I WANTED TO CLARIFY Theater J’s casting policy re: Bob Mondello’s review of Nano and Nicki in Boca Raton (Theater,10/20). In the review, Mondello states that the casting of an African-American actress, Cynthia Webb, as the maid provides a sense that Theater J is oblivious to racial stereotyping. I must beg to differ. Perhaps the theater made a different choice than Mr. Mondello would have wished, but I assure the readers of Washington City Paper that it was not due to oblivious insensitivity.
Before auditions were even held, the director and I had a lengthy discussion as to whether or not ethnic minorities would be seen for this role. We were afraid of just what Mondello described in his comments. I also addressed this issue to some ethnic actors in the community. The overriding opinion, and one which I respect, is that it is insensitive to deny a role based on ethnicity. It would be a horrible mistake in our society to cast only ethnic minorities in such roles as maids, drug dealers, prostitutes, gang members, etc. It would be equally horrid to cast ethnic minorities in only such roles. But to deny work to actors who are underrepresented on the stage in trying to remain politically cautious was not a path this theater wished to follow.
We auditioned several actresses, including many Caucasian actresses, for the role of the maid. Webb gave the best audition. We cast her because she gave the best audition. If this is racial insensitivity, it is the type of insensitivity that this theater supports. I would also like to point out that Webb has long been an artist associated with this theater, and one that Theater J values highly. She has costumed five shows for this theater and we enormously value her creative input.
I appreciate Mondello’s concerns vis-à-vis casting and believe that it can only help create a healthy dialogue among our artistic community as we strive to promote a racially nondiscriminatory world.
Artistic Director, Theater J