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Calliope's Character Corner: Pythio

As a community theatre director two weeks away from auditions, there is a significant level of anxiety about how casting will turn out. Before a single hour of rehearsals have been logged, the production team and I will make decisions that have a huge effect on the show, and maybe even on how successful it will be.

There are two casting decisions in this show that particularly make me nervous, and the first is the one we've tossed front and center on last week's audition reminder - the character of Pythio. One of the fantastic things about Head Over Heels is the embrace of the LGBTQIA+ community, and Pythio is the most visible example of representation at the beginning of the show - a non-binary oracle at Delphi. They/them pronouns and their non-binary gender identity are made clear right in the script from their first appearance.

So what, director whiny-pants? If you like representation so much, why are you worried about this character?

Because getting the representation right matters! Ideally, a non-binary performer should get this role. How many non-binary folks will come to audition for the show? Will any of them have the voice and the acting chops to fill the role? Will any of them be of an appropriate age with respect to the relationships Pythio has with other characters in the show? On Broadway, they cast a trans woman in the role, which was history-making in its own way - is a trans woman as, or more, or less appropriate than a trans man for the role? Than someone who identifies as genderqueer, agender, or non-binary? The reality is that Rochester is a small city with a limited number of LGBTQIA+ performers and fewer still under that 'T' umbrella, which makes the challenge of casting with best-possible representation look a little harder.

Ultimately, I keep telling myself as my thoughts chase any and all of these questions, we'll make the best casting decision we can with the folks that come out to audition.

Wow - I sat down to write this blog about who the character of Pythio is and so far I have barely touched on it. Like most of the characters in this show, Pythio has a compelling surface as well as significant depth. The lines show a colorful, fabulous, sassy oracle that has just taken over from the last Delphinian and the whole plot is pushed into motion by their prophecies about Arcadia. Without giving too much away, we learn a great deal more about Pythio's backstory by the end of the show - their connections to other characters, and who they were before becoming the Oracle. There are powerful moments of connection and re-connection for the character. In reflection, one can find the motivation for why Pythio pushes the plot the way they do at the beginning of the show, and why they consciously act as an agent of change.

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