So white folks want you to cast white folks in roles that are about real white people...hmmm...
Okay, we don’t want white folks casting white people in roles that are about real black people, do we?
The point is we can let go of the formula of rehashing stories written for and about white people into remakes where we can cast people of color.
Our stories, our histories and heroines don’t exist only in opposition to white history.
Who are we historically w/out the involvement of white oppressors?
As the great writer, Wole Soyinka advises, WE should be the SUBJECT of our stories, not what white folks did to us...
We are not what happened to us,
we are much bigger than that..
Who are we outside of oppression & colonialism?
If we can’t imagine that, we’ll never truly be free of it...
It always comes down to this for me: I really don’t care about what anyone else is doing: I only care about what we’re doing to document & rewrite our stories so that we are fully realized, complicated, textured human beings...if we don't write that history, someone else will.....
He who controls the story create history & civilization...
White Actors Suing 'Hamilton' for Discrimination? Supreme Court Hears Warning
from Hollywood Reporter by Eriq Gardner
Is Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda at risk for being sued by only casting African-Americans in the role of George Washington in his award-winning musical? According to a new petition before the Supreme Court, he very well might be. Charter Communications, one of the biggest cable operators in the nation, is now telling the Supreme Court that if a recent Ninth Circuit ruling is left in place, white actors could attack Miranda's magnum opus with viable discrimination suits.
Charter itself is facing a discrimination challenge over its refusal to make any good offer to carry networks owned by Byron Allen's Entertainment Studios Network. With $10 billion in claimed damages, the plaintiff has survived both a motion to dismiss and subsequent review from the Ninth Circuit. Now, Charter has turned to a legal heavyweight in a bid to get the Supreme Court to intervene. The cable company is being represented by Kirkland & Ellis partner Paul Clement, who was formerly the Solicitor General in the George W. Bush administration.
A cert petition earlier this month (read here) raises two questions.
The first pertains to standards in discrimination suits. Must plaintiffs show that racial animus was the motivating cause of conduct or can they get away with merely demonstrating discriminatory intent as a factor? It's a question that has attracted the attention of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which says this case threatens to disrupt employment discrimination law by subjecting companies to the tough task of proving that racism wasn't the reason for hiring or firing decisions.
The second question is arguably even more provocative: Does a cable operator have a First Amendment right to include racial considerations among the factors it evaluates in making editorial determinations as to what programming to carry?
When U.S. District Court Judge George H. Wu first looked at the question, he rejected the First Amendment argument because in his view, the selection of networks on the cable dial doesn't convey any editorial message.
The Ninth Circuit came to a similar conclusion.
"Our analysis here is limited to cases of discriminatory contracting based on a plaintiff's race, not contracting based on a plaintiff's viewpoint," stated the decision. "A bookstore's choice of which books to stock on its shelves, or a theater owner's decision about which productions to stage, or a cable operator's selection of certain perspectives to air, are decisions based on content, and not necessarily on the racial identities of the parties with which they contract (or refuse to contract). Here, by contrast, Plaintiffs plausibly pleaded that Charter refused to contract with Entertainment Studios due to racial animus, and they must ultimately prove that Entertainment Studios' racial identity, separate and apart from the underlying content of its programming, was a factor in Charter's decision."
In the petition to the Supreme Court, Charter says this is a "false dichotomy."
"Although decisions about content are often unrelated to the characteristics of the speaker (and generally should be), clearly that is not always the case when it comes to editorial decisions in circumstances where race and content are related," states the petition. "Indeed, plaintiffs themselves draw a connection between racial identity and content when they assert that their suit is intended to draw attention 'voices of African American-owned media companies.'”
Charter then brings up examples, telling the high court that Invisible Manand The Color Purple would be very different works if written by white men.
Next, wait for it, comes Hamilton.
"The musical Hamilton is notable for its creator’s decision to cast exclusively minority actors as the Founding Fathers," writes the Clement team. "A refusal to contract with a white actor to play George Washington cannot be made an antidiscrimination violation without profoundly undermining First Amendment values."
Charter later brings up Hurley v. Irish American Gay Group of Boston, a 1995 opinion written by Justice David Souter that determined that parade organizers in Boston couldn't be compelled to include the participation of a gay group. That decision has been cited often, including when ABC was sued a few years back by African-Americans upset over how lead roles for The Bachelor and The Bachelorette never went to non-white individuals. The case was dismissed.
Allen's team will surely oppose the cert by distinguishing Hurley from the present situation and repeating the refrain that Charter's viewpoint isn't at issue, but Charter believes this to be inseparable and is coming very close to making a racial liberty argument at the Supreme Court. Or at least freedom to include racial considerations when creative decision-making is at stake. In some ways, it's not terribly far from that baker who refused to make cakes for gay couples. Except this time, the First Amendment argument purports to advance the interests of a racially diverse hit musical.
