Stewart/Whitley has hired two new casting assistants, as the office works toward its diversity and inclusion goals and looks to Broadway reopening.
The casting office hired Joseph Hayes, who most recently worked at Kate Lumpkin Casting, and Micah Johnson-Levy, a former Stewart/Whitley intern. Though the Broadway reopening timeline is not yet set, the casting office decided to move forward with hiring in order to emerge ready on the other side of the shutdown.
“In a time of non-expansion, we’re expanding,” said Duncan Stewart, co-owner of the casting office. “It seems crazy in some ways, but it seems right and on the mark for Benton [Whitley] and I and what we want to do within our office, but also the casting industry at large.”
In September 2020, Stewart/Whitley, which is responsible for shows such as “Hadestown” and “Chicago,” made a public pledge to hire a casting director who is Black, Indigenous or a person of color and to have a BIPOC representation in the audition room for BIPOC-centered productions, among other commitments.
These two new hires, who will run the door at auditions and have input on and help find talent, among other duties, are a start toward that pledge. Stewart and Whitley hope to keep expanding the team as the industry reopens. Hayes attended Ball State University and previously interned at Tara Rubin Casting. Johnson-Levy received a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and previously interned at the American Repertory Theater.
“This time is not also just about having our team work on projects, it’s actually about building a team,” Stewart said.
The Stewart/Whitley team has been able to work on some film and television projects during the shutdown, but the office is operating with a fraction of its traditional workload. However, Stewart and Whitley say they’re beginning to see signs of re-emergence in the theater industry. Their team has begun reaching out to alumni on national tours and assembling virtual audition tapes for national tours set to begin this fall. They hope to soon turn to reassembling Broadway shows as well as work on virtual readings and workshops.
Broadway shows are currently closed through at least May 2021, with several productions aiming for fall 2021.
In the interim, the office has also been working through Nicole Johnson’s Edify program, which is designed to dismantle systemic oppression and provide a cultural shift within a workplace or institution.
When Broadway does return, Stewart and Whitley’s hope is that the casting industry has changed to become more welcoming to BIPOC members of the theater industry.
“We’re hoping to bring more in a more inclusive and diverse point of view,” Whitley said. “It’s not just the storytellers on stage that matter, it’s the storytellers that put those people on stage that matter as well.”