Scott Schwartz Responds to Public Outcry Against PRINCE OF EGYPT Casting: 'A Diverse Cast Was and Is a Priority'
As BroadwayWorld previously reported, Bay Street Theater and DreamWorks Theatricals will present a premiere concert reading of the new stage adaptation of THE PRINCE OF EGYPT, book by Philip LaZebnik (writer of Mulan, Pocahontas) and music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (composer of Wicked, Pippin, Godspell). The cast for the concert includes Casey Cott as Moses; Stark Sands as Ramses; Tony Award winner Shuler Hensley as Pharaoh Seti; Marin Mazzie as Queen Tuya; Solea Pfeiffer as Tzipporah; J.C. Montgomery as Jethro; Ryan Knowles as High Priest Hotep; John Cariani as Aaron; Julia Motyka as Miriam; Joanna Howard as Nefertari; Desi Oakley as Yocheved; and Dakota Quackenbush as Young Miriam.
The announcement of the cast has caused a stir online, and director Scott Schwartz has just released a statement:
I know a conversation has been happening about the casting of the upcoming concert of the new stage adaptation of THE PRINCE OF EGYPT. It is a conversation that is both timely and of great importance. I want to take a moment to join this dialogue, and to respond to the issues that have been raised.
Let me first say that I hear you, and I take the concerns raised about racial authenticity and diversity in casting very seriously. I always have, and am known for directing and producing shows with highly diverse casts. The other creators of THE PRINCE OF EGYPT, from composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz and book writer Philip LaZebnik to the producers and team at DreamWorks Theatricals, all have a long history of diversity in casting. We all care deeply about making theater and art that is reflective of the multicultural society in which we live. Bay Street Theater as well is committed to hiring artists of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.
The upcoming presentation of THE PRINCE OF EGYPT is a one night, free concert reading. It will have an extremely limited rehearsal period and it is NOT a full production. There will be no costuming, makeup, or design of any sort, and the music will be performed on just one piano. This show is early in its development, and the focus of the team has been on the script and score, working to make this new musical the best it can be in its writing. We have done a couple of non-public readings of the show, and the cast has been different at each. I am proud to say that we have had diverse casts in all of our developmental steps so far.
Some have written that the cast for this upcoming concert is "all white," but that is simply not the case. In fact, we have an Equity cast of fifteen actors and five of them are people of color. So while some may not agree with specific choices we may have made for specific roles, I want to assure everyone that having a diverse cast was and is a priority for us.
All of that being said, please rest assured that your concern about the need for diversity and authenticity in this project is something we hear and take seriously. All of us on the creative and producing team hope to continue this conversation, not just about THE PRINCE OF EGYPT, but about diversity and authenticity in casting in all the art we create.
Photo Credit: Walter McBride / WM Photos