Read It: Artists of Color Stand Up Against Discrimination in the Field

Friday, September 26, 2014

From American Theatre:

The straw that broke the camel’s back was Shakespeare.

In 2011 in Washington, D.C., Shakespeare Theatre Company produced a version of Much Ado About Nothing set in Cuba, where the minor characters Hugh Oatcake and George Seacoal were renamed Juan Huevos and Jose Frijoles, after the Spanish words for “eggs” and “beans.” Despite the ostensible locale, only three of the actors in the cast were Latino. “It was derogatory,” asserts D.C.-based playwright-with-an-activist-bent Karen Zacarías. “You’d never write ‘Jonathan Watermelon’! Why does no one realize that this is not acceptable?”

The dustup following Much Ado’s opening resulted in a dialogue, online and in a town hall hosted by STC. An apology was issued by artistic director Michael Kahn for the theatre’s insensitivity and the characters’ names reverted back to Hugh and George. That might have been the end of this particular discussion about the roles (or lack thereof) that Latino artists play within the American theatre—but this had come after a similar controversy a few weeks before. A production of Stephen Adly Guirgis’s The Motherfucker with the Hat at TheaterWorks in Hartford, Conn., had cast white actors in the lead roles, which were originally written to be Puerto Ricans.