Friday, October 30, 2009

Should A Hearing Actor Be Cast in The Miracle Worker?

There is a minor tempest in a tea cup brewing over whether or not it is inappropriate to cast a hearing actor in the role of Helen Keller in an upcoming production of The Miracle Worker in NY with several deaf advocacy groups taking a predictable stand. They should let it pass.

Im sympathetic to the challenges faced by people with any physical issues that choose acting as a profession, but when they or their advocates claim that someone without their issue should not play characters with that condition they are wrong, very wrong. The point of acting, hell the point of art, is that it speaks to us universally. If a hearing actor cannot possibly portray a deaf character then where does it stop? How could an actor who was not a victim of child abuse play a character who was, or gay, or a Jew? The list goes on. This kind of thinking, however well intentioned, would inevitably lead to a complete artistic balkanization with swaths of actors only eligible to play the roles to which they were born. It is entirely antithetic to what draws us to art in the first place.

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