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.


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

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


"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.


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

Pop Culture Happy Hour: ‘Hamilton’ : Monkey See : NPR

These are all the things I try to say when I take about this show…when people commiserate about astronomical tickets prices and not seeing the original cast. The show is bigger than those little details–and yes, I guess those of us in the rarities air can say that without aching a little–it is, as Jefferson says about Hamilton, a host unto itself. It exists, and it’s beautiful in all of its forms. Embrace it however you are able.


From the Zig Ziglar Vault: This is the single greatest piece of advice for someone facing a divorce – Ziglar Vault

I haven’t done a Marriage Minded Monday post in a while (and yes, I realize it’s Tuesday), but this was a pretty good one. Take special note of the definition of “friend”….


‘Hamilton’ Wins Kennedy Prize for Historical Drama – NYTimes.com

More to be proud of….


Lin-Manuel Miranda is in the show – EdTA – Educational Theatre Association

Again, sharing because I have to….


#YayHamlet: What Shakespeare and Broadway’s Biggest Hit Have to Do with Each Other

Reblogging simply because I have to….and the analysis is so crazy on point.


American Shakespeare Center Blog

A few weeks ago, when I was participating in the “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” event at the Alden Theatre, the panel took a question from a man who complained that students today don’t understand Shakespeare because their language skills just aren’t up to the task, that they can’t process the complexities of vocabulary and syntax, and that modern English has degraded in quality and variety.

Now, while I have many problems with the state of modern education, I nonetheless felt compelled to stand up on behalf of my people, the young’uns (never mind that I’m on the verge of no longer sharing a generation with high schoolers). Modern English is no less complex than Shakespeare’s early modern English — in fact, in many ways it’s become more flexible and facile. Students are perfectly capable of using language in elaborate ways. They’re just not used to Shakespeare‘s elaborate ways.


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On the GRAMMYS and Inclusion: So Close and Yet So Far

On the GRAMMYS and Inclusion: So Close and Yet So Far

So, I really wasn’t planning to watch the Grammys this year.

I forget what award or performance snub pissed me off but I stopped watching the Grammys years ago, Googling only the categories I’m interested in to see who won. Categories, by the way, that never got a millisecond of airtime anyway, so my personal boycott was never difficult.

And then, this greeted me early on a Wednesday morning.

On the GRAMMYS and Inclusion: So Close and Yet So Far

Aw crap.

Anyone who knows me or has read this blog for any significant amount of time knows that I will move heaven, earth and maybe some smuggled body parts to watch him, as the old folks used to say, “spit across the line.” So that basically meant my Grammy boycott didn’t stand a chance. And I actually watched it live all the way through the Hamilton performance and win, and was pleased with a great deal of what I saw. I expected no less than complete awesomeness from HAMILTON, and they did not disappoint in either the performance or Lin-Manuel Miranda’s traditionally expected acceptance rap. But I was treated to some very pleasant and well-performed moments, such as the new artist duets, the Kendrick Lamar performance, and the artist tributes. I love that Lionel Richie not only received an all-star musical tribute in connection with his AmeriCares Humanitarian Award, but got to participate in it. And of the memorial performances, my absolute favorite was the collaboration of Stevie Wonder and Pentatonix saluting Maurice White; however I did appreciate the fact that Jackson Browne and The Eagles, Lady Gaga and Bonnie Raitt devoted their stage time to Glenn Frye, David Bowie and B.B. King, respectively.

But even with all of that, there’s still a lot that Grammy should have done WAY better. The sound issues, rushed thank yous, and usual snubs of certain categories in the broadcast have needed attention for years, and are probably among the reasons I stopped watching. But one in particular has folks up in arms–the paltry mention of the late Natalie Cole.

And this Mic article didn’t help the conversation progress:

 On the GRAMMYS and Inclusion: So Close and Yet So Far

Being in broadcasting and having some experience on what it takes to navigate getting a live show on and off the air in a timely manner, I can understand the choices behind some of the argued points; for example, the fact that Natalie Cole got an extended moment during the In Memoriam segment but not a musical tribute seems to be more at the discretion of the performing artists and not the Grammys executives. And as there are a lot of categories that don’t even get an on-air mention, I can understand not having a separate performance scheduled for her.

However, the protests are not entirely wrong….

Something I did not know before I clicked on the Mic article was that Natalie was the first Black artist to win the Best New Artist award. Given that place in Grammy history AND her legacy as the daughter of Nat King Cole–another musical groundbreaker–you would think that would automatically get her at least a couple of lines in the awards presentation. I’m sure Sam Smith wouldn’t have minded saying a thing or two about her in presenting the Best New Artist award, an award he himself received the previous year.

But the larger issue is that I saw VERY FEW female artist categories, more male performers spotlighted than females, and a seeming disregard for providing them any airtime at all–did you see Ed Sheeran’s female co-writer get completely cut off before being allowed to speak? Time crunch or not, that was completely unacceptable.

