Kiruna Stamell, 10 January 2016

Kiruna created the group with Sunny as they realised at Opening, their session

agenda's were aligned.

Kiruna opened the session with ideas around ‘othering’.

By “othering”, we mean the process, actions or words which can make an individual or

group feel isolated. IE a group or individual identifying another person as ‘not one of

us’. Social codes, subtle or extreme, along with stigmas are often attributed to the

excluded group, individual or body. They are reduced to a singular meaning which

ignores the many intersectional characteristics and experiences every person has in

their lives.

There is no human on earth, who can have ever escaped this sensation of ‘otherness’

or being ‘othered’.

We discussed examples.

The average looking white middle class guy in a room of fit Olympic athletes, whose

attractiveness would score a 10/10. Whereas he's more of an 6/10.

The solo women in the board room.

The only person wearing glasses in their class.

The only BAME artist, creative or actor on a project who feels they have only been

hired, so that the project could ‘tick a box’

A Disabled actor in a society that codes their body an ‘inherent meaning’ that simply

doesn't exist. ‘Jane is a character who is physically blind until she learns to see love…

then miracle or miracles… her sight returns’.

'Othering' doesn't excuse racism or prejudice but it is useful mechanism for explaining

the sensation of being excluded from privilege because everyone has to one degree or

another experienced that feeling.

Often casting is more focused on the aesthetic of features associated with different

ethnic groups, rather than the cultural experience. This is similar for the aesthetic of

Disability, rather than the cultural experience of disability.

In the past it was common for a white actor to don these attributes via make-up and

trickery to fain the aesthetic. It was this privileged position where only white actor's

were given this creative mobility and freedom. As their base position of ‘whiteness’

was seen as neutral.

The Disabled experience is similar. Often the casting is for someone who is ‘blind’, ‘a

wheelchair user’, ‘Deaf’ or has another visible impairment/difference. In many cases a

non-disabled actor donning a Disabled Aesthetic is still culturally acceptable and they

are rewarded, not so much for their portrayal of character, but rather ‘Disability’.

Yet, the social mobility to play non-disabled is denied to the Disabled actor and often

the mobility to play the Disable character is often denied also…

A writer present shared the disappointing news that she regularly hears… ‘but there

isn’t enough talent'.

A response to this was the suggestion that those people were just not looking in the

right places.

Also the industry attitude that… we'll let other actors double up and come back as new

characters… but once we've use a BAME or Disabled actor to explore ‘an issue’…

they are seen as spent.

Also noted were the attitudes of the new generation of performers and makers, who

felt the reverence given to theatres and predominantly exclusive institutions just

weren't worth the bother and so were turning away and creating work in new spaces,

like online and in new media.

Music is particularly easy to create in different platforms, now we are online and where

their are no gatekeepers. The old bastions of privilege, such as major Theatres and

other public venues, though still remain gate keepers to performing arts.This has to

change, if they want to remain publicly funded by a tax payer community which is

growing in diversity.

How people had felt when they were ‘othered’, was explored and discussed. Many

personal experiences were shared with the group.

The difficulty of needing to address issues of ‘otherness’ in the casting, creative or

rehearsal processes were raised. There is a conflict between needing to move forward

and address the issues through discussion and not feeling stigmatised as ‘angry’ or

‘difficult’, when the ‘othered’ group raises the issue. But it seems, that you can't move

forward without addressing the issues in some way, so it has to be talked about. But it

also has to be actioned.

Perhaps when the industry truly adopts and normalises the presence of Disabled and

BAME actors in productions, art and work then ‘otherness’ will have addressed itself.

That is to say, we recognise ‘otherness’ as universal to the human condition and that

we are all other.

So finally anybody & any body are not limited by an outside perception of their

experiences but this truth. ‘It can happen to anyone. Why not them?’

Because at the moment, how we cast and stigmatise and ignore the experiences of

BAME and Disabled actors makes our creative work a pale imitation of the real world

and perpetuates a lie, ‘that they aren’t like us'.


act for change, Casting, descrimination, normative, colour brave, actress, otherness,

normal, othering, casting, disability, Disability, Disabled, bame, disabled, acting,

BAME, ACTOR, Acting, Actor, actor, diversity, Diversity, Act For Change, Act For

Change Project

Comments: 1

Ayesha Casely-Hayford, 13 January 2016

Great to read this report from Kiruna and Sunny and discussion on otherness/colour blind casting. SO important to keep

talking and sharing, understanding each other's experiences so we can take steps towards affecting change. The Act For

Change Project:

begins its new campaign this year “We Choose the Stories We Tell” to gather voices of experience through a plethora of

lives - “otherness” should become “us”.

Strong work! Let's keep talking - link up with The Act For Change Project @ActForChangeHQ and on FB.

Drop us an email at [email protected] to be added to our mailing list - be the change you want to see.

Ayesha x