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The utopic vision of OSF’s Oklahoma!: Recuperative casting practices and queering early American history1

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In the spring of 2018, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) realized artistic director Bill Rauch’s decades-long dream: to produce a queer, interracial Oklahoma!. The production participates in a new practice of recasting history through musical theatre, and does so through an innovative approach to representation and character. OSF’s production reimagined Curly as a queer Black woman; the matriarch of the town, Aunt Eller, as a trans woman; and the secondary romantic couple, Will Parker and Ado Annie (here Ado Andy), as an interracial, gay male partnership. This alteration of the characters’ identities takes a bold new step in the trajectory of theatrical casting practices, challenging the entrenched white supremacy and patriarchy of the theatre industry. In this article, I situate OSF’s method of casting Oklahoma!, which I call ‘recuperative casting’, in the landscape of broader discourse related to casting and musicals that represent US history; I argue that this casting strategy seeks to remedy the whitewashing typical of productions of canonical musicals.

Keywords: Oklahoma!; casting; gender; history musicals; queer; race

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Linfield University

Publication date: April 1, 2021

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