On the heels of the news that casting agency Stewart/Whitley will close its doors, cofounder Benton Whitley has announced the launch of Whitley Theatrical, a new company specializing in casting and producing for theater, film and television. Joining Whitley on the new venture will be associate casting director Micah Johnson-Levy, with acquisitions and legal counsel from Jordan Manekin and business management by Karen Morales at Armanino LLP.
“There will be a casting arm to Whitley Theatrical and a producing arm to Whitley Theatrical,” shared Whitley. “And the hope is that they often are actually combined.”
The company will continue to cast the Broadway and touring productions of the Tony Award-winning musical “Hadestown,” previously under the purview of Stewart/Whitley. Additionally, Whitley Theatrical is also casting multiple shows that are in development.
Whitley recently completed principal casting for the American Repertory Theater and Shakespeare Theatre Company co-production of “Evita,” which will be directed by Sammi Cannold.
Among the group’s other casting projects are “Goddess,” which premiered at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in the summer of 2022, and “How to Dance in Ohio,” which debuted at Syracuse Stage in the fall of 2022. Whitley Theatrical is also casting in-the-works stagings of the Diane-Paulus helmed “Wild,” the Annie Tippe-directed “Cowboy Bob,” the Neil Pepe-led “Inherit the Wind” and the Rachel Chavkin-directed “Same Time Next Year.”
As a casting director, Whitley has championed authentic representation. “Not only authentic cultural representation or racial representation onstage, but having authentic sexual identity and gender identity onstage is so important, too,” said Whitley. “And as a queer person it’s so important to me that queer people do not get left out of the conversation.”
For Whitley’s next chapter, he says those principles have only strengthened. He noted, “Something that’s very important to me is that it’s not just about the stories we tell — it’s about the storytellers who tell them.”
Whitley notes that his commitment to inclusion and opening doors will continue to guide his new endeavors. “By taking on the larger responsibility of producing shows, I hope to change the larger picture and actually have equitable representation at all corners of the process.”
“I plan on now using my bandwidth not just as a casting director, but also as a creative producer, developing new pieces of theater from the ground up for the stage,” he added.
Whitley shared that his interest in producing dates back to his origins in theater. While pursuing his undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan, he was a summer producing intern at Richard Frankel Productions. The following year he served as a casting intern in New York. Whitley recalled of his younger self, “Was it easier for me to say that I was gonna be a Broadway producer, or for me to say that I was gonna be a Broadway casting director?”
Now, Whitley doesn’t have to choose.
While Whitley Theatrical will produce and cast across film and television, theater will be a priority. As Whitley said, “I hope to use and develop my deep relationships with producers and creatives in the industry to, side by side, create the next great American musical.”