‘Hamilton’ Casting Call Under Fire Because POC Can’t Have Anything For Themselves
Broadway’s groundbreaking new musical Hamilton has proven to be its own significant moment in the current pop cultural climate, both within the confines of professional theater and outside it. It’s made Broadway accessible and appealing to people unfamiliar (or unconcerned) with a genre that, at its core, is overwhelmingly, institutionally white. Save for one role, Hamilton’s principal characters are played entirely by people of color, a move that makes good on show creator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s desire to take back the narrative of America’s very white origin story.
But the show recently came under fire when outraged
white people claimed a new casting call -- which specifically encourages non-white actors to audition for the show — is exclusionary, a grievance they have likely never before experienced.
Human Rights lawyer Randolph McLaughlin called the casting call discriminatory, stopping just short of calling "reverse racism" on the whole thing.
“I don’t know how a producer in the 21st century can think this is OK,” he told CNN. “Even when the intention is obviously good, you can’t express racial preference. This is an issue we have been fighting for decades and it started for black people. Imagine if the casting call was for WHITES ONLY. Al Sharpton would have a picket line. Listen, Idris Alba might not be the best person to play James Bond, but he should certainly be allowed to audition for the role if he wants to."
Thankfully, show producer Jeffrey Seller isn’t backing down.
“It is essential to the storytelling of Hamilton that the principal roles — which were written for non-white characters (excepting King George) — be performed by non-white actors,” he said in a statement via US Weekly.
"Hamilton depicts the birth of our nation in a singular way," he continued. "We will continue to cast the show with the same multicultural diversity that we have employed thus far."
President Obama perfectly echoed Hamilton's intent when he recently introduced the cast, who performed a special performance at the White House earlier this month.
"With a cast as diverse as America itself, including the outstandingly talented women, the show reminds us that this nation was built by more than just a few great men," he said. "And that it is an inheritance that belongs to all of us."
The casting call has since been amended to include the phrase, "we welcome people of all ethnicities to audition for Hamilton."
While the outrage over the casting call is, admittedly, ridiculous (the truth is, Hamilton wouldn't work nearly as well were it cast largely with white people), it’s brought a much-needed conversation about Broadway's glaring diversity problem to light.
The Actors' Equity Association -- which initially agreed the language in the casting call was “inconsistent with union policy" -- has since released its own statement, saying, “The real issue here is not a single casting notice, or a reporter trying to create a story. The real issue is that in 2016, there are still far too few roles for non-Caucasian actors. In that respect, of course, Hamilton has been groundbreaking, and we hope that the true and exciting diversity on display at the Richard Rogers inspires casing director and creative teams throughout the industry.
“We will continue to fight for our members of color," the statement reads. "We know that you have changed the minds of authors, directors and choreographers even when the casting notice has said that the character was Caucasian. Equal Employment Opportunity gives you the power to change minds.”
Head over to their official website to read the full statement.