chapter  5
ReOrienting
A Middle Eastern American casting case study
WithTorange Yeghiazarian
Pages 12

Founded in 1996 in San Francisco, Golden Thread Productions is the first American theater company devoted to plays from or about the Middle East. In addition to developing and producing full-length plays, Golden Thread produces the ReOrient Festival of short plays. The festival was launched in 1999 to showcase the diversity of the Middle East in an evening of distinct narratives from a wide range of aesthetics. The festival’s production model is collaborative: directors share the same ensemble cast, festival designers, and production team. Working within a casting matrix, each actor is often involved in two to four plays representing myriad of cultural backgrounds. Drawing from nearly 20 years of production history, this chapter examines ReOrient’s casting model in the larger context of diversity and inclusion in the American theater. Working within Golden Thread’s broad definition of the Middle East, the chapter offers specific examples of plays and casting needs that challenge internal and external assumptions about typical racial and regional looks. How does Golden Thread negotiate its mission’s multiple priorities? The detailed examples and candid analysis support Golden Thread’s current casting practice of focusing on cultural competency and lived experience instead of skin color, race, or passport.