I disagree with the casting in Hamilton and MANY other productions these days as they are not historically accurate. Why is Thomas Jefferson begin portrayed by a black man? If the 'roles' were reversed, people would be outraged. Imagine a white person playing Kim/Gigi/etc in Miss Saigon. I'm sorry I sent this to you, I just didn't know who else to send it to and wanted a general reaction from others.
Well, there’s a few things I want to say here. But before I do, I kindly request that anybody who chooses to add onto this conversation–which please do, anybody is welcome to–please be respectful and civil. We don’t need any all caps yelling and calling out. Let’s keep this a level-headed discussion, please.
- The comparison of casting a white woman as Kim is not the same as casting a black man as Thomas Jefferson. That’s because Kim’s race represents an entire culture, and by erasing that race, you’re erasing that culture’s story. By casting a white woman as Kim, we are ignoring her story and that history, and putting it through the lens of a white person. The story is not, at its core, the same if Kim is white. The play loses meaning. It is disrespectful and damaging. But Thomas Jefferson’s story is not “the white man’s story.” What I’m trying to get across is that we aren’t erasing a culture in the same way. The founding fathers are men who came from England to create a new country, so yes, they have an English culture, but we probably aren’t casting English men in the role anyways. We can’t say, well, we’re erasing his culture by not casting him white… English =/= white, and white isn’t a culture. White is a skin color, of which many cultures share. Does that make sense? And in addition, we aren’t taking away from the core story by making him black or any other race. His race is, in fact, irrelevant to the story. I understand that he’s an actual historical figure, but the story of the founding father’s doesn’t hinge on him being white.
- Lin is quoted saying, “This is a story about America then, told by America now, and we want to eliminate any distance — our story should look the way our country looks. Then we found the best people to embody these parts. I think it’s a very powerful statement without having to be a statement.” (source) That is his vision–an immigrant’s story told by the immigrants of today– and no matter what an audience member wants in terms of historical accuracy, he is making a statement. We make statements in theatre all the time–when A Doll’s House was produced where all the men were little people and Nora was an average sized woman. They made a statement about the power play on stage. Is it historically inaccurate? Probably. There was probably no town in Norway where all the men were little people. But it was the director’s vision, and it had an impact. Lin is using his power as a composer, writer, and actor to tell a story. He also put women in men’s soldier uniforms for ensemble numbers–another statement that goes against historical accuracy, but it’s his vision. And in a place where we’re asked to suspend our disbelief–after all, I don’t think the founding fathers broke out into song, dance, or rap–we can make an impact with our choices.
- I think it’s pretty clear as well that this isn’t meant to be a historically accurate snapshot. With rap, hip-hop, and so much racial diversity on stage, he’s clearly making a different statement. He’s not trying to say, look, this is a picture perfect look at the founding father’s life! That’s not the point.
- There is a huge issue with racism in casting. It’s massive, and it’s crippling to many actors out there. So many shows that do not need all-white casts do have all-white casts. I saw a casting call for Addam’s family where every actor was requested to be Caucasian. Every character? Even the ensemble? Why? I had a friend go up for Clara in Light in the Piazza, and she’s Asian. They immediately turned her away and said that it was a race-specific role. But it’s not! That’s our limited view blinding us, it’s our narrowness that is stifling actors of color. We need shows like this to rattle the cage, to show that these characters can be diverse, that Cinderella does not have to be white, that Cosette can be Asian, that most roles out there do not need to be white! The biggest issue is that most musicals were written with white as default. That is, without even writing it into the script, the creators had a white actor in mind. Which often is absolutely absurd! Yes, there are characters that need to be white for the story to work (see: Hairspray) but most characters do not need to be white by default. And so here we have a new show that shockingly makes almost every character not white by default! So one show in a thousand has people of color as default–is that so bad? I celebrate it, personally. I say hell yes to providing opportunities for more performers. It may not seem “fair” to people who are white, but honestly…We’ve got it so easy in comparison. Think of how unfair it is for all those actors of color who constantly get turned away for roles that are apparently race-specific, when in reality, the casting directors don’t want to think outside the box and are stuck in “white-as-default” land. That’s damn unfair. So I really can’t bring myself to be upset about a show that I probably won’t ever be considered for, because I’m too busy celebrating the fact this fabulously diverse show.
- This post may help illustrate things better as well!