Diversity on Broadway

JerseyBoy25
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Diversity on Broadway#1
Posted: 10/9/15 at 10:54am

I was thinking last night about the recent events of awards seasons, with Viola Davis's historic Emmy win and the backlash over none of the 20 acting nominees at the Oscars being of actors of color. And I'm realizing that Broadway is more diverse than television and movie. Hamilton, In the Heights, Motown, Allegiance, Color Purple, The Gin Game, Kinky Boots, Raisin In The Sun and Disgraced are all stories that concern/star people of all parts of the melting pot. Billy Porter, Audra McDonald, Cicely Tyson, Lin Manuel Miranda, James Earl Jones and Norm Lewis have become staples of the Broadway stage. Kudos to Broadway in my opinion for creating a diverse environment for actors. What do you guys think about Broadway's diversity and the comparison to Hollywood movies and Television?

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JBroadway
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Diversity on Broadway#2
Posted: 10/9/15 at 11:06am

I think Broadway still has a ways to go, but I've been thinking about how this season in particular is incredibly diverse. The shows you mentioned are great examples, but I would also add:

Aladdin

Amazing Grace

Spring Awakening (deaf actors and an actor in a wheelchair)

The King and I

Shuffle Along

Allegiance

On Your Feet! 

 

All shows with great representation of People of Color in the cast. 

 

Like I said though, we shouldn't just be patting ourselves on the back and calling it a day. I think we still have a ways to go before people of color (and also disabled actors), get the level of representation they deserve. 

Updated On: 10/9/15 at 11:06 AM
sng
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Diversity on Broadway#3
Posted: 10/9/15 at 11:09am

I think we still have a long way to go. When do you think we will have a leading Asian actor/actress in a musical that does not take place in Asia like King and I, Miss Saigon or Allegiance? 

Pootie2
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Diversity on Broadway#4
Posted: 10/9/15 at 11:12am

sng said: "I think we still have a long way to go. When do you think we will have a leading Asian actor/actress in a musical that does not take place in Asia like King and I, Miss Saigon or Allegiance? 

"

Allegiance doesn't take place in Asia. It's a very American story.

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sng
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Diversity on Broadway#5
Posted: 10/9/15 at 11:17am

Pootie2 said: "sng said: "I think we still have a long way to go. When do you think we will have a leading Asian actor/actress in a musical that does not take place in Asia like King and I, Miss Saigon or Allegiance? 

 

"

 

Allegiance doesn't take place in Asia. It's a very American story.

 

"

My mistake then, I havent read much about it, but my point was that I like to see more POC actors in roles that don't get anything to do with their race

Pootie2
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Diversity on Broadway#6
Posted: 10/9/15 at 11:25am

JerseyBoy25 said: "I was thinking last night about the recent events of awards seasons, with Viola Davis's historic Emmy win and the backlash over none of the 20 acting nominees at the Oscars being of actors of color. And I'm realizing that Broadway is more diverse than television and movie. Hamilton, In the Heights, Motown, Allegiance, Color Purple, The Gin Game, Kinky Boots, Raisin In The Sun and Disgraced are all stories that concern/star people of all parts of the melting pot. Billy Porter, Audra McDonald, Cicely Tyson, Lin Manuel Miranda, James Earl Jones and Norm Lewis have become staples of the Broadway stage. Kudos to Broadway in my opinion for creating a diverse environment for actors. What do you guys think about Broadway's diversity and the comparison to Hollywood movies and Television?

"

IF/THEN won the Equity diversity award last year.

I think film and TV are better at representing than Broadway, but that's also because of the sheer accessible quantity compared to the tiny slice that is Broadway in NYC. In both cases, though, we as an entertainment-consumption culture have a long ways to go until such casting and media representation are no longer historically newsworthy on the awards side nor criticized on the stereotype side.

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JoseLee_
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Diversity on Broadway#7
Posted: 10/9/15 at 11:30am

when I go to shows I look at the audience and only see white heads. Theatre audience is literally 90% white.

Showface
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Diversity on Broadway#8
Posted: 10/9/15 at 11:30am

I think Broadway still has a ways to go in the diversity field, but I must say that Broadway diversity does seem to be stronger than diversity in Hollywood.

