On Wednesday, Broadway Black broke the news of Okieriete “Oak” Onaodowan’s departure from the The Great Comet, and being replaced by theatre vet Mandy Patinkin, citing low ticket sales as the cause for the abrupt decision. The news sparked outrage from the Theatre community, with many citing ramped issues with diversity and how the underlying issue of race seemed to be playing a role.
Several actors, writers and producers jumped to the defense of Oak, Rafael Casal, who condemned the theatre community in a series of tweets.
Imagine 2 weeks into your great review in a new show, the producers come to u & “ask” you to step down so a white actor can take your place? pic.twitter.com/QV9Y83bnvi
— RAFAEL CASAL (@RafaelCasal) July 26, 2017
Actors of color can’t even express frustration w/ inequality in the arts for fear of being met w/ even fewer opportunities to rise.
— RAFAEL CASAL (@RafaelCasal) July 26, 2017
Actors of color on Broadway are required to make themselves famous enough to be in the shows that white actors get famous from.
— RAFAEL CASAL (@RafaelCasal) July 26, 2017
#TheGreatComet quickly became a nationally trending topic. The amount of backlash quickly reached Producer Howard Kagan, who spoke about the decision and responded to the outrage by stating:
“This continues our show’s remarkable history of having great actors and singers see the show as audience members, only to tell us they are inspired to join the cast! Whenever possible we will accommodate them as we did here with Mandy and his Homeland TV schedule. Oak, who was scheduled to appear as Pierre for this period graciously agreed to make room for Mandy, and we sincerely hope that Oak will return to us in the fall or winter. He is a terrific Pierre.”
Oak, released a separate statement, letting us all know the break up was not as fluffy as Kagan made it seem. He stated:
I always try to speak from my heart with love after listening. I have listened. I’m more than grateful for all the love and support the community and fans have shown me. It makes what we do and deal with as artists easier when you know many people do indeed have your back and that you are valued for your work. In spite of everything, I am grateful to have had the time to bring this character to life with a remarkable cast that truly make the Imperial Theater a sacred place every night. My pops would always tell me to be aware of the company you keep. I’m fully aware of the remarkable talents this cast holds, with Denee at the helm. My work is just a reflection of what they bring, have brought and will continue to bring, be it me, Mandy, whomever is co-pilot to Denee. AUGUST 13th WILL BE MY LAST SHOW! I will not be returning. So make room in your schedule between now and Aug 13th. Come through, have a drink, and let’s celebrate the time we have because as always, that’s all we are guaranteed. We make the most of the gifts we are given and I’m driven to deliver a defining moment in time, with every line I let loose on stage. #MynameisOak #TheHomiesRollDEEP #TheFansMadeRoom #WeAreTheChange #IPierredAndProspered #MyPierreWillPerish #August13th #OnwardsAndUpwords #KatyPerry #SkateyPierre?
“I always try to speak from my heart with love after listening. I have listened. I’m more than grateful for all the love and support the community and fans have shown me. It makes what we do and deal with as artists easier when you know many people do indeed have your back and that you are valued for your work. In spite of everything, I am grateful to have had the time to bring this character to life with a remarkable cast that truly make the Imperial Theater a sacred place every night. My pops would always tell me to be aware of the company you keep. I’m fully aware of the remarkable talents this cast holds, with Denee [Benton] at the helm. My work is just a reflection of what they bring, have brought and will continue to bring, be it me, Mandy, whomever is co-pilot to Denee. AUGUST 13th WILL BE MY LAST SHOW! I will not be returning. So make room in your schedule between now and Aug 13th. Come through, have a drink, and let’s celebrate the time we have because as always, that’s all we are guaranteed. We make the most of the gifts we are given and I’m driven to deliver a defining moment in time, with every line I let loose on stage.”
Following the brief silence from Wednesday, in a turn of events reported by The New York Times this afternoon, Mandy has decided to step down from the show citing the concerns with race, and the backlash from the theatre community. He states
“My understanding of the show’s request that I step into the show is not as it has been portrayed and I would never accept a role knowing it would harm another actor. I hear what members of the community have said and I agree with them. I am a huge fan of Oak and I will, therefore, not be appearing in the show.”
According to the New York Times, they were blindsided by the decision and have not announced any next steps with the show. However, producers of Great Comet, led by lead producers Howard and Janet Kagan, did issue an official apology stating:
“As part of our sincere efforts to keep ‘Comet’ running for the benefit of its cast, creative team, crew, investors and everyone else involved, we arranged for Mandy Patinkin to play Pierre. However, we had the wrong impression of how Oak felt about the casting announcement and how it would be received by members of the theater community, which we appreciate is deeply invested in the success of actors of color – as are we – and to whom we are grateful for bringing this to our attention. We regret our mistake deeply, and wish to express our apologies to everyone who felt hurt and betrayed by these actions.”
