Sondheim Calls Protests Against Whitewashing 'Ridiculous'

By: Oct. 06, 2018
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Sondheim Calls Protests Against Whitewashing 'Ridiculous'

A conversation has recently been stirred up about the whitewashing of roles meant for people of color, when a production of West Side Story was cancelled last month due to white people being cast as Puerto Rican characters.

Stephen Sondheim recently spoke out about the issue on St. Louis On The Air, where he was asked what he thinks about the protests.

The composer said that he hadn't even heard about the protest previous to the night before the interview was recorded. He went on to share his thoughts.

"The most famous example of that was a production of Miss Saigon, the original production in New York, where there were great protests because Jonathan Pryce was not an Asian."

"That kind of protest, I just find sort of silly," he said. "If you carry that to its extreme then you'd have to say that an actress couldn't be played by anyone but an actress and that a mother couldn't be played by somebody who hadn't been a mother. I mean, it's ridiculous."

Many complaints of whitewashing have come up recently. A protest was lead mid-show during a performance of Jerome Robbins Broadway at The Muny. The protest began because a white actress portrayed a Burmese character in a scene from The King and I.

Read more on St. Louis Public Radio's website, and listen to Sondheim's full interview below:

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