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Is a white person playing a role "of color"* considered racist?

Is a white person playing a role "of color"* considered racist?

CJ N2N Profile Photo
CJ N2N
#1Is a white person playing a role "of color"* considered racist?
Posted: 11/29/12 at 6:50pm

*- I really don't want to sound racist, but that's the only term I could think of. If anyone happens to know a PC term for it, I'll change it.

I ask because someone was complaining about my schools choice to do West Side Story even though we have very few people of Latin American heritage. Is it really THAT bad?

binau Profile Photo
binau
#2Is a white person playing a role
Posted: 11/29/12 at 6:54pm

I don't think it should be but it probably is considering the history of blackface etc.


"You can't overrate Bernadette Peters. She is such a genius. There's a moment in "Too Many Mornings" and Bernadette doing 'I wore green the last time' - It's a voice that is just already given up - it is so sorrowful. Tragic. You can see from that moment the show is going to be headed into such dark territory and it hinges on this tiny throwaway moment of the voice." - Ben Brantley (2022) "Bernadette's whole, stunning performance [as Rose in Gypsy] galvanized the actors capable of letting loose with her. Bernadette's Rose did take its rightful place, but too late, and unseen by too many who should have seen it" Arthur Laurents (2009) "Sondheim's own favorite star performances? [Bernadette] Peters in ''Sunday in the Park,'' Lansbury in ''Sweeney Todd'' and ''obviously, Ethel was thrilling in 'Gypsy.'' Nytimes, 2000

loliveve Profile Photo
loliveve
#2Is a white person playing a role
Posted: 11/29/12 at 7:01pm

I don't think it's racist at all. Actual racism requires a negative intent. (If it makes any difference, I'm mixed and not offended. Blackface doesn't offend me either.)

anmiller07 Profile Photo
anmiller07
Kad Profile Photo
Kad
#4Is a white person playing a role
Posted: 11/29/12 at 7:12pm

In your situation, I wouldn't say so- unless the Sharks are wearing exaggerated makeup and doing awful accents. I would question why a school would do a show they don't have the correct casting pool for, but that's hardly a unique problem.


"...everyone finally shut up, and the audience could enjoy the beginning of the Anatevka Pogram in peace."

Jay Lerner-Z Profile Photo
Jay Lerner-Z
#5Is a white person playing a role
Posted: 11/29/12 at 7:14pm

I'm sure Quiche has addled my brain so much that I don't recognize real posters anymore...but...you're Quiche, right? Right? Am I right?


Beyoncé is not an ally. Actions speak louder than words, Mrs. Carter. #Dubai #$$$

EricMontreal22 Profile Photo
EricMontreal22
#6Is a white person playing a role
Posted: 11/29/12 at 7:25pm

WSS has a large background of not using race correct casting (Natalie Wood?), though I suppose that in itself is not an excuse. But I think, unless it comes off as particularly offensive (which for various reasons, in the case of WSS it doesn't for me), schools in particular should be let off the hook in this case (where I think it's more about the learning experience than getting casting exactly right). But, as Kad said, if they did something like added "ethnic" makeup and bad accents, I would question that...

CJ N2N Profile Photo
CJ N2N
#7Is a white person playing a role
Posted: 11/29/12 at 7:27pm

NO! I'm actually offended you would think that. I've been posting here long before those shenanigans started.




Updated On: 11/29/12 at 07:27 PM

Jay Lerner-Z Profile Photo
Jay Lerner-Z
#8Is a white person playing a role
Posted: 11/29/12 at 7:29pm

Like I said, my brain has been addled. Too much Quiche, forgive me. I'm going to go lie down now.


Beyoncé is not an ally. Actions speak louder than words, Mrs. Carter. #Dubai #$$$

Dollypop
#9Is a white person playing a role
Posted: 11/29/12 at 7:34pm

At the Metropolitan Opera it isn't considered racist at all. White tenors have been donning blackface to sing the role of Otello for many, many years.


"Long live God!" (GODSPELL)

Phyllis Rogers Stone
#10Is a white person playing a role
Posted: 11/29/12 at 7:38pm

I think you run into troubles when you have white people portraying any race other than their own, although I think generally its considered most egregious when a white person portrays a black person. Are there white Hispanics? Yes. Are there white Hispanic Puerto Ricans? Probably? Would there be a whole gang of them? Probably not. I think Kad's probably hit the closest to the issue - it's not that it's a huge deal, but if you don't have the kind of actors required to do a show, perhaps you should be doing something else.



Also, racism does not require intent.

