Theatrefolk - The Drama Teacher Resource Company

Theatrefolk Featured Play: Typecast

Welcome to our Featured Play Spotlight. Typecast by Amanda Murray Cutalo is a fantastic comedy for students, featuring a heartwarming message and memorable characters.

The auditions for an upcoming production of Cinder White are underway and Ms. Thespis, the drama teacher, is greeted by a small group of students, each with a particular “look” and personality – the “diva,” the “quiet girl,” the “nice girl,” to name a few. To Ms. Thespis, casting this show seems like a no-brainer. However, when she comes down with a case of appendicitis, Ms. Ball, the gym teacher, needs to step in and direct the show, mostly because she feels guilty for balding Ms. Thespis’ pet ferret.

The other snag is that the students have all mysteriously been cast in the “wrong roles”- the “nice girl” is now the villain, the diva only has 2 minutes onstage, and the quiet, almost inaudible, “ensemble” girl is now playing a leading role with actual lines! As these characters awkwardly venture into unknown territory, they are forced to see themselves as more than their “type” and learn to, in the words of Ms. Ball, “play the roles they’re all totally wrong for.”

Why did we publish this play

I love the themes and the concepts that Amanda writes about. She truly has her students' stories at heart. This play is all about the whole notion of typecasting and putting people into specific roles - which happens in plays and in life. It's not out of a place of malice but a place of "well that person's going to be great in that role because they're already like that." But what happens when characters are cast against type? They must venture into unknown territory and see themselves as more than their "type?" I think it's a fantastic play with a lovely message and great characters.

Let's hear from the author!

1. Why did you write this play?

As an actress and a director, I am very familiar with the experience of being typecast and typecasting. We all have certain looks and mannerisms that inform others about who we are and what they can expect from us, both in the real world and in the imaginative world of theater. Sometimes this information is true, other times it's false, but always, it reflects only a piece of who we truly are. As actors, our “look” (and the types of characters we play as a result) often becomes the story that we’re most comfortable telling about ourselves, on and off the stage. As directors, we often cast actors who fit the “look” we’re going for.

I wanted to write a play that would explore what happens when an actor, or rather a whole group of actors, has to play roles that they are all “completely wrong for”- to play roles that no one, including themselves, believes that they could successfully pull off. Oh, and throw in a basketball coach named Ms. Ball to direct the play, rather than an actual theater director. I loved the idea of creating different journeys for each of these characters as they stumbled along in their discomfort and helped each other figure it out along the way.

2. Describe the theme in one or two sentences?

Leaving your comfort zone can be a scary thing, but it’s worth it, because there might be some amazing discoveries waiting for you on the other side.

3. What's the most important visual for you in this play?

There are multiple scenes in this play when the actors refuse to take their new roles seriously. They desperately want to return to the roles that are comfortable for them, or to leave the production altogether. Ms. Ball does not allow that, and to show them that quitting is not an option, she makes them run laps around the theater, along with various other exercises you’d see at a typical basketball practice. So many of the scenes open in the same way- with a bunch of annoyed actors running laps around the theater while the others rehearse.

4. If you could give one piece of advice for those producing the play, what would it be?

They have the chance to go on the same journeys that their characters do. Ironically, this play does call for a bit of typecasting. It makes sense to cast students who fit the various “looks” and character types that exist in this show. However, each of these actors, who might be very comfortable playing these roles, will also have to play the roles that they’re “completely wrong for,” just as their characters do. Having directed this show twice myself, one of my favorite parts of the rehearsal process was watching students make new discoveries about themselves in these roles. They, too, discovered that they were more than the “best friend,” the “leading lady,” the “stage manager,” the “ensemble girl,” the “ingenue.” In these moments, they learned such exciting things- that they could deliver the line in a bolder way, that they could move about the stage without a touch of fear, or that they could bring emotional depth to a scene.

5. Why is this play great for student performers?

Support students in this process of discovery and model healthy risk-taking as much as you can. In the beginning of our most recent production of Typecast, we sat down together as a cast, and each actor talked about comfort zones, both for their character and themselves. They each identified the moments/aspects of their role that made them the most comfortable, as well as the moments/aspects that made them the most uncomfortable, and shared why. I also shared a few of my own areas of discomfort as an actor and director. From this opening discussion, we were able to create a spirit of risk-taking and promise that we would encourage and celebrate one another to step outside of their comfort zones during the production. And then the fun began!

6. Who is your favourite character in the play?

Ms. Ball is probably my favorite. She’s the basketball coach who steps in to direct the production of Cinder White because she kind of owes it to the drama teacher. There was a whole ferret incident that went down between them, which I won’t go into that. I like to write characters who are a little rough around the edges. Ms. Ball is certainly not the person you would hope to be your director. She’s prickly and unrelenting, but she's also completely devoted to the production and the actors, though she’d never admit it out loud. What I like the most about her is that all of the transformations and realizations that happen in Typecast are because of her. The actors in Typecast see themselves as totally wrong for these parts because they’re completely out of their comfort zones. Ms. Ball is the only one who demands that they go there. She doesn’t let any of them off the hook.

7. What is your favourite line in the play?

There’s one character in Typecast named Audrey. She has basically been a glorified set piece in all of her previous shows, and for this show, she is cast as one of the leads, Prince Pleasant. Throughout the whole rehearsal process, no one can hear her at all. And sometimes, she even gets so scared that she crawls up in the fetal position and becomes “the rock,” as if she were a set piece again. My favorite moment/line happens during a lot of chaos; the drama director is yelling at the basketball coach for messing everything up, and Audrey just stands up and says in full voice, “I am not the rock anymore!” I love those moments when voiceless characters find their voices. When they finally see something in themselves that we, as the audience, knew was there but they did not. To me, this line celebrates the moments when we finally find the courage and willingness to trust ourselves.

Products referenced in this post: Typecast

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