nontraditional-casting

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Cheerios Ad Starring Interracial Family Predictably Summons Bigot Wave

A nice Cheerios advertisement whose only discernible difference from other Cheerios commercials is that it depicts an interracial family was forced to disable its YouTube comments section today after it became inundated with virulent racism.

Despite the hate, Camille Gibson, vice president of marketing for Cheerios, told us in a statement, “Consumers have responded positively to our new Cheerios ad. At Cheerios, we know there are many kinds of families and we celebrate them all.”

Read more at Gawker

Broadway has made a lot of strides in the past few years for much more diverse casting, and I think that’s so amazing. But something that’s lacking (and honestly, always has been tbh) is fat representation.

Think about it. When was the last time you saw a show where the main protagonist was fat? I can’t think of any since Hairspray or Lisa Howard in It Shoulda Been You, but please correct me if I’m wrong.

It just feels like that if you’re a fat musical theatre actor, the only roles you’ll get to play are those that specifically call for fat people (like Martha from Heathers) or a villain (like Carlotta, Madame Thenardier, or Madame Morrible- and even those roles are played by thin people often).

Outside of that, the only other role fat people ever can land on Broadway is (for lack of a better term) the token fat belting ensemble member- if a show has one, then it only has one.

It would be awesome if people who cast shows could put heavier actors into more roles- especially leads. There are plenty of roles that could be played by fat people, but it seems like casting directors only ever seem to put actors who fit society’s view of beauty into leads, especially romantic ones.

And it would be great if we could move past putting one fat ensemble member with a few random belty solos here and there. It would absolutely blow my mind if there were two or three heavier ensemble members.

I know that dancers on Broadway are typically pretty thin, and so are most romantic leads, but there is definitely more that could be done.

Fat representation matters.

5

A Modern Version of Emma wherein no one is white and I am happy. Background source.

Antonia Thomas as Emma
Michael Ealy as George
Harry Lennix as Henry
Tahmoh Penikett as Mr. Weston
Lisa Ray as Miss Taylor
Gemma Chan as Harriet
Surveen Chawla as Jane
Rami Malek as Frank
Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Isabella
Lenny Kravitz as John
Harry Shum Jr. as Robert
Dascha Polanco as Miss Bates
Olivia Munn as Mrs. Elton
Cote de Pablo as Mr. Elton

i may or may not have written winchester instead of woodhouse you will see where kindly move along

What is utterly clear when the cast takes its final bows at the musical’s end is that Miranda not only has not thrown away his shot but has fired one across the bow of contemporary musical theater. With its inventive use of nontraditional casting, Hamilton manages to draw out a latent, ironic historical thread we too easily forget, filling a stage with a mostly black and brown cast playing what some would consider roles to be reserved for white actors. At the same time, by re-situating black and brown people—voices and bodies at the center of the historical conversation—it literally brings to life those heroic “saucy boys, Negroes, [and] mulattoes” that John Adams—who comes in for bit of ribbing in several scenes—denounced in his defense of the British troops who had participated in the Boston Massacre. Add in the anti-slavery references and the dramatization of political compromises that sunk any post-Revolutionary promises of freedom, and it’s clear that Hamilton is resonating on multiple frequencies at a time when the Black Lives Matters movement has shifted discussions in the public sphere. 

Hamilton also offers one of the best and most compelling counternarratives to the increasingly extreme conservative rhetoric around immigration. Alexander Hamilton, Miranda never lets the audience forget, was an immigrant from a small island, with a sketchy education, no money, and few prospects, and became the target of constant social and political antagonism. Even factoring in the neoliberal undercurrent of the hardworking, self-made man the musical espouses, Hamilton artfully hammers away at the idea that power should be concentrated in the hands of an elite, or that opportunity should not be extended as widely as possible, repeatedly connecting this thread to larger ideas about race and class. Many of the musical’s catchphrases, including “We are a movement,” “Rise up,” and “The world turned upside down,” would sound as fitting at a protest as they do on Broadway.

This thrilling work of art sets a high and invigorating standard, and everyone who can—especially every student in each one of New York’s elementary and secondary schools—should hurry to see it. They will enjoy it and learn a great deal from it, and then want to see it again and again.

6

The Arena Stage in Washington DC’s 2013 production of My Fair Lady stars actress Manna Nichols as Eliza Doolitte. 

For her production, director Molly Smith set out to cast actors of color for the role of Eliza Doolittle (and her father, Alfred) from the start–adding additional depth to the musical’s existing themes of classism and sexism.   To do so, she had her literary team do some research on Edwardian London’s racial and ethnic demographics.  This nontraditional casting is a perfect historical fit.

After researching London in the time Edwardian Era and discovering the large pockets of Asian immigrants, the director concentrated on casting Asian-American actors for the roles.

“Anytime casting is done in a different way, it confronts the audience. We want the theatre to grab us and make us question our preconceptions,” said Smith.  [source]

Nichols is of mixed race; her mom is Chinese American and her dad is part Native American and part white; the role of Eliza, a cockney-accented flower seller, has been traditionally played by white actresses in hundreds of productions, including by Julie Andrews and Audrey Hepburn.To prepare for the role, Nichols researched the era the show is set in and also studied  George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion.  

When asked by a journalist from Washington City Paper about a racial “double standard” in her casting, Nichols said:

“No one ever questions the logic or the reality of a group of people singing and tap-dancing in the rain, but if a director casts an Asian person in a [typically white] role, people automatically question that choice.”

The production also decided to incorporate elements of steampunk into the costuming.  (Less historically accurate than an Asian Eliza, but also awesome.)  All in all, a creative and innovative take on a musical classic that deserves kudos.

