The perpetually sold out Broadway musical “Hamilton”—Lin-Manuel Miranda’s brainchild that uses hip-hop, R&B and pop and a cast full of people of color to tell the story of founding father Alexander Hamilton—took fire this week. After producers posted a casting call looking for “non-White men and women,” the New York City CBS affiliate ran a story on Tuesday (March 29) criticizing the show’s producers for being exclusionary.
From the article:
“What if they put an ad out that said, ‘Whites only need apply?’” said [civil rights attorney Randolph] McLaughlin, of the Newman Ferrara Law Firm. “Why, African-Americans, Latinos, Asians would be outraged.”
McLaughlin believes the ad violates the New York City Human Rights Law, which makes it unlawful “for an employer… because of the actual written or perceived… race of any person, to discriminate.”
“You cannot advertise showing that you have a preference for one racial group over another,” McLaughlin said. “As an artistic question—sure, he can cast whomever he wants to cast, but he has to give every actor eligible for the role an opportunity to try.”
The New York Times reports that Maria Somma, the spokesperson for Broadway union Actors’ Equity, said the notice was “absolutely inconsistent with Equity’s policy.” She also said that the union wants “to encourage that everyone has an equal opportunity to go in and audition for shows.”
Yesterday (March 30), the producers issued the following statement, saying that it would revise the casting notice, but remained committed to hiring people of color for the lead roles:
The producers of “Hamilton” regret the confusion that’s arisen from the recent posting of an open call casting notice for the show. It is essential to the storytelling of “Hamilton” that the principal roles—which were written for non-White characters (excepting King George)—be performed by non-White actors. This adheres to the accepted practice that certain characteristics in certain roles constitute a “bona fide occupational qualification” that is legal. This also follows in the tradition of many shows that call for race, ethnicity or age specific casting, whether it’s “The Color Purple” or “Porgy & Bess” or “Matilda.” The casting will be amended to also include language we neglected to add, that is, we welcome people of all ethnicities to audition for “Hamilton.”
The updated casting notice appears below.
Lead producer Jeffrey Seller assured audiences that nothing will actually change with the show that Miranda has dsescribed as “a story about America then, told by America now.”
“‘Hamilton’ depicts the birth of our nation in a singular way,” Seller said in a statement. “We will continue to cast the show with the same multicultural diversity that we have employed thus far.”