Today: May 29, 2024

‘Sweat’ casting extended to fill roles

Ellis McGinley Copy Editor

The Theatre Department has begun preparations for their second production of the year: “Sweat” by Lynn Nottage.

“Sweat” follows a diverse cast of blue-collar workers in a small, industrial town, where it analyzes the biases and tribulations of the American working class. Nottage, the playwright, is the first woman to win two Pulitzer Awards.

Mike Skinner, Chairman of the Theatre Department, said as part of the department’s recent commitment to racial inclusivity, they want to “make sure we have political productions yearly.”

The play’s cast, which has eight total roles, calls for “two white men, three African-American men, one African-American woman, one Italian-American woman, and one Columbian-American man,” according to audition listings.

“An Enemy of the People,” the Department’s first production of the year, had a total cast of 13, with five actors playing multiple parts.

The production will be directed by Dexter Singleton, executive of Collective Consciousness, a social justice theatre in New Haven. Theatre major Patrick Ballard, a senior, will be the stage manager of the play.

The university’s auditions for the play were extended by one week. Set to open Nov. 19, auditions were supposed to conclude Oct. 7.

“We have not been able to fill the roles,” Skinner said. “This show in particular has very specific racial identities in characters.”

He said. “Two white males auditioned,” thus filling that portion of the call.

“I won’t have enough time to devote myself to the production,” said theatre major Samhain Perez, a freshman. “I read the plot of Sweat ahead of time to garner my own interest. I found it to be a very easy-to-follow story with important messages. I was definitely interested in being in it.”

Perez said he thinks the specificity of the casting also “turned off” a lot of potential actors and actresses.

“The roles were very specific. I’m a white boy. I don’t fit any of those,” said communications disorders major Sam Gontarz, a freshman.

Nursing major Majesty Moore, a freshman, said she auditioned for Sweat because she wanted to be involved in a show that is about racial injustice, especially with a director that uses his career to address the social injustice in the world through theater.

“At first, I was scared about how it was going to turn out, being on Zoom. However, Dexter [Singleton] eased that worry when he mentioned there will be costumes, props, and people who will work out the Zoom theater format,” Moore said.

This will be Moore’s second show at Southern.

Skinner said the show had been cast as of Thursday morning, Oct. 15. One minor role, an African American man, had to be cut due to a lack of actors.

If the department does not receive enough auditions, Skinner said they would have no choice but to cancel the production.

“If we didn’t fill the cast, then we couldn’t do the show. This is the slot that we have to do this kind of show,” he said. “We postponed our musical from this semester to next semester; basically, for a learning curve.”

According to Skinner, the Theatre Department has staggered their shows based on perceived difficulty; they first did a radio show, “An Enemy of the People”, and “Sweat” will be performed on Zoom. The spring musical, which has yet to be announced, will also be produced digitally.

“I don’t believe working over Zoom would be easy or sustainable. So many people have different technologies, and it’s hard to tell just how reliable they may be,” said Perez.

In previous years, Skinner said the Theatre Department would reach out to potential actors on the Academic Quad, in casual conversations, and within social groups to try and gauge interest.

“I personally feel the reason we’re having trouble casting is the pandemic. I just don’t feel we have the reason to reach the student body the way we usually do,” said Skinner.

He also said he doubts that the theater will fully leave the virtual platform behind.

“Even when we come out of the pandemic parameter, the virtual theater is going to be part of us and our industry–I think for forever now,” Skinner said.

He also said interested students do not necessarily have to be theater majors or even involved in the department at all.

To anyone interested in coming to see “Sweat,” he said: “come see it.”

Photo credit: Bria Kirklin

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