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Hamilton Casting Call, Or, The Making of Magical White Tears of 2016 & All That Followed

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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It’s mainstream and it wasn’t made for them, because, let’s be real– everything was created for them.

Hamilton caused quite a stir with its newest casting notice that specifically requests Non-White actors for the Broadway and touring productions. No biggie right? No, huge biggie. At least that’s what lawyer Randolph M. McLaughlin and The Actors Equity Association have to say about it. A civil rights attorney that teaches at Pace University’s School of Law told CBS this is a violation of the New York City Human Rights Law, denied an opportunity for employment based on race. So from a legal standpoint, the poor choice of wording was against the law.

“You cannot advertise showing that you have a preference for one racial group over another,” McLaughlin said. “As an artistic question – sure, he can cast whomever he wants to cast, but he has to give every actor eligible for the role an opportunity to try.”

So, I wonder, is he talking about things like this:

Where was the outrage when this notice was posted?
There was none, and I can only make an inference why there wasn’t a big fuss. It’s because the theatre is, in all its loveliness and flashy lights, still considered a white space that caters to the white gaze, so of course no one would have a problem, that and according to Equity rules it’s actually legal! After all, whiteness is the norm.

McLaughlin then adds, “would there be outrage if there were notices that said whites only?”, and I want to ask McLaughlin if he has any actor friends of color or ever went on auditions because that outrage is expressed all the time. Say when you don’t book a job because you aren’t “the right fit” or because the casting breakdown specially requests a Caucasian actor or actress- what then do we do with our outrage? We keep going and we create. We tell the stories that we want to tell, through our own lenses. We have people like Lin-Manuel Miranda who create opportunities for people of color on the stage when there are so few, not because we want to exclude white people. This isn’t reverse racism (which doesn’t exist btw).  I’d expect for Actors Equity to be disappointed, but as an activist for civil rights, Professor McLaughlin should know all about creating opportunities in spaces where you’ve been denied (HBCU’s for example).

The issue then isn’t just a human rights violation, the issue, I’d argue, is also much deeper than that and something people won’t admit to. I will say it anyway. Thoughts expressed below are my own, not reflective of Broadway Black;

People, and to be specific, certain white people take offense to this because this show hit the mainstream and for once they have nothing to do with it. Nothing. Nada. They didn’t create it, they aren’t starring in it, they didn’t workshop it, and they can’t audition for it. And if we know anything about the mainstream we know it’s catered to white consumers, and the glorious thing about Hamilton is it doesn’t do that. Its cast and the show’s hip-hop elements speak to those of color, but also, its story of creating an America accepting of everyone is something that is able to resonate with all people.

If this casting notice was for a show like  The Color Purple or even Shuffle Along or On Your Feet, there would be NO outrage, because those shows, while all are wildly successful and amazing, don’t have the mainstream appeal that Hamilton does and furthermore- let’s be honest- those shows are exclusive to African-American/Latinx experiences. Hamilton isn’t exclusive to just one group, its story is universal. Growing up we all learned about our founding fathers (who we know are white) this time however they are being portrayed exclusively by people of color, and that is essential to the musical’s plot.

Exactly. #HamiltonCasting #Hamilton

A photo posted by Kimberly Nichole (@kimnicky) on

 

As of yesterday, producers released a statement saying that they would revise the wording of the casting call to encourage all to audition, but also gave context to their choice.

“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,” the producers said later Wednesday. “This adheres to the accepted practice that certain characteristics in certain roles constitute a ‘bona fide occupational qualification’ that is legal. This also follows in the tradition of many shows that call for race, ethnicity or age specific casting, whether it’s The Color Purple or Porgy & Bess or Matilda. The casting will be amended to also include language we neglected to add, that is, we welcome people of all ethnicities to audition for ‘Hamilton.'”

The casting call now reads: “‘Hamilton’ is holding open auditions for singers who rap! Seeking men and women, ages 20s to 30s, for the non-white characters as written and conceived for the currently running Broadway production and upcoming tours of ‘Hamilton!'”

On the updated casting call a disclaimer at the bottom that reads, “Performers of all ethnic and racial backgrounds are encouraged to attend.”

I’d also like to note the casting for speaking parts said ‘non-white’, but for the dancing auditions it was never specified, but of course some white performers aren’t satisfied with just being in the company. It must be hard to be the only white person in a cast of all people of color, how can one possibly manage that?!

(According to AE rules, the character breakdowns can be race/ethnicity-specific but the audition notices can’t. The wording and use of the “non” technically makes it discrimination.  But the two usually go hand in hand so that doesn’t make sense to me, but what do I know?)

And just like that, everyone is welcome to audition for Hamilton here. Don’t throw away your shot.  

 

Y’all still mad over that #HamiltonCastingCall or nah??? #BroadwayBlack   A photo posted by Broadway Black (@broadwayblack) on

 

 

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Kei

    April 2, 2016 at 2:22 AM

    This was very well written, I truly enjoyed it because it aligned very much with how I feel about the situation. I don’t know if there were enough “WTH” or “WTF” (whichever you prefer) emoji’s or gifs for when I first heard of the outrage of the “reverse racism of Hamilton audition casting.” My first thought was, “early April Fools joke” alas, it was real and like could not understand why. I mean, let’s be honest…it feels personal. It feels really, really personal. I mean I get it, theatre is a tough business (I’m attempting to break in myself) and it should be open to all and it should include everyone who wants to venture into it because they love it and blah blah blah, but it is darn hard when let’s say 80% of the shows on Broadway don’t feel like they represent you. Now here’s a show like you said that’s turning history on it’s head by making the known white historical figures (it’d be actors if this wasn’t based on truth) and having them no where in the show, with a style that is unique to people of color. It’s amazing, and it’s wonderful that they wanted to keep it that way on the tour, because as we know, tours change casts all the time especially the ensemble, so for them to want to make sure minorities got their “shot” (yes, that was a joke) they decided to just say it. I suppose it could’ve just been implied as they did re-write it with ease, but it shouldn’t have caused the people to get so upset. The reason Lin cast it with all minorities (sans King George) in the first place helped tell the story and expose the ways of the times and how people couldn’t have been further apart with race but how close people are with reference to human relations and personal struggle and striving to be more than what people thought. I do apologize if this is babbling, but my main point is, I am saddened by this. This is one show, one amazing show in plethora of shows many white people can audition for, no questions asked.Why can’t minorities have this one show?

