Ironic: Broadway Mega-Hit 'Hamilton' Criticized Over 'Non-White' Casting Call
The groundbreaking hip-hop Broadway musical “Hamilton,” praised for showcasing diversity, published a casting call seeking “non-white men and women” to audition for the show. The union representing theater actors, Actor’s Equity Association, stepped in prompting “Hamilton” producers to amend its language, clarifying everyone is welcomed to try out for the show.
The controversy began with an open casting announcement on the show's website. “Hamilton” is “seeking NON-WHITE men and women, ages 20s to 30s, for Broadway and upcoming Tours,” the ad said. Audition descriptions of many of the characters in “Hamilton,” as for other Broadway shows, often specify the race, gender and age range of the characters, and that is standard practice in the theater and film industry. But Actors’ Equity said that auditions should be open to anyone.
“It is advisable to take an affirmative approach, rather than an exclusionary one,” said Howard Sherman, interim director of the Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts. Civil rights, Randolph 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.” McLaughlin told CBS, “What if they put an ad out that said, ‘Whites only need apply? Why, African-Americans, Latinos, Asians would be outraged.”
“‘Hamilton’ depicts the birth of our nation in a singular way,” the show’s lead producer, Jeffrey Seller, said in a statement. “We will continue to cast the show with the same multicultural diversity that we have employed thus far.”
The current cast features Latino and African-American actors as the founding fathers, and includes Asian-American and white actors in other roles. The use of a diverse cast to explore America’s revolutionary beginnings and its democratic ideals has been an important element in the show’s critical success. Theater critic Ben Brantley wrote in The New York Times that “‘Hamilton’ is, among other things, about who owns history, who gets to be in charge of the narrative.”