And this is probably why the Natalie Cole “slight” is such a big deal. People spoke up about the men who passed on. Most of the male presenters and performers got their full say. And while three of the biggest female names in current popular music got solo spots, the rest of the ladies were lumped into duets and groups–good performances, mind you, but it gives the appearance that female solo artists are undervalued. There needs to be a better balance between the big name draws and the up and comers, the male and female artists, the popular and less exposed genres, what’s expressive and what sells. Naturally, there’s no way to make everybody happy every time…but what we see is not lining up with what you’re saying. You cannot tell us you celebrate all kinds of music and feature the same artists and categories every single year. You cannot keep parading a musical sausagefest and then say how proud you are of women’s contributions to the field. That’s why people feel that Natalie Cole deserved more than she got…not only for the sake of her legacy, but for the women who stand on her shoulders.

Grease: Live! As Told by Twitter

I was gonna write about this when I could watch it totally undistracted and not have to worry about hitting commercial breaks, but kaylaraymiracle did such a good job on Storify, I figure I’ll just share hers. And the fact that she quoted one of my tweets is an added bonus. 😉

(Of course, I may wind up doing my own anyway–with all the ties Lin-Manuel Miranda had to this production you KNOW his live tweet of this was off the charts epic…..)


Here’s Lin-Manuel Miranda Reading MLK’s ‘Beyond Vietnam’ Speech in the Church Where King Gave It

Yesterday at the #MLKNOW event at Riverside Church, Lin-Manuel Miranda (of HAMILTON, In The Heights and countless other credits) lent his customary eloquent and impassioned voice to Dr. King’s speech “Beyond Vietnam,” delivered nearly 40 years ago in that same church.

I can think of few gifted enough to give the same movement and urgency to Dr. King’s words…Lin-Manuel is on the short list, well at the top.


Kwanzaa Reflections 2016


It seems I go into Kwanzaa every year in a state of unrest–some sense of blah for the entire holiday season coupled with the increased incidents of injustice and abuse of power between law enforcement and people of color.  Add to that some stirrings about Dr. Malauna Karenga’s alleged role in counterintelligence within the Civil Rights Movement, and I am once again left questioning my resolve and commitment to observing this holiday.  Still, my congregation went ahead with the service as planned, and surprisingly, I didn’t have to lift a finger to organize the karamu feast this year.  The grant program used last year was employed and implemented by the congregation’s President, so all I had to do was gather readers and materials for the service component. I wound up reading the vast majority of the parts again, though I did have a few volunteers.  It was my fault entirely that I didn’t connect with some of them, but again, everything went well, even with the minor hiccups that we were able to bridge with technology–being the absence of our organist and the ingenious use of my smartphone, YouTube app and the Bluetooth speaker donated to the church. (I had forgotten about 2016 being the 50th year of observance, but since centuries and millennia usually begin in the following year, maybe I can do something with that milestone for next year.) One poignant moment for me was coaxing my father to read the Farewell Statement. My father, who prefers not to participate in the Kwanzaa festivities and literally chortled as I gave him the card to read, actually agreed to do so. (As with all of the cards, I spelled out the Swahili words in English phonetics to make things easier.) And he did a beautiful, stirring job reading it.  My mood was actually lifted by the depth of sincerity in his reading, and after the service he told me that the words choked him up while he was reading, and he was just as moved.  Out of anything, this is the one goal I have in doing the Kwanzaa observance: that all those present will feel connected and moved by all of the ceremony and ritual.  I think that was successful, as we had guests to our services who had not experienced Kwanzaa before that mentioned how much they enjoyed the service.

Just as I did last year, my project goals went unrealized. But I am definitely determined to complete them this year, and as we are still with the first few days of the New Year, I intend to write out a detailed plan complete with target dates and resource information so that this time next year I can refrain from typing these same promises.  In my personal observances, I was able to attend a community Kwanzaa event hosted by one of my friends, which I unfortunately had to leave early due to an unexpected, last-minute scheduling of overtime at my job.  Next year (or the end of this year, as it were), I intend to put in vacation time for that week to ensure that I have the entire night to myself.  I will reluctantly look into the accusations levied toward Dr. Karenga; however, despite any actions its creator may or may not have taken, the greater meaning of Kwanzaa’s principles give me a base to pause, reflect and re-center in order to go forth into the New Year a stronger, better person, and as such I will reclaim the holiday for myself and continue to observe it.

My delay in writing my observations comes on a devastating note this year–my former pastor, under whom we began observing Kwanzaa and added a spark of life to our congregation, had a massive heart attack and passed away at the tender age of 49. (It may be 48, as his birthday was in February.) He and I had grown very close during his role as pastor of our church and I considered him “the annoying older brother I never wanted, but was glad I got.” He listened to many of my troubles and even sat for hours with me in the emergency room as I waited for my then-boyfriend (now husband) to be treated for a severe asthma attack. I was bad at phone calls and he was bad at Facebook, but I took it for granted that I would have time to call and visit and check in…and, as life usually goes, I put it off until later.  It has taken me all week to push past my grief long enough to return to my Kwanzaa reflections, and even now I’m still raw.  I am greatly saddened that his is the first name to be added to the callout list for next year’s service–this will definitely be a test to meet year’s end laughing and stronger, because right now my heart is shattered.  I will have to call on every principle in order to get there…here’s hoping I will.


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