  2. Pingback: #Ham4Bernie? Bernie Sanders Supporter Gets Creative With Hamilton

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    actornyc

    April 26, 2016 at 2:19 PM

    Thank you for your insights and expressing your feelings so well here. They’ve been heard and empathized with for sure! To be fair I would like to just point out that the anger of this article seemed to come across as mainly pointed towards white performers themselves; however I believe the only person who made a fuss was that one lawyer (probably trying to get his name out there). Truthfully I have not heard one white performer say anything but praise for Hamilton (other than being mad it will take them so long to get a ticket because they’re so excited to see it!) I think your fellow actors and the fans deserve a little more credit as everyone in the industry has been nothing but supportive. Please don’t let one lawyer trying to make a stink ruin the comraderie that is truly there or make enemies out of friends when that simply isn’t true.

  4. Avatar

    Rab iBurns

    November 21, 2016 at 11:58 AM

    Let’s remake 12 Years a Slave with whites as the blacks and Chinese as the whites. We need to smash these stereotypes!

  5. Pingback: Casting “American then, told by America now” – Hamilton: An American Musical Syllabus

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Get Your War Clothes On: Billy Porter Energizes in GLAAD Acceptance Speech

Jerrica White

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billy porter

So, I have a question.

In the same line of thought as “innocent until proven guilty,” do we grant the assumption of positive intent in our expectations of our brothers and sister in regards to woke-ness, à la woke until proven problematic?

Now don’t get me wrong, there was no doubt in my heart that Tony and Grammy Award-winner, Billy Porter, was woke. Nope, none. What I wasn’t ready for, was the way he fixed his fingers to pen one of the greatest acceptance speeches of my lifetime, and how he turned the Gospel classic “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired” into a battle song.

The 28th Annual GLAAD Media Awards honored Billy Porter with the Vito Russo Award, presented to an openly LGBTQ media professional who has made a significant difference in promoting equality and acceptance.

He started by affirming the room full of members of marginalized communities, with my personal daily mantra: “You are enough. we are enough.”

Since the beginning of time artists are the folks who engage critically and encourage those who think they are powerless to question the status quo.

Brothers and sisters across the room leaned in.

The days of shut up and sing are over.

Alliteration informed and illustrated as Porter preached on remaining “vigilantly visual” as we tell our stories. Acknowledging the reality of our times, he spoke on Number 45:

Where they slipped up this time is in that declaration of war. It’s not only against Black and Brown people and Queer people anymore, it’s against ALL of us. And as a result, the good news is: white folk, and straight folk, and all those fierce women folk, are mad now. And NOW maybe something might get done!

Get. Your. War. Clothes. On.

From slavery to emancipation, to the 13th Amendment, to Jim Crow, to the Civil Rights Movement. From Stonewall to AIDS, to marriage equality— we gotta remember the shoulders who we stand on—the ones who fought and died for those freedoms that we hold so dear. Let’s use these historical strides we’ve made as a nation to empower us as warriors on this battlefield of equality.

Amen.

Until we can figure out how to love one another unconditionally, no one wins. Freedom. Equality. Justice. Have always come at a cost and evidently the always will.

If that’s not the truth.

Stay strong. Stay vigilante. Stay visible. Stay hopeful. Stay focused. Be brave. Be fierce.

Resist.

RESIST.

RESIST.

RESIST.

For a full list of this year’s winners, honorees, and guests, visit GLAAD.

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How Do We Feel

Jazmine Sullivan: The Next Singer-Songwriter To Write A Broadway Musical?

Jerrica White

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jazmine sullivan

We recently caught up with Jazmine Sullivan at The HeLa Project, a multimedia exhibition inspired by the HBO film, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Like the rest of us, Jazmine is in awe of the under-told story of Henrietta Lacks and her instrumental role in modern medicine. We further asked about why she got involved with the project and she said: “Anyway I can give light to an extraordinary woman like that, I’m there.”

Some of the integral women in bringing this story to light have their roots in Broadway: Tony Award-winning producer Oprah Winfrey, who not only stars in the film, but also credited as executive producer, and Tony Award winner Renée Elise Goldsberry, who portrays the title character.

We wouldn’t be Broadway Black if we didn’t keep it real.

Let’s be honest, we can’t get enough of 11-year-old Jazmine singing “Home” like she wrote the piece, so we got to asking, and it turns out Jazmine wouldn’t mind putting her pen to paper to create a musical for the Broadway stage.

She said performing on Broadway isn’t in the plans for the near future but, “You never know! I love writing and creating characters!”

God!? Oprah!?!? Stephen Byrd & Alia Jones-Harvey?!?! Who’s going to snatch this up?

Until then, it sounds like we have some new music to expect. What kind of musical would you like to see from Ms. Sullivan? Sound off below in the comments!

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Twitter: @BroadwayBlack

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