This is a real statement someone messaged me upon learning I wanted to be Olive for Spelling Bee.
Now, ignoring the clearly racist idea, let’s go over why that doesn’t make sense.
- Nothing about Olive’s character describes her as any certain race. She never says anything about “It sure is nice…
First of all, colour-blind casting is important. I’m white; I’ve played Othello the Moor. That being said, audience perceptions of traditional racial portrayals are ingrained in the fabric of the dramatic text. Imagine an all-white production of The Wiz (which I think was a joke on glee once, but still). Wouldn’t you pause, maybe do a double-take? Say in Rent, where some lyrics would suggest that Mimi is Latina (and indeed Daphne Zuniga-Vega created her on Broadway), but no other race is prescribed for any. other. character. But casting has generally stayed along the lines as the original cast: maureen, mark, rodger, all white; benny, collins, joanne, all black, angel almost always hispanic. Granted, I’ve seen white collinses and a lot of black mimis, but that doesn’t change the fact that we have, as an audience, expectations of race in casting. So, while most casting ought to be colour-blind, the issue is not that simple. In fact, I’m going to blame it on the spectre of Big Bad Broadway. We as an audience put too much stock into Broadway and ‘Original Cast’ as institutions. And before this becomes ranty, I’ll sign off and leave it to you, the audience, to ponder on my thoughtbites.