Is image more important than ability in theatre?

Emi Meakin, 13 July 2012

Emilia, Abby, Emily, Kitty, Susan, Sue, Peta

We talked about our personal experiences of image taking precedent over ability in the theatre industry; for example, Emi was told she had the wrong look to ever be a ‘Cinderella’ type character, and Abby was told that she was too tall to become a dancer. We discussed how this in particular is an old fashioned attitude in theatre, and how there are some dance companies who break this attitude by hiring only dancers with ‘unconventional’ looks (for example, there is a ballet company that only hires bigger dancers). We also talked about how, in acting, there seems to only be two acceptable types of appearance (either completely average or very unique) and the difficulty of deciding whether we should change who we are to fit into one of these specifications.

In addition to this, we thought about the issue of typecasting; is this a good thing, or is it a hinderance? Should actors aim to carve out a niche for themselves, or should they try to be as versatile as possible?

We talked for quite a while about the importance of image to audiences. Several points were raised:

- Do audiences find theatre which uses only attractive actors unrealistic or intimidating?

- Or do audiences want to be detached from the actors, as it creates more of a spectacle? And would the use of ‘average’-looking actors decrease audiences enjoyment?

Some members of the discussion group had experience with casting, and admitted that looks do play a large part in the decisions made about actors in auditions.

However, we were told that, on a personal level, Sue and Susan were much more interested in the personality of actors when making casting decisions, and valued qualities such as commitment and enthusiasm over looks.


acting, casting, Theatre, ability, theatre, drama, Image