up contains Titanium Dioxide. Now I will give make-up artists a tip. Titanium Dioxide makes brown skin dull & gray looking. The one & only time I forgot my own make-up & the make-up artist didn't have my shade, she told me that if I didn't want to do the commercial, she could tell the Director to get someone else for the role. Basically telling me it was my fault that she didn't have foundation to match my skin.  We also have the other "problem" with casting people of color: Our Hair. "It doesn't fit the vision"or "It's too wild or" "Can you make it straight". Yes, sometimes a role in a movie or film calls for a different hair style, I'm fine with that, but most of the time hair really shouldn't matter.

If there is an upside, it's that there a fewer People of Color in Maine then, say Los Angeles, so your chances of getting that "Ethnic" role are pretty good. We are here and we are talented, it just take some effort & vision & creativity to find us. As an actor I have four obstacles I have to hurdle to get work here: I am a woman, I am a Black woman, I am over forty & over 120 lbs.

The bottom line is If the Maine Acting Community continues to stick to the tried & true & stay firmly in the box, then things will probably remain the way they are. People of Color can do Shakespeare, we can be in a film about Victorian England, we like Chekhov, Noel Coward & Country music. When you have to cast a couple, they don't have to both be Black or both  white. It's okay to change your "vision", to try the unexpected.

I am fond of Maine & have had many wonderful Acting experiences so I continue to clutch my CV & head off to the  next Audition ever hopeful....

This Funny or Die video reminds me I'm not alone:


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