BAY STREET THEATER CANCELS CONCERT
In a corner of the theater community people were quick to notice something very wrong and concerning about the casting announced for this free one night reading. Recent Tony Award Winner Cynthia Erivo, star of the current Broadway revival “The Color Purple”, tweeted:
“It saddens me that after such a wonderful multicultural season on Broadway a piece set in AFRICA has not one POC. #PrinceOfEgypt“ - @CynthiaEriVo
There wasn’t an overwhelming response from the internet but the Bay Street Theater’s Facebook page was subjected to more traffic than they were use to with 23 “angry” responses outweighing the likes. The majority of the comments were people expressing disappointment and they received a handful of visitor posts echoing the same.
Yesterday the concert was officially cancelled.
Director Scott Schwartz made a statement today, updating the Bay Street Theater’s website and posting to Facebook 3 hours ago. I encourage you to read the full statement, but this is what caught my attention:
“While we have had diverse casts in each and every step of our process so far, we will continue these discussions and consider them fully as we develop specific approaches to casting as we move forward.
But, there were also personal attacks and comments online and in social media against our actors and creative team that were unproductive. This is the specific reason why the creative team and the producers are cancelling the concert and will continue the development of this new musical in private for now.”
This is where the statement goes sour. This is not an apology. This kind of feels like he thinks he’s punishing us somehow. Why is it so important to make sure we know that the reading wasn’t cancelled because they realized their casting practices were offensive, wrong, and irresponsible? At every turn Scott Schwartz takes the opportunity to let us know that we don’t see how proudly diverse they’re being in secret, while saying that this story is for everyone to defend their whitewashed cast. He does not apologize but instead lectures us for pointing out the problem. Any harassment that resulted from this casting announcement is unfortunate. However the criticisms are still very important. Schwartz agrees they’re important but he wants to make sure we know that it wasn’t important enough to cancel the event for these reasons, or heaven forbid he recast. There are no plans for future readings at this time, something else that they made sure to include when asked for a comment by Playbill. It’s not good enough to say never mind, and hide so no one can criticize the glaringly obvious issues. Reschedule? Recast? Have the conversation but then actually act on it. I would die to get this musical made and I literally planned to go to New York on August 13th for this reading, but I want it done right. As someone who has used The Prince of Egypt (despite the problems with the voice cast) as a way to fight back the European imagery Hollywood has used to erase the real picture of Egypt I can’t express how upsetting it is to see them not properly represent this story, especially in theater which is more progressive than film or television.