CJ N2N Profile Photo
CJ N2N
#11Is a white person playing a role
Posted: 11/29/12 at 7:43pm

According to the director, we had trouble getting rights to the first two shows that we were planning on doing, and this was their back up.

Phyllis Rogers Stone
#12Is a white person playing a role
Posted: 11/29/12 at 7:44pm

And just because the Met still uses blackface doesn't mean it's right to do so, even if Dollypop can't see why it should be an issue.

CJ N2N Profile Photo
CJ N2N
#13Is a white person playing a role
Posted: 11/29/12 at 7:46pm

As far as I know, my school would NEVER do black face. And if they DID I would be complaining, even though I'm a white redhead.

EricMontreal22 Profile Photo
EricMontreal22
#14Is a white person playing a role
Posted: 11/29/12 at 8:05pm

Are you cast? Are there many redhead Peurto Ricans or Italians? :P

CJ N2N Profile Photo
CJ N2N
#15Is a white person playing a role
Posted: 11/29/12 at 8:07pm

Oh no, auditions aren't until the 11th! But I am auditioning.

Are the Jets Italian or Polish?

tazber Profile Photo
tazber
#16Is a white person playing a role
Posted: 11/29/12 at 8:13pm

Oh dear lord, here we go again.......


....but the world goes 'round

AwesomeDanny
#17Is a white person playing a role
Posted: 11/29/12 at 8:18pm

This very question caused quite a bit of controversy this summer when they announced the cast of The Nightingale at La Jolla. It's a story about feudal China, but very few of the actors were actually Asain. This blog post really sparked the controversy:

http://fairyprincessdiaries.com/2012/07/07/moises-kaufman-can-kiss-my-ass-heres-why/

In the professional world, a Hispanic person might need to be cast in West Side Story because he couldn't be cast in Ragtime or something like that, for reasons that do make sense. There really isn't a lack of roles for white actors.

However, that changes completely in a high school production, when white people are cast in non-white roles only because there aren't enough non-whites.

Phyllis Rogers Stone
#18Is a white person playing a role
Posted: 11/29/12 at 8:32pm

But, like others have said, if you don't have a enough non-whites, should you be doing a show that hinges around the fact that some of the characters are not white?

Kad Profile Photo
Kad
#19Is a white person playing a role
Posted: 11/29/12 at 8:35pm

Unless it's Hairspray, of course.


"...everyone finally shut up, and the audience could enjoy the beginning of the Anatevka Pogram in peace."

Phyllis Rogers Stone
#20Is a white person playing a role
Posted: 11/29/12 at 8:38pm

"Then it's racist NOT to let them do an all white cast!" - Marc Shaiman

Kad Profile Photo
Kad
#21Is a white person playing a role
Posted: 11/29/12 at 8:39pm

Mr. Shaiman is a keen opponent of racism, for obviou$ rea$on$.


"...everyone finally shut up, and the audience could enjoy the beginning of the Anatevka Pogram in peace."

GavestonPS Profile Photo
GavestonPS
#22Is a white person playing a role
Posted: 11/29/12 at 9:27pm

But, Phyllis, you yourself already pointed out that Hispanics can be of any race. An all-Anglo WSS is not the same as an all-white SHOW BOAT or FLOWER DRUM SONG.

I fully appreciate and share the sensitivity in the U.S. toward the use of blackface. Frankly, it makes me cringe even in old movie musicals that were made in earlier, pre-PC times.

And I agree that Asian-Americans have a point that they are automatically excluded from so many "Caucasian" roles, that it's a shame not to use them for Asian roles.

But if we carry perfect physical and ethnic representation far enough, it will be impossible to do anything but one-actor biographical shows. And haven't we all seen enough of those?

Kad Profile Photo
Kad
#23Is a white person playing a role
Posted: 11/29/12 at 9:30pm

Well, until actors of color stop getting shafted, that isn't possible.


"...everyone finally shut up, and the audience could enjoy the beginning of the Anatevka Pogram in peace."

GavestonPS Profile Photo
GavestonPS
#24Is a white person playing a role
Posted: 11/29/12 at 9:38pm

Are you responding to me, Kad? Because it was not my argument that the issue of fair representation should be dropped or ignored. On the contrary, I very much think it's a director's obligation to consider it.

(I only said we won't achieve perfect actor/role correlation unless we do one-woman biographies. My point wasn't to ignore the issue altogether.)

I've already written why I think WSS is a different issue than SHOW BOAT. Latinos can, in fact, be all white. So saying white kids can't play Sharks is like saying American kids can't play Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins.

That's very different from having a kid put on blackface and go out to sing "Ol' Man River".


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