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John Byrne

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Joined: 11 May 2005
Posts: 120972
Posted: 02 July 2020 at 8:37am | IP Logged | 1 post reply

But, whereas surely there were important non-whites who built this country, there will, for example, always ever be only one Father of our Country, and perhaps a production like "Hamilton" reaches out in a non-patronizing, non-condescending manner from its non-white author to the audience entire, both white and non-white, such that this Father, if cast as non-white, can be shown to be all of "ours" in a way like no other?

••

I'm not sure how that qualifies as "non-condescending". Miranda seems to be saying that non-White audiences need the material reprocessed in order for them to appreciate it. And, again, I ask what would be the reaction to Tom Hanks being cast as Martin Luthur King Jr with the same "justification"?

(For the sake of the microbrains, I am not RECOMMENDING Hanks, or any other White actor, play Dr. King.)

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Michael Penn
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Posted: 02 July 2020 at 9:25am | IP Logged | 2 post reply


 QUOTE:
Miranda seems to be saying that non-White
audiences need the material reprocessed in order for them
to appreciate it.


He does seem to be saying that his "Hamilton" fulfills
a need, and in that respect it's vital to listen
to the responses of non-white audience and on that basis
gauge to what degree he's correct. But I don't know
enough about Mr. Miranda to claim that he's saying his
kind of production is the exclusive vehicle for non-white
audiences to appreciate the white Founders in American
history. It doesn't seem so -- after all, his inspiration
was admittedly Chernow's biography.
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Eric Sofer
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Posted: 02 July 2020 at 9:45am | IP Logged | 3 post reply

It would seem that a solution would require a few factors...

1) No more cross casting. Period.
2) More shows written, and those would have non-white and non-male roles in them.
3) More producers to fund such shows.

The fault is that no one can guarantee that the new shows will be popular. And that might be inherent racism, but it's on the part of the playgoers... you cannot make an audience like a show. It has to have inherent qualities to attract the attendees.

This will likely destroy community theatres. The casting JUST IS NOT THERE. It's hard enough to cast sufficient men to make up a full chorus, let alone all the supporting parts. And again, one such might produce, say, Raisin in the Sun - but how do you cast it, and how do you make audiences come to see it and like it?

I am all in favor casting roles as written. But I'm equally in favor of casting roles and paying NO attention to race. Does that mean Hello Dolly might have, say, a black Horace and an Asian Dolly? Okay. As long as the actors are talented, I think it can work.

I was in a production of "The Music Man" where it was openly cast, and the director was fair (I knew her - she said open and she meant open.) We had one black person cast; the lady who played Marian. The show was great, and I didn't hear any complaints. I did get one question after the show one night from an attendee - why was Marian Paroo black? Next to me, this lady said, "Oh, I'm black Irish." The attendee was satisfied with this.

Theatre is in real trouble right now anyhow; who knows but that this isn't the PERFECT time to start implementing changes?
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John Byrne

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Posted: 02 July 2020 at 9:48am | IP Logged | 4 post reply

Were any of the Founders non-Whites in the Chernow book?
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John Byrne

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Posted: 02 July 2020 at 9:52am | IP Logged | 5 post reply

1) No more cross casting. Period.

•••

Or cross casting across the board.

My point is equality. A is A. It is or it isn’t. It can’t be quantified. It must be universally inclusive, or it fails.

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Mark Haslett
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Posted: 02 July 2020 at 11:19am | IP Logged | 6 post reply

I think that, as far as Hamilton "condescending" -- I think that is a fair interpretation, but still a good motive for mixing up the race of the cast.

I believe our national confusion about our racial history contributes to a lot of disinterest in our history. A natural question when first confronted with stories of our past is: who wants to read/watch/relate to a bunch of slave-owners?

Apparently, mixing up the race of the cast had an effect on opening this story to modern audiences. "Condescending" or not, I believe it helped induce people to face the story with a more open mind.

I could be wrong.
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Tim O Neill
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Joined: 16 April 2004
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Posted: 02 July 2020 at 1:36pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply


JB: "Miranda seems to be saying that non-White audiences need the material
reprocessed in order for them to appreciate it. And, again, I ask what would be
the reaction to Tom Hanks being cast as Martin Luthur King Jr with the same
'justification'?"