SCOTT HELLER: It seems appropriate that the season was in effect bookended by “Hamilton”and “Shuffle Along,” which were both the biggest vote getters and had much to say about race and American history.


CHARLES ISHERWOOD: I agree that they make perfect bookends. “Shuffle Along” reclaims a musical more or less lost to history and affirms the importance of black artists to Broadway going back almost a century. It’s nicely fitting that it should appear in the same season as “Hamilton,” which re-envisions American history through a new lens: emphasizing, through both its nontraditional casting and its story, the ideals of inclusiveness that are at the heart of American history. We are and always have been a nation of immigrants, after all, which makes the new stirrings of xenophobia in the country so dispiriting. “Hamilton” may just be a musical, but it’s a nice cultural rebuke.


BEN BRANTLEY: Both musicals are works of reclamation, and yet they’re so different. Each is a reminder that there’s more than one way to control the narrative (to use the most overused phrase du jour) and to translate history into the present tense. “Hamilton” is the more truly organic of the two works in that sense; its audacity is in turning contemporary musical style into an expression of a spirit of revolt, of cockiness, of daring that infused a great revolution of the past.


“Shuffle Along” is of course more annotative, with illustrative detours and asides that give us context for a great show of decades ago. One quick aside on another, very different musical, which I just saw: “On Your Feet!,” which is in itself a sort of rebuke to the xenophobia you mention, Charles. Most pointedly, there’s the moment when Emilio Estefan says to the record producer who doesn’t want to sell Latino music to American audiences: “Remember my face. This is the face of America.”

artsincolor.com
Casting Aladdin: Where are all the Middle Eastern Actors? - Arts in Color

When Disney Theatricals announced that they were bringing Aladdin to Broadway, I was ecstatic. Finally a musical on Broadway about Middle Eastern people and culture. Middle Eastern actors would have the opportunity to play a wide variety of roles: the ingénue, the hero, the villain, the funny sidekick. Instead of the stereotypical roles we are always cast in: the taxi driver with one line, the belly dancer with no lines. I was so excited that Middle Eastern culture and actors would be represented in such a beloved story and to such a wide audience.

Imagine my shock when the full cast was announced. There are 34 people in the cast of Aladdin. Zero are of Middle Eastern descent.

If there was a production of “Mulan” on Broadway, and zero Asian actors were cast, the entire Broadway community would be up in arms. Especially the community of Asian actors and the AAPAC. Why is it different for a show taking place in the Middle East?

Now I know one might argue: “Aladdin” takes place in “Agrabah” which is a fictitious city in the Middle East. Yet, the show is very clear that it takes place somewhere in the Middle East. Middle Eastern culture, practices, dress, and even Arabic words are used in the show. The opening song of the show is called “Arabian Nights.” Therefore, whether or not “Agrabah” is a real city in the Middle East or not, there is no denying that writing of the show proves that it does take place in the Middle East.

When audition notices came out for “Aladdin”, every character’s description said “Any ethnicity.” As much as I appreciate the open casting process, this show is about a very specific and underrepresented ethnicity. The story of this show is based in very real and true cultural prejudices that are specific to Middle Eastern culture and upbringing.

I am 100% for casting diversity, but when a story is about race, and about a specific ethnicity, I believe that ethnicity should at least be represented. I do understand that the pool of Middle Eastern actors in NYC is small in comparison to other ethnic groups. I am not suggesting that every actor cast in Aladdin should have been of Middle Eastern descent. I am merely asking why was it not a priority to find even a handful of Middle Eastern actors to represent the culture of the show?

So I ask the creative team and producers of “Aladdin”, why? Why was it not a priority to cast Middle Eastern actors in this show? The fact that no one in the cast or creative team is Middle Eastern, almost suggests that this production is now a satire of Middle Eastern culture.

While the new cast of Disney on Broadway's Aladdin does include some actors of color, it does not include any actors of Middle Eastern descent, notes one actor of Middle Eastern descent.   Check out his full article on this exlusion at artsincolor.com

Neil Gaiman reveals that a black actor turned down the role of the 12th Doctor
  • snuffles44 asked:Thank you very much for your explanation of why you think it was not time for a female doctor (though I respectfully disagree). What about someone of another race than white playing the doctor? As someone who understands casting/storytelling, do you think there will ever be a non-white doctor?
  • Neil Gaiman:Of course. (I thought I’d said that I was disappointed that it didn’t happen this time, and that there are some amazing actors out there. I was rather disappointed that Paterson Joseph didn’t get it last time, although I’ve loved Matt’s Eleven.) And yes, I have no doubt there will be. (I know one black actor who was already offered the part of the Doctor, and who turned it down.) Just as there will be a female Doctor.
  • papercranechronicles asked:Can I ask you who the black actor who turned down the role was?
  • Neil Gaiman:You can ask, but seeing that it was something I was told in confidence by the actor in question, you won’t get an answer.

“Nontraditional’’ or “color-blind’’ casting is not new, of course, and the talents of McDonald and Tyson obviously speak for themselves. But what’s been happening more broadly onstage lately registers more like bold, color-conscious statements designed to make us think differently about classic works of the American theater and about the nation’s past, while also reflecting the changing face of present-day America.

Although the picture is still not inclusive enough, it’s heartening to see the frequency with which African-American, Latino, and Asian-American performers now appear in roles traditionally associated with white actors. One of the things art can do is shape the collective consciousness, and productions like the game-changing “Hamilton’’ force audiences to consider whose lives and contributions have been left out of conventional narratives. By offering a more expansive vision that showcases people of color — who often have not seen themselves reflected onstage or in history books — these productions amount to not just a reimagining or a retelling but a move toward reclaiming the national story.