Inclusive Casting Debunked: Towards Holistic Interventions in Staged Performance


  • Evi Stamatiou


Casting, racism, diversity, colour-blind casting


The conditions surrounding the recent resurgence of the #BlackLivesMatter movement illustrate the persistence of systemic racism in social life, including the cultural sector. Cultural practices in the Western world rarely dehumanise individuals, but they can play a crucial role in legitimising and perpetuating discriminatory dispositions against marginalised identities. Systemic domination works in covert ways and manages to capitalise even on cultural diversity initiatives, such us casting practices that have been developed to address the underrepresentation of marginalised communities of colour, gender and ability in staged performance. Drawing on theatre studies, sociology and theatre-related statistics and journalism that relate to casting diversity initiatives, this paper coins the term ‘inclusive casting’ to expose how such practices have surreptitiously perpetuated multiple and intersecting discriminations in staged performance across the UK and the US since 1970. It argues that such diversity initiates are tokenistic because they improve quantitative representations, such as the number of people with marginalised identities on stage, but ignore how they perpetuate inequalities through qualitative representation, such as the breadth and substance of the roles on offer. It suggests that interventions in the cultural sector should not target isolated manifestations of social inequality, but, instead, develop holistic practices and evaluation models that also condemn the misuse of inclusive casting and prioritise inclusive authorship.