But, echoing what Joselee said--audiences seem to be made up of rich white people, which is something that really needs to be changed.

Updated On: 10/9/15 at 11:30 AM
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mistermanifesto
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Diversity on Broadway#9
Posted: 10/9/15 at 11:46am

One of the frustrating things of being an actor of color is that traditionally, there is an unwritten rule that if the casting doesn't specifically state the ethnicity, the role is automatically someone Caucasian. I loved the casting in If/Then because the character that LaChanze played could be played by a woman from any race and it didn't automatically have to be someone white. In shows like that where race is not specific, I don't see why there can't be a Hispanic police officer or an Asian teacher. Even in big shows with white leads, I don't see why they couldn't let even any of the lesser one liners be someone of a different race and NOT just have a black and an Asian in the ensemble just to fit a racial quota. Yes, color blind casting is great, but what's important is envisioning characters that could be honestly any race. The revolution of making white not always the default and giving some really talented actors that may not be white a shot at something wonderful. 

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MOUSTACHA
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Diversity on Broadway#10
Posted: 10/9/15 at 11:51am

This will be a great year for Broadway re: diversity.  But, it's hard to push for diversity when half of the shows done are revivals from an era where diversity wasn't a consideration of many writers/composers.  Also, so many shows are being based off movies, which have prior expectations of what the cast will look like.

I think seeing diverse casting in the upcoming 'Crucible' is a great sign of things to come.  Hopefully that sort of casting will continue, and encourage producers/casting directors/writers to create opportunities for more diverse performers, in turn (hopefully) that will drive the expansion into a more diverse audience.

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newintown
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Diversity on Broadway#11
Posted: 10/9/15 at 11:54am

Jose Llana played the major role of Chip Tolentino in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a character who is never explicitly identified as Asian.

Islander_fan
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Diversity on Broadway#12
Posted: 10/9/15 at 12:00pm

JoseLee_ said: "when I go to shows I look at the audience and only see white heads. Theatre audience is literally 90% white.

 

"

I totally agree and feel that that is something that needs to be changed. The only time I have felt that I was the minority in the audience (and I'm white by the way) was when I saw the James Earl Jones revival of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. But, for other shows, that has never been the case. 

TerrenceIsTheMann
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Diversity on Broadway#13
Posted: 10/9/15 at 12:14pm

"This will be a great year for Broadway re: diversity.  But, it's hard to push for diversity when half of the shows done are revivals from an era where diversity wasn't a consideration of many writers/composers.  Also, so many shows are being based off movies, which have prior expectations of what the cast will look like."

I completely agree with Moustacha on this one. I personally think that broadway this season is diverse enough. If it stays this way, I think we are good. 
There is only so much diversity possible in certain situations due to the historical inaccuracy that it would set up. Hamilton works because that's the whole idea of it. However, we can't completely cast every show color blind. Would it make sense to have a white woman play Effie in Dreamgirls? No. God no. So there are limits to what you can do.

TerrenceIsTheMann
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Diversity on Broadway#14
Posted: 10/9/15 at 12:18pm

Also, if you want to change broadway's audience, you have to change ticket prices. People with average to low incomes will skip seeing shows now due to the lack of cheap tickets. The way it's set up now the majority of every audience is likely to be old, white, and upper class. I am both a college student and hispanic, and I come from a family with divorced parents. If I didn't know about all these discounts like Access10 and Lotteries I would be priced out for broadway.

 

Showface
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Diversity on Broadway#15
Posted: 10/9/15 at 12:26pm

"Would it make sense to have a white woman play Effie in Dreamgirls? No. God no. So there are limits to what you can do."

Well, that's because race is a huge factor in this show, but shows without a racial factor, regardless of time period, I think could easily have a diverse cast

I don't see an issue with a racially diverse production of My Fair LadyAnything Goes, Sweeney Todd, The Sound of Music, etc.

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Diversity on Broadway#16
Posted: 10/9/15 at 12:27pm
"I personally think that broadway this season is diverse enough. If it stays this way, I think we are good."

