White Tears and Casting HAMILTON

To paraphrase Jay-Z, I just saw a Facebook post that fucked up my day.

If you’re new to this blog, I eat, sleep, live and breathe all things Lin-Manuel Miranda, and have been actively following (and participating in as I’m able) the development of the Broadway smash HAMILTON since that little six-minute ditty at the White House six years ago. I’m just gonna drop it here for the three people who haven’t seen it.

Thanks to sold out shows into 2017, the show is now developing productions in Chicago and San Francisco, as well as national tours. So naturally, there was a casting call put out designed to preserve the casting dynamic…..which didn’t sit too well with some people.

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"You can't be serious....."

Since I saw it on FB, I also captured the edited header as well

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"It must be nice, it must be nice....."

Cue my blind rage. My poor friend Jason who reposted it got a blistering earful on my feelings….fortunately, I’m sure he knows it wasn’t a direct hit. Still, I felt the need to vent and had a whole head of steam drafted on the WTPD Facebook page before I shifted gears and brought my thoughts on the subject here.

Some very good points were made on how the wording appeared, and yes, I did consider that in parallel to the infamous casting call from the Straight Outta Compton movie. But as I have been following, studying, and critiquing HAMILTON for nearly the whole six years it took Lin-Manuel Miranda to bring it to the stage, I’d like to think that I have almost as much of an intimate knowledge of this show as anyone directly involved. In every single interview Miranda describes the show as “America then been told by America now,” meaning the melting pot of actors on stage largely telling the story of a whole bunch of dusty, scrappy White boys who shaped the republic we now live in. So you’re going to have to suspend disbelief a little as you see Black and Brown faces playing the obviously Caucasian figures you see in your history books and on your money. But, that is not to say that these are the only ethnicities in the cast. Jonathan Groff, Thayne Jasperson, Betsy Struxness and Neil Haskell are CLEARLY White and just as important to the show as their differently hued castmates. ( I believe that Betsy and Neil have since moved on, but you get the point.)

The popularity of HAMILTON is leading to other standalone productions and  national tours, and it would be idiotic to suggest that the casting mix that is clearly working and a large part of the curiosity for theatergoers be changed. I’m quite certain there was an open call for all dancers regardless of race, and with the huge number of Caucasian actors in the theatrical arts pool, the producers’ quota had been hit. This is not the same situation as say, the movie Gods of Egypt, where a conscious casting decision was made to have an almost solely White cast tell a story about ancient Africans. (Yes, children–Egypt is in Africa. Quel surprise.) At no time did the producers even hint at the exclusion of White actors in the show; this particular casting call asked for “minority” actors in order to mirror the current balance.

In entertainment, producers and directors are always going to be looking for a certain type. That’s simply the nature of the business. However, insecurities from the most well-employed section of the acting pool are not going to be eased by intimating a false controversy in this particular case. Welcome to the competition, fellas….this is what everyone else deals with on a regular basis. And if you’re still feeling some kind of way about this, I’m afraid you will never be satisfied.

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"I'm about to change your life...."

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