Stay tuned for updates as this is story continues to unfold…
Us: What is happening? pic.twitter.com/3giP4VdJLD
— Broadway Black (@BroadwayBlack) July 28, 2017
Meet The Press: Loy A. Webb’s The Light Now Running Off-Broadway
MCC Theater presents the first show in their new home on 52nd street. It’s the New York Premiere of The Light by Loy A. Webb and directed by Logan Vaughn.
Broadway Black had the chance to meet with the entire company. The cast of The Light features Drama Desk Award winner McKinley Belcher III and Mandi Masden.
Not every marriage proposal goes as planned. Loy A. Webb’s The Light introduces us to Rashad and Genesis on what should be one of the happiest days of their lives, but their joy quickly unravels when ground-shifting accusations from the past resurface in this gripping two-character drama. Can their relationship survive the growing divide between them over who- and what – to believe? Directed by Logan Vaughn, The Light is a reckoning that unfolds in real-time and peels away the layers of truth, doubt, pain, and ultimately the power of love.
The Light currently in previews officially opens February 10, 2019, and runs thru March 17, 2019
The creative team includes scenic design by Kimie Nishikawa, costume design by Emilio Sosa, lighting design by Ben Stanton, sound design by Elisheba Ittoop.
On The Mountaintop: Martin Luther King’s Legacy of Love
The man we celebrate today came from holy beginnings. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy is laced with hymns and praises, and he is lauded as the leader of the civil rights movement. But Martin Luther King Jr. was just a man. He held rallies where that was a battle-cry, “I AM A MAN!” Today, calling Dr. King a man seems simple, belittling almost, but in his time it was too much to ask. As we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., let’s revisit just how radical his proclamation was.
In Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop, we see a human King. There are no grandiose statues or great pulpits, just a man with a passion for freedom and love. The 2011 Broadway production starring Samuel L. Jackson as King & Angela Bassett as his co-star, left theatergoers standoffish in light of an imperfect King. Ironically enough, Katori drew the humanity out of King to pull the greatness out of us. Katori’s King was so openly fearful so that we could understand bravery. Katori immortalized King’s place in the theatre; she gave dimensions to a man who lived under the threat of death but spoke about the equality and promise of tomorrow.
Today we celebrate a man who not only spoke of equality under monuments but marched for it in the streets of Memphis. Martin Luther King Jr. remained steadfast in a movement that watched its leaders become martyrs every day. He was a man that demanded humanity from a nation that abused him for drinking coffee at diner countertops. In light of the tumultuous leadership heading to the American government, I encourage you to celebrate King by honoring his resilience.
King’s most potent weapon was his voice. Nations honored him, while ours feared what his determination could do. King thrived in a country that was committed to keeping the Black community marginalized and without structure. Martin Luther King did not just turn the other cheek; he faced discrimination with debilitating logic, grand inspiration and will power that eviscerated anyone that supported injustice. King’s tireless trek towards peace was consistent therefore mighty. Even when racists bombed his house, he spoke love and not hate to a crowd of angry onlookers.
We celebrate King, not only for his ideas but for the actions that brought them to life. Every January, we honor a man who gave his life so that we would give the same respect to the sanitation worker that we gave to the governor. Martin Luther King Jr. dedicated his life so that our character would speak for us instead of our color and he did just that. Even in the face of absolute hate, he spoke of love and solidarity.
Dr. King dedicated his life to creating a world as beautiful as the words he wove together. We celebrate Dr. King because, in his dreams, he saw a world that transcended hate and ascended to The Mountaintop. We honor Dr. King because while he was with us, he didn’t just preach about this mountaintop, he led us there too.
Search Broadway Black
In Memoriam1 month ago
“I’m proud as can be of my Black ancestry.” Carol Channing Passes Away at 97
Broadway Black History1 month ago
Brittney Johnson Makes History As First Glinda of Color in Wicked On Broadway #BlackGlinda
Coming Soon2 weeks ago
The Public Theater Will Present Hercules Musical & Hercules Is Black!
Cast List4 weeks ago
The Secret Life of Bees Is Now a Musical; Will Star LaChanze, Saycon Sengbloh, & More Off-Broadway
Music1 month ago
Bebe Winans Musical Born For This Releases Music Video Starring Donald Webber Jr.
Broadway Debut2 weeks ago
‘Pose’ Star Ryan Jamaal Swain Will Make His Broadway Debut in Choir Boy