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Let's talk about type.



It is probably something all of us in theatre have struggled with at some point.


"What is my type?"


This is what we have learned as we have studied theatre. There are types of characters and roles that exist in theatre and you may fit best in one type over another. Types include leading lady, ingénue, villain, jokester, best friend, etc. I am pretty sure you get the picture.


Knowing your type is incredibly important to increase your chances of nailing certain roles. If you are clearly not an ingénue (think princess) and are more a mother then you probably should go for the mother. Duh. It makes sense.


Unfortunately I am seeing fellow young actors distress themselves over type. Like to the point that worries me. Recently I was helping quite a few students choose headshots since I just came back from New York and took a lot of notes on choosing headshots from people in the industry so they were asking me advice. One thing I kept asking them was "What do you consider your personality, that you would like a casting director to see in this snapshot of you?" And would you imagine every single student answered what their type was. Or what they thought their type was. Or what type a professor said who they were. Okay. These students are not even in full on audition mode and they are already having full on identity crises. And I completely understand why. Because I've been there.


My freshmen year I honestly thought I could be any role. That if I worked really hard I could receive any role that I wanted. Then reality hit. I sat in my Beginning Acting class and flipped to a page in my Acting book about types. And there was a list. And then there was a method about how to find what role fits you best. In about two hours in class we all tried to cast ourselves in roles and ask questions to our professors about what role they thought would fit us best. What they would cast us in. It also did not help that there were a few upperclassmen at the time that would continually point out what they would cast the whole department in the roles of their favorite shows. I never made those pretend cast lists. Hilarious that I thought that was even a big deal. I was told my type would come later in life. That I'd be a great older woman, leading lady, roles would pile on me when I am 35. Until then I am perfect for ensemble dancer. I wasn't satisfied with that.


Not that there is anything wrong with this thinking but when I brought this up to the wonderful Daisy Prince at my Tepper Semester Musical Theatre class, she nearly threw her pencil. She said "Why are universities so set on type? It's not like they actually follow reality! They're casting 20 year olds as 80 year olds and children as parents! Someone will tell you what your type is. Types have their place but they aren't something you need to keep yourself in a bubble over. I just want to hear you sing what you want to sing. I don't care if it's a girl's song and you're a guy. I don't care if it is for an old woman and you're young. Sing what you want to sing. Audition for the roles you love. What really matters is your personality fitting the role and if you love it who cares??"


WOW.


Not once did anyone tell me while I was at ACU that I could actually sing whatever I wanted. Never did someone say I could audition for whatever role I was passionate about. It was about placing me where they thought I have the best shot of receiving a role. Which is great but it kind of takes the fun out of discovering roles you are good for that you never thought you would be good for. Going for roles that you are passionate about, now that is more fun.


At the end of the day Hamilton really has changed type casting in theatre. It is really only prevalent in big unified auditions such as SETC, UPTA, and StrawHats. Otherwise it's an open playing field. An all female cast of the Tempest is much more interesting than the traditional cast of mostly men. A transgender woman acting in a hit TV show has opened the door of opportunity. And a Latino man playing a white historical figure has quite literally changed how we audition for shows. You can be anyone if you are passionate and knowledgeable about the role and if you fit in the director's vision of who this character should be. If we continued casting the same person over and over again then shows would never evolve. They wouldn't be new and exciting. And even worse than that, they wouldn't be risky.


So to my lovely fellow actors who are worried their type will not come until they're older, or they don't know who they are (because you are still babies and you are not supposed to know everything yet) or they don't look like the character they have always wanted to play, then find roles you would love to do and ask yourself why you are drawn to it. Find other roles like that one. If thinking about type is limiting you then just audition for what you want until you know what works best for you. Let's be adventurous and have fun. Isn't that why we are actors in the first place?









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