No Safe Spaces

Re-casting Race, Ethnicity, and Nationality in American Theater
Angela C. Pao
Explores fifty years of non-traditional casting practices on the American stage and the questions of cultural identity that they have raised


  • Best Book Award for 2011 from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE)

No Safe Spaces looks at one of the most radical and enduring changes introduced during the Civil Rights era—multiracial and cross-racial casting practices in American theater. The move to cast Latino/a, African American, and Asian American actors in classic stage works by and about white Europeans and Americans is viewed as both social and political gesture and artistic innovation. Nontraditionally cast productions are shown to have participated in the national dialogue about race relations and ethnic identity and served as a source of renewed creativity for the staging of the canonical repertory.

Multiracial casting is explored first through its history, then through its artistic, political, and pragmatic dimensions. Next, the book focuses on case studies from the dominant genres of contemporary American theater: classical tragedy and comedy, modern domestic drama, antirealist drama, and the Broadway musical, using a broad array of archival source materials to enhance and illuminate its arguments.

"No Safe Spaces opens up a conversation beyond narrow polemics . . . Although cross-racial casting has been the topic of heated discussion, little sustained scholarship addresses both the historical precedents and theoretical dimensions. Pao illustrates the tensions and contradictions inherent not only in stage representations, but also in the performance of race in everyday life. A wonderful book whose potential readership goes well beyond theater and performance scholars."
—Josephine Lee, University of Minnesota

"Non-traditional casting, increasingly practiced in American theater, is both deeply connected to our country's racial self-image(s) and woefully under-theorized. Pao takes on the practice in its entirety to disentangle the various strands of this vitally important issue."
—Karen Shimakawa, New York University

Angela C. Pao is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at Indiana University.

Praise / Awards

  • "The first full-length study to engage the timely and challenging topic of what is often called 'nontraditional casting' is a learned, eloquent, and important book."
    Choice (Highly Recommended)

  • "...provides a key exploration of the potential shifts in cultural power that may result from meaning-making casting practices, as Pao reopens questions of nontraditional casting and repositions previous debates for a new generation of theatre practitioners and scholars."
    —Tiffany Noell, Theatre Survey
  • "Angela Pao's No Safe Spaces is an outstanding contribution, important not only for those interested in theater and performance studies but also for scholars invested in examining the complexities of race, the centrality of the body, and the entanglements between the cultural and the political." 
    —Chris A. Eng, Journal of Asian American Studies
  • Winner, Outstanding Book Award from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education 

Look Inside

Copyright © 2010, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 316 pages.
  • 12 B&W photos.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2011
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-02797-2

  • PDF: Adobe Digital Editions e-book (DRM Protected)

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  • $33.95 U.S.

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  • non-traditional casting, colorblind casting, multiracial casting, multicultural theatre, 20th-century, American theatre, race and performance, ethnicity and performance, Shakespeare and race, African American performance, Asian American performance