Is the Drama Department Biased

Matthew Gearhart, Opinions Editor

Ever noticed that the kids who you see in the front of a play or musical here at Wash, are the same 4 or 5 people? So have we. Pippin and She kills monsters both have the same four people in the main cast. Wanting to uncover why this was, we reached out to some of the directors and producers of all of our plays and musicals here at Wash, and some of our own theater students.

The debate of this subject comes in, when one is asked if the casting process of plays and musicals is biased or not. Specifically, if particular students are chosen based on merit or if they are chosen because there is a bias to why they were chosen.

“We find students who performed best at the audition, for specific roles, and call them back for more information.” states Kyle Wollums. Wollums is the Director of Theater, he is in charge of casting who is going to be in what role. These are called callbacks, where the amount of people evaluated for a part is slimmed to a handful of people. After this is where a conflicting story begins.

Two students who said there is bias wanted to stay anonymous. 

“There are definitely ‘favorites’ of who gets casted. It’s a known fact that these individuals are great performers, but it’s also important to let other performers have a chance in the light.” stated an anonymous sophomore in theater. 

“It seems to be fair in who gets a callback but it seems like the same certain people get the roles over and over, like they go off more on reputation than skill… It’s always usually the same people that usually get something, we know we can’t compete with them” states an anonymous Junior at Wash who’s participated in a theater performance every year. 

When asked why the students wanted to stay anonymous, both explained to me that they fear that if the drama directors saw their name, they would have less of a chance to be casted into a lead role.

Although Wollums states, “It’s always based on who fits the part best, and who is the most skilled. Everybody is evaluated on the same criteria.” 

Not every student I talked to believed there was bias.

“I think the process is fair, it’s probably just a complicated process, and I feel it might be difficult for the directors to choose sometimes.” states Olivia Parsons 21’. 

Clearly there is a frustration among students, and opposing statements on both sides. But there is still no explanation to why some students are in nearly every play and musical as the main cast, and others not nearly as much.

“You have three groups of kids in casting , the kids who just want to be a part of the musical, and have no problem standing in the back. The kids who have a fair amount of talent and could handle a lead, but are too busy. Then you have a smaller group who work hard to put themselves into leads, and that might be the reason why you see the same 7 or 8 people. Individuals who have wanted a role, and worked hard, but didn’t get it may have been because of lack of skill, or they don’t have the right vocal range.” States Bill Lammers, the Technical Director for the Performing Arts.