reply to post by Grifter42
My advice would be to view it as "director's choice".
The director ultimately chooses how realistic or not he or she wants the play, and the director will also be responsible for the critique.
Also remember the context of the audience, and school-type theater is not usually meant to be too challenging or confrontational.
I'd say do the best for whatever part you're given.
On the other hand, your thinking is quite correct, and I would continue to work on perfecting a Dr. King character or scene.
Read up on acting, postures and accent, and watch him on film.
Somebody might one day like you to do a short monologue, or an audition.
Don't lose the passion.
Playing characters from another race has a long and awkward history.
What was definitely already unacceptable when I did first year drama in college was the "black-face"/"white face" make-up (although that was still
done in segregated schools, especially when they had no black actors to portray the black tribes in the epic kind of realist theater that supposedly
showed the conquest of South Africa).
I don't think really good actors need that, and accent cannot be stressed enough.
A few decades back people actually spoke of going "to hear a play", rather than seeing a play.
There's movies about South Africa with mostly American actors, and although the actors are racially correct, their terrible versions of South African
accents destroy the suspension of disbelief for local audiences.
All we see is Americans acting like South Africans, both black and white.
I suppose every country has its ethnic and racial issues.
I recently saw a documentary titled: Black Indians: An American Story
, which claimed that James Earl Jones, Tina Turner and Jesse Jackson are
black Native Americans, and the often hidden story of that ethnicity has never been told in popular film to this day.
So "African American" is itself a complex term, which repeats certain stereotypes.
I've seen terrible and great versions of actors playing characters that are traditionally expected to be another race.
For students it's unavoidable in SA, where theater moved largely from segregation to racial quotas at colleges.
Eventually the technique should be good enough that the race of the actor or actress shouldn't matter after about two minutes into the performance.
Suffice to say that a good actor of any race or gender should be able to play Dr. King, perhaps with minor props like a tell-tale suit, facial hair
and a hat.
It always depends on what theater however, and here college and university theater is very different to school or traditional theater.
I recall a production of The Dairy of Anne Frank
where local student performers of various races deliberately kept their accents to draw a
direct parallel between apartheid and the holocaust.
Although debatable, one old lady in the audience actually started crying, and when "the Nazis" banged on the door at the end (just a violently loud
knocking in the theater), it really felt like everyone (including the circular and intimate audience) was going to be arrested!
It really was quite a terrifying moment for the relatively small audience - but that's what real theater magic, sound, lighting and space can do,
regardless of the race of the actors.
However, that's slightly more advanced theater.
Otherwise, that's actually a huge pressure, especially if the play is realist in other respects, and doesn't do away with furniture and props in favor
of movement, symbolism and abstraction.
Unless one is ready to perform naked in Equus
or topless in Woza Albert!
then I'd be careful on wanting to be too radical for the
In reality it can be quite a horror story to be assigned such a difficult role without being ready.
If the audience is not convinced they might view it as a joke (and laugh throughout the performance) and it could destroy reputations and egos - are
you ready for that at this stage?
It's certainly true that racial minorities in the US may be given roles of traditionally white characters rather than vice-verse.
It could also be true that they might choose somebody who is African American but looks or acts nothing like Dr. King.
Let it be.
I would not call the ACLU because they might check it out for merit, and the other actor might be better than you, and then you'd look like a real
I'd assume that if they're auditioning somebody from the outside he'd be pretty talented and professional.
You brought up a good argument, and the rest is not in your control, nor will it damage your reputation.
Keep studying drama and acting, and join a more inclusive and experimental group when you can.
edit on 30-8-2013 by halfoldman because: (no reason given)