One of the more discussed (at least in my hearing) choices made by Bill Rauch in the 2010 production of Hamlet has been the casting of deaf actor Howie Seago as the Ghost. Now, I’m suspecting that at some point this sort of thing will cease to be considered a Big Deal; rather like racial-blind casting, which has been the norm at the OSF for some time and now inspires remark mostly from newbies—folks who haven’t yet caught on that theatre is by nature a far more metaphorical and poetic medium than, say, the movies; that, as Henry V‘s Chorus reminds us,
’tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
Carry them here and there; jumping o’er times,
Turning the accomplishment of many years
Into an hour-glass:
A production’s ability to call forth the desired experience from the audience—that mysterious and magical thing that people call “great theatre”—depends as much on what the audience brings with them into the auditorium as what the actors bring to the stage. In terms of what the actors bring to the stage, their effectiveness, in turn, depends more on skill and intelligence and qualities of energy and personality than whether they fit a preconceived mold in terms of how they look or sound or dress. But then there are also, probably always will be, audience members who feel that Shakespeare isn’t Shakespeare unless the actors are all white, in doublet and hose, and speaking with British accents.