HAMILTON's Lin-Manuel Miranda Speaks On Race and Casting
"Authorial intent wins. Period," Lin-Miranda says in response to recent controversies involving race and casting. "As a Dramatists Guild Council member, I will tell you this. As an artist and as a human I will tell you this. Authorial intent wins."
In an interview with arts administrator and producer Howard Sherman, interim director of the Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts and director of the Arts Integrity Initiative at The New School College of Performing Arts, the author of Hamilton, written specifically to have a cast of racially diverse actors portraying the white real-life people who conducted the American revolution, speaks passionately about the productions that cast a white actor as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Katori Hall's THE MOUNTAINTOP and white actors as Indian characters in Lloyd Suh's JESUS IN INDIA.
"Katori Hall never intended for a Caucasian Martin Luther King," he notes. "That's the end of the discussion. In every case, the intent of the author always wins. If the author has specified the ethnicity of the part, that wins."
Miranda's comments are especially significant because the example Hamilton sets has been used by some to justify the casting of white actors in these roles.
"Frankly, this is why it's so important to me, we're one of the last entertainment mediums that has that power. You go to Hollywood, you sell a script, they do whatever and your name is still on it. What we protect at the Dramatists Guild is the author's power over their words and what happens with them. It's very cut and dry."
When Miranda's IN THE HEIGHTS, set in a predominantly Latino section of Washington Heights, became available for high school productions, he attended performances done by some schools that had a large Latino population and some with a small one.
"When I see a school production with not a lot of Latino students doing it, I know they're learning things about Latino culture that go beyond what they're fed in the media every day. They have to learn those things to play their parts correctly. And when I see a school with a huge Latino population do HEIGHTS, I feel a surge of pride that the students get to perform something that may have a sliver of resonance in their daily lives. Just please God, tell them that tanning and bad 50's style Shark makeup isn't necessary. Latinos come in every color of the rainbow, thanks very much."
In regards to what he'll allow for the racial makeup of future productions of Hamilton, Miranda says he doesn't have the answer just yet.
"I'm going to know the answer a little better once we set up these tours and once we set up the London run. I think the London cast is also going to look like our cast looks now, it's going to be as diverse as our cast is now, but there are going to be even more opportunities for southeast Asian and Asian and communities of color within Europe that should be represented on stage in that level of production."
Eventually, acting editions of the text will include language that specifies the author's casting intentions.
"I will find the right language to make sure that the beautiful thing that people love about our show and allows them identification with the show is preserved when this goes out into the world."
The new musical Hamilton has book, music and lyrics by Tony and Grammy Award-winning composerLin-Manuel Miranda, who also plays the title role. The musical is directed byThomas Kail, with choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler and music direction and orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire.Hamilton is inspired by Ron Chernow's biography "Alexander Hamilton."
The cast of Hamilton is comprised of Lin-Manuel Miranda (Alexander Hamilton), Daveed Diggs(Marquis De Lafayette,Thomas Jefferson), Renée Elise Goldsberry (Angelica Schuyler),Christopher Jackson (George Washington),Jonathan Groff (King George), Jasmine Cephas Jones (Peggy Schuyler, Maria Reynolds), Javier Muñoz (Hamilton alternate), Okieriete Onaodowan(Hercules Mulligan, James Madison), Leslie Odom, Jr. (Aaron Burr),Anthony Ramos (John Laurens, Philip Hamilton) and Phillipa Soo (Eliza Hamilton).
HAMILTON is the acclaimed new musical about the scrappy young immigrant Alexander Hamilton, the $10 Founding Father who forever changed America with his revolutionary ideas and actions. During his life cut too short, he served as George Washington's chief aide, was the first Treasury Secretary, a loving husband and father, despised by his fellow Founding Fathers and shot to death by Aaron Burr in their legendary duel.