****

I don't get the impression Miranda was directing his show at just non-white
audiences to teach them a history lesson - this was the format he used for IN
THE HEIGHTS, and it was directed at primarily theatergoers, and secondarily
fans of hip-hop that cross over. It did indeed cross over, but into an even
wider popular culture phenomenon. The inspiration was his love of the book
and how he identified with Alexander Hamilton's immigrant background. I
don't find it condescending nor pandering - I find some elements challenge my
expectations as a white audience member, but the show is more than its
casting. It explores these characters through music in a deeper way that is
unique to the show. It's really an experience like nothing I've had - I don't
know if the film adaptation will compare to the theatrical experience. I hope it
does!

The MLK comparison is looking for an equivalency or "rules" that don't exist. The casting of HAMILTON is unique to HAMILTON. If a play comments on race
or has it has a subtext through casting, then it should be evaluated on its own
terms.

Casting MLK as white would need some context by the author. What would
you be saying by doing this? MLK's entire mission was based on peacefully
exposing how the Black community is given the shaft in America. Casting a
non-Black MLK doesn't comment on racism so much as it thumbs its nose at it.
How could it be done in an away that would speak to an audience, and what
are you saying?

There was indeed a production of THE MOUNTAINTOP in which MLK was cast
with a white actor, but the play was not written with that intent:

The Washington Post - "A white actor was cast as MLK — until the black
playwright caught wind of it."



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John Byrne

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Posted: 02 July 2020 at 1:59pm | IP Logged | 8 post reply

The MLK comparison is looking for an equivalency or "rules" that don't exist.

••

Precisely my point, Tim.

Let's try another tack: Would Lin-Manuel Miranda as MLK be acceptable?

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Tim O Neill
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Posted: 02 July 2020 at 2:08pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply


I think it entirely depends on the context of the play. MLK was fighting for
Black rights, so his race is essential to his persona and life mission. So
changing his race would need to be a deliberate decision based on the story.


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John Byrne

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Posted: 02 July 2020 at 3:03pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

The Founders were fighting for their own rights, which had little to nothing, unfortunately, to do with anybody else’s rights. If they had been, this country would be a very different place.

None of that can be accurately represented if their races change. It was integral that they were White, just as it was integral that MLK was Black.

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John Byrne

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Joined: 11 May 2005
Posts: 120972
Posted: 03 July 2020 at 4:17am | IP Logged | 11 post reply

But THIS is NOT Okay.......
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Michael Penn
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Joined: 12 April 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 11006
Posted: 03 July 2020 at 6:50am | IP Logged | 12 post reply

From what I've read -- I've not seen "Hamilton" (yet) --
Miranda consulted very closely with Chernow to be as
historically accurate as possible. But then there's the
non-white casting, which is of course inaccurate. In
part, the production was therefore meant to be realistic
(in as much as any musical can be). Does the non-white
casting utterly destroy the production's historicity? Or
does -- as Miranda intended -- the non-white casting
create non-white avatars uniquely appealing to non-white
audiences and thus draws them more deeply, more
personally into what should be the shared history of this
nation than yet another all-white production?

(These are my questions because I am not a person of
color and I also don't myself know much about "Hamilton"
or what its reception has been among non-white audiences.
Based on what I've read about it over the years, it seems
that Miranda has had a rousing success precisely in the
way he desired among non-white audiences, but I couldn't
tell you for sure.)

The most storied and celebrated Founders were white, and
those who made them the most storied and celebrated were
white too, and too often since the founding those stories
and celebrations were made in a way exclusive of non-
whites, too often in deliberately, even disgustingly
racial manner, so exclusionary that when Martin Luther
King Jr would invoke for the benefit of black people the
great words and thoughts of the white Founders, knowing
full well that many were slaveholders, or that America's
fundamental documents (the Declaration and the
Constitution) did not express or envision full political,
social, even human equality for African Americans, it was
actually a radical stance.

It seems that Mr. Miranda, an artist, not an activist,
also wanted to do something radical in his chosen
imaginative métier, attempting to defy the exclusion of
non-whites from seeing their own lives, their own selves
reflected in the words and deeds of the Founders, as if
they belonged only to whites.

Black people, however, have never had the racist power to
exert exclusionary political, social, cultural custody
over "their" significant American figure (a latter-day
Founder to be sure) of Martin Luther King. So, it would
not make sense -- in terms of Miranda's kind of
"Hamilton" casting -- to argue that if Washington can be
black, then King can be white. Non-whites were shut out
of seeing the Founders as belonging to them. Whites who
are racist shut themselves out from seeing King as an
American Founder.
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