Inside HATFIELD & McCOY: Representation in Casting

Inside HATFIELD & McCOY: Representation in Casting

Pictured: Cody Proctor Ann Delaney Tia Pinson, and Jenni M Hadley. Photo by Jessica Ridenour.

In this 3-part series, PerformInk takes you inside The House Theatre of Chicago’s HATFIELD & McCOY through blog posts written by the people behind the scenes. To read past INSIDE articles, click here.


By Marika Mashburn, Casting Director

I have wanted to revisit HATFIELD & McCOY since the day The House Theatre of Chicago closed its world premiere run in November 2006. It was a beautiful collaboration between writer Shawn Pfautsch and director Matt Hawkins, whom I have had the honor of working with since 1997 at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. That production was full of founding and newer House company members, other SMU friends we had talked into moving here, and folks whom we had recently met and fallen in love with in Chicago. I originated the role of Levicy Hatfield, the whiskey-swilling, rifle-carrying matriarch of the Hatfield family. We had a cast of twenty, including Pfautsch, who subbed in as Harmon McCoy, when he was available. We squeezed ourselves into one tiny dressing room at The Viaduct (RIP), and had the time of our lives, singing, dancing and playing with fake guns, fake beards, and many, many fake blood packs.

That first production had a cast, crew, design and leadership team that was nearly 100% white. For a based-in-history show about two white families, produced by a nearly 100% white theatre company in 2006, this is not too surprising. We had no auditions, casting director or budget for either, and during The House’s early days, it was natural for us to work with the folks we had history with. I don’t imagine I thought for a moment about diversity and inclusivity, or the lack thereof, during this first production. I maybe thought it was funny that my “children” were the same age as me, but that was pretty much the extent of it. Twelve years and many conversations later, I’ve learned a thing or two about the importance of representation in casting.

Matt, Shawn and I met early on to discuss how this production would be different, and we immediately spoke about diversity and inclusivity in casting. This play is about two feuding, white Appalachian families who lived in the late 1800s, sure. But it is really about family, violence, religion, communication, retribution, storytelling, choice and so much more. It is about decisions we make today impacting us tomorrow. What an opportunity, then, to design this production with a diverse cast that more accurately represents the world we live in and tells the story in a far richer, more deeply personal manner.

Adding in other casting design elements such as company member representation, union status, music, singing, fight choreography, instrumentation, dance ability, and a wider age range of actors meant my job was not going to be easy. I am grateful for the friendship and mentorship from folks like Emjoy Gavino and Erica Daniels who have lead by example and encouraged us all to do better as we navigate and confront the worthy endeavor of representation in casting.

Working with, supporting and investing in the incredible, diverse talent we have in our community takes time and effort, dedication, difficult conversations and loss of sleep. The work is not easy, but it is vital, and it is an honor to tell inclusive stories in Chicago, the greatest city for theatre in the world.

I am excited to continue working towards better and more thoughtful representation in casting. I look forward to seeing you at HATFIELD & McCOY.  Thank you for supporting live theatre.

HATFIELD & McCOY runs January 19th – March 11th. For more information visit thehousetheatre.com.


Marika Mashburn is a freelance Actor and Casting Director, based in Chicago, Illinois. As the resident Casting Director for The House Theatre of Chicago and Haven Theatre, casting credits include The House Theatre of Chicago’s world premiere production and remount of “United Flight 232” (nominated for 6 Joseph Jefferson Awards; WINNER – Best Ensemble and Best Production, Midsize) and “Season on the Line” (Joseph Jefferson Nomination – Best Ensemble). Additional credits: Haven Theatre (Director’s Haven, “Fear and Misery of the Third Reich”), Adventure Stage (“Akeelah and the Bee”), Chicago Dramatists, The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts (Miami, Florida), Riverside Theatre (Iowa City, Iowa), The Magic Parlour, The Willary, and Cards Against Humanity. marikamashburn.com.

 

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