Allowing a discrimination lawsuit when race places a factor, however small, and ignoring editorial judgment "rides roughshod over First Amendment protections," states Charter's brief before concluding, "[I]t would allow even an objectively terrible white actor to bring an action for being denied a part in Hamilton even if factors other than race would provide an obvious explanation for why the actor would not get a part as a Founding Father in the minority cast of Hamilton (or in any kind of cast for any other play). Left in place, the Ninth Circuit’s reasoning will have a devastating chilling effect on the free speech rights of all speech platforms — from magazines, to websites, to bookstores and theaters — that select and promote speech originally produced by others."
""""One of the most mortifying moments I experienced in my theatrical career was when I was asked to bring the entirely African-American cast of a new musical we were workshopping, a new piece by an African-American librettist and composer, across the street to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and up into the plush boardroom so they could perform a song or two for the board of directors. I wanted to say something, but I didn't. For one thing, it would take an invaluable 45 minutes to an hour out of the creative team's limited time together. But... every year we had to do the same old song and dance for the board to remind them that yes, we did do new plays and musicals, so yes, it was sometimes a good idea to expose the board to new voices, to the vibrancy of an exciting work in progress.
You all know where this is going, don't you? I led the team in. The talent in that team! The writer/composer himself and the cast, lauded veterans of the stage and the most promising members of the next generation of acting giants. And there was our board. White, as white as can be, white white white white. And very comfortable. They'd just been served lunch, I believe. My theater spared no expense in pleasing our board and catering to their demands (oh my god, I'm feeling such rage right now! I'm pretty sure we had a staff member who was mostly dedicated to help our richest board members get house seats to shows on Broadway and the West End. But I digress...)
The only black face in the audience seated at the conference table? The only person of color? The head of our education department, of course. My heart went out to her.
The cast sang a song from the show. They did it. And they brought it. Because they were and are professionals. And the very pillars of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion reverberated down to the parking lot. It was breathtaking.
And I had just been complicit in the remaking of a scene for the millionth time: black bodies and voices entertaining white audiences, an institution raising money on the backs and voices of black bodies.
I was too mortified to apologize to our writer and to our cast, none of whom, I should add, expressed even an iota of discomfort. They were professionals, and they shone. And come to think of it, they'd probably all become accustomed to this scene. "It's just how theater works," they might have thought with a shrug of their shoulders. Or maybe they seethed inside, for the millionth time, when all they were trying to do is workshop a new musical.
Well, I apologize sincerely now to our writer and those actors. I wish I had had the courage to put my foot down. It is not how theater should work.
I quit the American theater on Valentine's Day 2016, so I've been out more than four years now. And honestly I don't plan to return, which is why I can write with such candor.
The heart of the problem, my friends, is with the non-profit structure, which is capitalism on steroids. Who are the bosses ultimately in an American institutional theater? The board of directors. Who are the board of directors? For the most part, those members of the community not with the strongest attachment to the art form but those with the deepest pockets. Often they're really not members of the community. They often just drop in. They are sometimes mere tourists.
It's no wonder that that board meeting was held in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The theater, like most American theaters, had built its board of directors on the old opera model: You get the richest folks together, offer them galas and house seats and receptions and private recitals and showings (for which artists often don't get paid extra, mind you), you pamper them and make them feel more special and entitled than they already do, and then they'll write you big checks to support the kind of art they like, the kind of art they can bring their kids and grandkids to. AND they--not the artists, not the community--get to hire the institution's leadership.
It is a rotten model. Rotten to the core. How can any artistic institution claim to be working for and in the community with that model?
It's got to be torn down. It's got to be reinvented. And I have no idea what the next model will be. I really don't. And no, honestly I don't think government is the solution frankly. Some of the most bloated, self-satisfied, decadent theater I've ever seen was in Germany, where it was almost fully government-funded. Lots of bells and whistles and provocations and completely soul-dead.
I see amazing and galvanizing lists of demands recently being made and posted by theater artists of color. These are vital demands. But they don't address the central issue. As long as the ultimate bosses of an artistic institution remain the community's deepest pockets, nothing will change. Nothing. You'll be putting band-aids on a gaping wound. Sorry, but it's true.
So please figure something else out. Maybe for a few years you just avoid the institutions. You've already started. In the pandemic, so many of you are making amazing art without an institution. Find those who truly adore your work and ask them to fund it. Screw non-profit. Form a corporation and value your art art-making as a resource that profits you, your viewers/audience and your community. I have no idea.
But please don't return to a new version of the old. After the virus, after he's out of office, after police reform and nationwide conversations about race, after, after, after, begin something new. I can't wait to see what it is!”
Words: Pier Carlo Talenti
Video: Griffin Matthews
April Yvette Thompson