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Talking Back #4 Barbara Robertson

Since our incredible kick-off, The Chicago Inclusion Project has continued to explore how we will sustain our efforts and where we can make the greatest impact. Fully aware that we don’t have all the answers, we seek out others who may be passionate about our cause, and reach out to those who have experienced our intentions first hand. For this reason, we’ve interviewed the actors who were involved in our first reading of The Time of Your Life by William Saroyan, performed on June 1, 2015 at Victory Gardens Theatre. We are forever grateful that Barbara participated and honored that she entertained our questions.

Barbara Robertson

This specific casting of “The Time of Your Life”...Did it tell the story, in your opinion?


Listening to it or watching it, did anything take you out of the story?


Was working on “The Time of Your Life” different from working on other plays for you? If so, how?

Not at all.

In your opinion, what is the state of representation on Chicago stages right now?

It is ok, but only ok. Although theatre is a very powerful way to increase consciousness in others, too many theatre makers depend on stereotypes to tell their stories. Long ago, in a college playwriting class I was taught that even though anything is possible, my audience would only believe what they perceived as probable. I think that too many casting directors feel that it is not probable that a “big red-haired Italian man” could look like Tony, and so they would not give Tony a chance to even audition for the role. This attitude has closed too many doors and limited our power. We must continue to find imaginative advocates in casting directors, talent agents, directors, and writers. The actors will tell the stories.

What are triumphs we’ve seen? Who has been doing it right?

Alana in Mary Antoinette {at The Goodman]

What are challenges we still face as a community?


What would you like to see done about it?

Encourage directors and casting directors to be more imaginative.

Each artist said “yes” to this project for different reasons. What were yours?


...Anything else?

After the performance someone complained to me that they felt there wasn’t that much diversity in our company of actors. To quote: “I mean, why did you have a white guy playing Joe?” This person, however, was not a director or a playwright. This person does not work in the theatre. This was someone who likes to attend theatre. [Although Barbara was asked this question, Anish Jethmalani actually played Joe; not a white guy.]

You can see Barbara in The Tempest at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre Sept 8 - Nov 8.

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