Well, I'm glad that's settled.
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Diversity on Broadway#17
Posted: 10/9/15 at 12:49pm

>I think we still have a long way to go. When do you think we will have a leading Asian actor/actress in a musical that does not take place in Asia like King and I, Miss Saigon or Allegiance? <

 

There was the particularly fascinating example of Sono Osato playing the role of Ivy Smith in the original On the Town in 1944.  

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Diversity on Broadway#18
Posted: 10/9/15 at 1:48pm

The casting for IF/THEN was stellar, as a few folks here have pointed out. Besides Kate (LaChanze), there was David (Jason Tam), Elena (Tamika Lawrence), Stephen (Jerry Dixon), and Cathy (Ann Sanders).

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Diversity on Broadway#19
Posted: 10/9/15 at 3:48pm

Also Jane White, an African American actress, played Aggravain in the original Once Upon a Mattress in 1959.  

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Diversity on Broadway#20
Posted: 10/9/15 at 4:07pm

Now that Phantom has had its first African American title character on Broadway, I would love to see some POC playing the other leads in the show, like Christine, Raoul, etc.

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Diversity on Broadway#21
Posted: 10/9/15 at 10:54pm
It's also really important to give space to writers and directors of color as well as actors. That's how we get pieces like Hamilton, Disgraced, Shuffle Along, Allegiance, etc. And while color blind casting is great and should continue to be a thing, actors of color SHOULD have roles available that speak to their experience specifically and aren't just race-neutral or traditionally white. The majority of audiences definitely are older white people, but on the flip side of that, I've seen audiences diversify when a show is about someone other than white people. If people see themselves reflected in the work, they will show up, and that holds true for women and queer people as well.
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Diversity on Broadway#22
Posted: 10/10/15 at 5:20am

Well I think the cast of Hamilton and the musical itself is a great sign of things to come. The concept of minorities purposely playing White historical figures really opens the doors to so many possibilities with future musicals and plays. The musical itself with it's predominately hip-hop style music only adds to the possibilities of these style of musicals. And the fact that it's being accepted by the critics of old and new, is just icing on the cake.

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Diversity on Broadway#23
Posted: 10/10/15 at 1:06pm

36% of actors currently on Broadway are non-white. Only 23% of the US population is non-white. There are eight shows in which all or most of the cast is non-white (Shuffle Along will make nine). Just how much more diverse do you want it to get? So no, we don't have a long way to go. If anything, we've over-compensated.

 

Why does an actor's race even matter? All I care is if he/she can act (and sing and dance if it's a musical) and is appropriate for the role. I don't really see the point of having a non-white person play Christine Daae just for the sake of having a non-white person playing Christine Daae.

Updated On: 10/10/15 at 01:06 PM
Showface
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Diversity on Broadway#24
Posted: 10/10/15 at 1:11pm

hork said: "36% of actors currently on Broadway are non-white. Only 23% of the US population is non-white. There are seven shows in which all or most of the cast is non-white (Shuffle Along will make eight). Just how much more diverse do you want it to get? So no, we don't have a long way to go. If anything, we've over-compensated.

 

 

 

Why does an actor's race even matter? All I care is if he/she can act (and sing and dance if it's a musical) and is appropriate for the role. I don't really see the point of having a non-white person play Christine Daae just for the sake of having a non-white person playing Christine Daae.

 

"

I knew I didn't have to wait long for this to happen 

 

First of all, please provide where you got your statistics from

 

I also would like to say that there is no "overcompensating" when it comes to diversity

Updated On: 10/10/15 at 01:11 PM
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hork
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Diversity on Broadway#25
Posted: 10/10/15 at 1:45pm

I got my statistics from going to the web sites for every production and counting the number of non-whites versus whites. And I was mostly just going by the pictures, so I may have missed some who look white in their photo but aren't.

 

"I also would like to say that there is no "overcompensating" when it comes to diversity"

 

Oh? Why not? If you have two actors auditioning for a white or racially neutral role, and one is white and a great actor and singer, and the other is black and merely an adequate actor and singer, and you cast the black actor just for the sake of diversity, that is overcompensating.