We’re Too Fat and Too Invisible to Have a Seat at Theatre’s Table, and Now Some of Us Don’t Eat


I’m a lady performer who wears pant/gown dimension 10-12. In the eyes of administrators, producers, choreographers, and theatre’s different decisionmakers, which means I’m undeserving of romantic love, actual friendships, dignity, and correct illustration within the characters I play. Instead, I’m solely deemed able to portraying a plump mom, comedic reduction, or somebody obsessive about meals or intercourse. Despite being demeaned and condescended to resulting from my dimension, I struggle for curvy girls to be seen in all sorts of roles.

The expectation for feminine performers to be skinny begins at a younger age and, sadly, is usually bolstered in an academic setting. Young actors can develop severe psychological, emotional, and bodily points with long-term results. Within audition, training, and coaching settings, theatremakers continuously reinforce society’s message that ladies are solely lovely when they’re skinny and toned. That harmful notion has saved girls feeling unworthy and fewer than these round them; it tells them that they’re too massive to be proficient, too massive to be seen, and too massive to be beloved.

Our Experiences

In my quest for physique dimension fairness on stage and display, I contacted and interviewed many performing girls who had been additionally ridiculed and shamed for his or her physique dimension. Emily Clemmer*, now a highschool science and drama instructor, was a robust and delightful dancer as a young person. In highschool, she was instructed she would solely play the spunky or quirky aspect characters as a result of her physique kind was not acceptable for romantic leads, and she or he was continuously forged in ensemble roles and because the odd characters that had been forecasted for her. By her junior 12 months of a school performing program, Clemmer developed anorexia after being instructed by her faculty performing professor that she wouldn’t be thought-about for her dream function of Jo March in Little Women if she didn’t lose at the least twenty kilos. She instructed me that almost ten years later she nonetheless struggles with meals and discovering the motivation to eat.

One director knowledgeable her that she would have been excellent for the lead function of Mary in The Secret Garden if she was smaller. Instead, she was forged because the schoolmarm, who seems in a single scene.

For Angela Danhouf, a performer with poly-cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), reducing weight has at all times been a wrestle. Due to her dimension, administrators would both refuse to forged her or put her in maternal roles. One director knowledgeable her that she would have been excellent for the lead function of Mary in The Secret Garden if she was smaller. Instead, she was forged because the schoolmarm, who seems in a single scene.

Anna Taylor was forged as Juliet in a school manufacturing of Romeo and Juliet. Although she was already forged and would have been thought-about skinny by society’s requirements, she didn’t assume she regarded as an ingenue ought to; her self-image was primarily based on commentary made to others by leaders within the theatre division. Because of this expectation, she developed an consuming dysfunction and an unhealthy relationship with meals.

In center college, Sarah Russell was a tall dancer who, due to her peak, was heavier than the opposite ladies. Her dance studio instructors instructed her to reduce weight so she may carry out the identical expertise as these lighter than her. She developed anorexia and bulimia on the age of 13, which led to her quitting dance by sixteen years previous resulting from deteriorating well being. It took her 5 years to really feel like she lastly reached a wholesome relationship with meals and her physique. Russell has by no means formally returned to aggressive dance.

I, Jasmine Anderson, have suffered from physique picture points since I used to be twelve years previous. At 13, I began skipping meals. In faculty, after I went and not using a actual meal for days, I instructed myself it was as a result of I couldn’t afford meals. It was nonetheless not sufficient for a few of my faculty performing professors, who instructed me to reduce weight if I needed to be thought-about for extra roles. At the peak of my anorexia and extreme cardio train in 2014, I used to be lastly forged as a romantic lead at that college.

After graduating with my bachelor’s diploma in musical theatre, I labored at a small theatre in southern Utah. I used to be fortunate sufficient to have a producer who forged primarily based on expertise quite than physique dimension. Hallelujah! After years of being instructed I used to be too fats, I lastly had alternatives previously inaccessible to me. I performed Guinevere in Camelot, Nellie Forbush in South Pacific, Jerusha Abbott in Daddy Long Legs, and lots of different roles. As a lady with curves, eighteen-year-old characters like Jerusha are usually thought-about far exterior my “range.” Yet after I performed the function in 2018, an viewers member approached me with tears in her eyes after a efficiency. She had stopped performing as a result of her PCOS had made her achieve weight, and she or he was so grateful to see me on stage. She didn’t assume anybody would forged her, however seeing me carry out gave her hope that she may carry out once more sometime. Representation issues. We have to proceed creating body-diverse casts to assist different proficient people see that they are often profitable in no matter they aspire to do.

Against Weight Loss

Directors and instructors, producers, audiences, casting administrators, and others with energy in our area perpetuate fatphobia by praising actors who’ve misplaced weight. However, the limitations stopping performing girls from reaching the “perfect” physique that’s anticipated of us reveal that these fatphobic requirements uphold and are upheld by types of financial and genetic privilege.

Most performers battle the battle of low pay and excessive bills. In 2019, after I had essentially the most work as an actor in a 12 months as I had ever had, I made lower than $30,000 together with all of my crucial aspect gigs. As a younger, aspiring performer I can’t afford contemporary produce—which prices $1.50 extra day-after-day based on one Harvard School of Public Health examine—after I have no idea when my subsequent paycheck is coming. I’ve usually sacrificed shopping for groceries to make sure I will pay for lease, utility payments, and different requirements or emergencies. Emerging performers with out generational wealth don’t make sufficient cash to pay for our requirements, a balanced food regimen, and a health club membership or private coaching.

Additionally, bigger girls can’t merely change their genetic make-up. Studies have proven that “body surface features and body shape are genetically predetermined.” If your physique form is of course an apple or a pear, you had been genetically predisposed to be that apple or pear irrespective of how a lot you food regimen and train. Other circumstances like PCOS or hypothyroidism also can make it tough or unattainable to reduce weight. A girl shouldn’t need to really feel like she can’t carry out or should disclose her medical circumstances to try to “excuse” her weight when in coaching or audition areas.

Dismantling our fatphobic ideas and practices additionally helps to dismantle misogyny, ableism, and racism. Fatphobic stigmas influence all girls and actively maintain the marginalization of girls of shade and trans girls. However, opening extra roles to girls of extra various shapes, sizes, skills, and races tells patriarchal techniques that they’re flawed.


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