Shadowcasts – The Good and the Bad

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I have a love/hate relationship with shadowcasting. I was in a Rocky Horror shadowcast as Riff Raff in the early 90’s. While I had a lot of fun (which is supposed to be the entire point) I also experienced a lot of very petulant, childish drama because people took themselves and their involvement in “cast” too seriously. They actually thought they were important.

I mean, this is a bunch of people who were mostly in their late teens and early 20’s imitating a film that was badly acted and shot in the first place. Nothing important is happening, and even getting a major “role” doesn’t really matter because you’re not acting, you’re imitating. Not even doing impressions, really. Sure, imitation does take some talent. You have to be able to synchronize and choreograph your movement to what’s on the screen behind you. However, with enough repetition and practice, most people can pull this off passably enough.

Furthermore, people aren’t getting paid, so no one’s a professional. If anyone wants to get into actual acting, their experience in a shadowcast won’t count. You don’t have to memorize lines, get your voice right, convey any emotion or do anything but be in the right place at the right time. What’s the point of pointing all this out? Well, to say that it’s not important. It’s especially not anything for anyone to be a primadonna about, which I’ve seen happen for the past 25 years. If anything, I’ve seen people take it more seriously than most people did back in the early 90’s.

People argue and fight each other and get smug and vie for various roles as if they’re actually in Broadway plays. I’ve watched sweet, kind people suddenly have their heads inflate to Jay Leno proportions, strutting and prancing about and looking down on people with smaller “roles” or especially people who aren’t in “cast” at all.

Even worse, I’ve seen the cast fragment into two casts who act like mortal enemies. It’s seriously the most pathetic thing I can imagine, to hate others because they’re not on “your cast”. That kind of drama is why I’ve stayed out of shadowcasts since the early 90’s.

I did try to make a return a few years ago for the shadowcast for Repo: The Genetic Opera. It so quickly devolved into some of the worst drama I’d ever seen and I just said “fuck it”. I got out. If a shadowcast isn’t fun, it’s not worth doing. Some people thought that because they developed a little rapport with a couple of the people who made the movie, that suddenly they were more important and could treat others like shit with impunity.

I’ve been basically out of the scene since around ‘93 or so, however whenever I return to visit and see old friends who, for reasons I don’t understand (but I still love them anyway), have decided to stick with the shadowcasts all these years, I find I’m looked at with contempt and looked down upon by a lot of the current casts, because the kids were not even born when I was in a cast and they didn’t recognize me as one of “them”. Then they’d find out I was once in cast and they’d either warm up and be two-facedly friendly or they’d see me as competition and be even shittier. There are a few good apples in there, but mostly it’s the same kind of silly, pointless holier-than-thou bullshit it’s ever been.

I don’t get it. When I was in cast, I may have been a drugged up fuck-up, but I was friendly to all the rest of cast and to those were weren’t in it. For whatever faults Ive had, being a stuck up shitheel isn’t one of them. I was kind, dammit.

Shadowcasts are often held up as the place for all the misfits to be accepted. Well, that’s partially true. It’s created a social life for social outcasts, myself included. It’s a place for all the “misfit toys” as is often said. That’s true and it’s a good thing. However, it’s also terribly cliquish and often embarrassingly immature. One would think that, if one is a misfit and they know how much it sucks to be treated badly, that they wouldn’t treat a fellow misfit badly. But it happens all the time and it’s shameful.

I’ve always been an advocate for inclusion and kindness in casts. I don’t like watching people fight, especially when it’s something that, in the end, is just a bunch of people getting together to imitate a movie.

Back then, shadowcasts were all that we misfits had. These days, thankfully, the geeks and nerds of the world have it set. Their culture is now almost mainstream, and shadowcasts are becoming almost quaint. They’re like the Commodore 64 or Atari 2600 of geek/nerd/misfit culture. They still basically work, but other things have arrived and taken over.

I can’t fault anyone who wants to take part in a shadowcast, provided they’re kind and they do it for fun. But all those who take it too seriously and develop attitudes around it? Die in a fire. A misfit who turns on other misfits and treats them like shit is the worst kind of person. Do it for fun, or quit. If you want to feel important, then go write, direct, act and actually get in the business so you can be a professional asshole.

© 2015 William Suphan

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