The Casting Society of America will sponsor town halls in Los Angeles and New York for actors of Middle Eastern, North African and South Asian decent “to effect concrete change in how actors in these historically underrepresented communities are afforded access to job opportunities.”

“I think that the entertainment industry has been responsible for perpetuating some harmful and potentially dangerous stereotypes,” CSA president Russell Boast said. “Events like this provide an opportunity to address current issues and are a crucial step towards accurate and authentic portrayals in the media.”

The town halls, set for October 22 (New York) and October 23 (Los Angeles) are part of the CSA’s ongoing Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion in Casting Initiative. Last October, it hosted an open casting call for transgender actors, and in December held an open call for performers with disabilities to showcase their talents in front of professional casting directors in cities nationwide.

The CSA says the goal of the town hall is to better and more consistently work to increase audition opportunities and advocate on behalf of MENASA actors. The town hall will be followed at a later date by free workshops and a taped open call where participating actors will receive video footage for their audition reels.

“Representation matters, and MENASA performers rely heavily on casting directors as allies to our underrepresented community,” said actress Azita Ghanizada, founder of the MENA Arts Advocacy Coalition. “This town hall…is a reflection of the CSA stepping up and engaging in a much needed dialogue between our creative communities.”

Said actress Rasha Zamamiri: “Nothing changes without education. I am proud of CSA for stepping up with a desire to expand and grow in their understanding the nuances of hiring and representing MENASA actors. Everything matters. From the language of the breakdown, to the audition, to stepping on set. We are so much more than the stereotype the media has created of us. Through casting, we can begin to change the narrative.”

CSA casting director Karyn Casl, a member of the Inclusion & Diversity committee, and Zamamiri will moderate the town hall at Actors Equity’s headquarters in New York on October 22. Boast and Ghanizada will moderate the town hall at SAG-AFTRA’s Los Angeles offices October 23. Both events will be streamed on Facebook Live.