Controversy Erupts Over The “Non-Whites” Only Casting Call For The Hamilton Musical

c31c43da5a919032be6b03eb3c344932There is an interesting controversy surrounding the hit musical “Hamilton” on Broadway. I have not yet seen the play on a trip to New York but I have been told by friends that it is terrific. Frankly, as a constitutional law professor, any play based on the Framers is a must-see. However, the play now has a more contemporary legal character after a complaint about its casting call. The casting notice put out by the play tells white actors that they need not apply.


The posted casting notice stated that the producers were “seeking NON-WHITE men and women, ages 20s to 30s, for Broadway and upcoming Tours.”

None of the principal roles — Hamilton, George Washington, Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson or James Madison — are played by white actors. However, Hollywood and Broadway have moved away from type casting and profess to select actors solely on their ability. This was a policy ironically advocated by African-American actors and groups. Thus, it is not strange to have a black actor play Hamlet or other traditionally white acting roles.

While the posting would seem to rollback on this progress, “Hamilton” producer said he would “stand by” the notice.

I happen to believe that artists should be able to limit their subjects or casting in this way as a matter of free speech and artistic expression. The producers insisted that the barring of whites is a necessary condition:

“It is essential to the storytelling of “Hamilton” that the principal roles — which were written for non-white characters (excepting King George) — be performed by non-white actors . . . This adheres to the accepted practice that certain characteristics in certain roles constitute a ‘bona fide occupational qualification’ that is legal. This also follows in the tradition of many shows that call for race, ethnicity or age specific casting, whether it’s “The Color Purple” or “Porgy & Bess” or “Matilda.”

The question that we have previously discussed is whether other businesses should have the right to tailor their image or services by selecting only certain types of workers based on age or looks from Hooters to Abercrombie and Fitch. If racial casting is permitted for plays, can other businesses claim that same right to discriminate as necessary to maintain an image or tradition? Even among acting positions, how do we draw this line? Here the producers are claiming that it is an “accepted practice that certain characteristics in certain roles constitute a ‘bona fide occupational qualification.” That would seem to suggest that black actors could be barred from leading roles that are historically white or based on white characters in literary works.

36 thoughts on “Controversy Erupts Over The “Non-Whites” Only Casting Call For The Hamilton Musical

  1. Wouldn’t it be nice if we choose the most qualified for the position and not based on percentage, gender or race? There is never an argument in pro sports picking the most talented why can’t we do the same with other jobs and positions in universities.

  2. For a country that fought a war to end slavery, we seem to keep going backwards. Colorblind was the goal. Lots of us quit filling in questions of race/color because it was part of that goal. White people were passed over for education and jobs in favor of other skin colors. Now we want to give sexual preferences to historical figures with no evidence. I’m waiting for Jesus to be transgender. I believe we are less than we were after WWII. Depending on November’s election, we could continue Obama’s disastrous eight years with a liar, favor socialism, on-the-job-training, have another “slick” (Cruz), or elect a governor with the experience needed to do the job. Free speech has left college campuses. The thought police are increasing. I’m taking a Xanax and reading a book today!

  3. Blazing Saddles should be shown in a theatre next to where this thing on topic here is playing. The people on the streets will be asking the right question when Blazing Saddles lets out. “Where da White women at???”

  4. As expected, minorities now feel empowered to make cultural “adjustments” that used to be used by whites to reject them. But it’s only evidence why the enforced “diversity” imperative of the progressives is being backlashed by everybody. We are tribalizing again, big time. The courts will be helpless to stop this because it’s a cultural thing, and it must be resolved there, not by any grandiose and misguided lawsuits. Maybe we should just chill and let people exercise their liberty as they see fit. That might mean exercising the right to “associate” with those we want to be around, and to push away from those we don’t want to be around. Really, does anyone think this “Hamilton” stink-bomb won’t be repeated? It may be ugly, but government intervention is, as we’ve seen, far far worse.

  5. The person who wrote this play is crazy like a fox. Can you imagine Al Sharpton outside the theater with a bullhorn protesting a show that glorifies a white founder of the Bank of New York?

  6. Orson Wellles was way ahead of his time when he developed, along with John Houseman, an all-black version of MacBeth, which opened in New York on April 14, 1936 at the Lafayette Theater in Harlem. “By all odds my great success in my life was that play,” Welles told BBC interviewer Leslie Megahey in 1982. “Because the opening night there were five blocks in which all traffic was stopped. You couldn’t get near the theater in Harlem. Everybody who was anybody in the black or white world was there. And when the play ended there were so many curtain calls that finally they left the curtain open, and the audience came up on the stage to congratulate the actors. And that was, that was magical.”

    In more recent years, we’ve gone backward in racism in the theater. In the 1990s, Actors’ Equity in New York barred the great actor Jonathan Pryce from acting in a Broadway production of ”Miss Saigon,” Why? Because he was a White actor portraying an Asian. So today, we not only have racism but reverse-racism as well

  7. Forget about Hamilton–Fiddler on the Roof is back on Broadway. I’d pay good money to see a black woman play Golda and sing to Tevye, Do You Love Me? What’s Precious up to these days?

  8. This is a great example of how businesses can and do discriminate as an ordinary course of business, and why sweeping laws preventing it may not be such a good idea. An all-African-American cast could be very interesting if the script makes some sort of statement. Although it would be ironic for black actors to portray Thomas Jefferson, a slave owner.

    I personally believe that actors should be chosen based on talent, unless ethnicity is integral to the part. For example, it is my understanding that the actors who played Native Americans in the Twilight series had to provide proof of tribal membership to apply, including Taylor Lautner.

    Laurence Fishburne was my favorite Othello.

  9. Are they gonna let white people in the audience to watch? Who is going to act as ushers? They gotta think this all the way through. And through.

  10. I have been waiting for this –not good.

    From: JONATHAN TURLEY To: jimkuden@sbcglobal.net Sent: Friday, April 1, 2016 3:54 AM Subject: [New post] Controversy Erupts Over The “Non-Whites” Only Casting Call For The Hamilton Musical #yiv6882357799 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv6882357799 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv6882357799 a.yiv6882357799primaryactionlink:link, #yiv6882357799 a.yiv6882357799primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv6882357799 a.yiv6882357799primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv6882357799 a.yiv6882357799primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv6882357799 WordPress.com | jonathanturley posted: “There is an interesting controversy surrounding the hit musical “Hamilton” on Broadway. I have not yet seen the play on a trip to New York but I have been told by friends that it is terrific. Frankly, as a constitutional law professor, any play based on ” | |

  11. I agree with some of the people who posted. No national outrage put on the national news to show liberal bias.
    Mark my words. When the movie about Michael Jackson comes be portrayed by a white person. Watch the liberal media and black population complain.

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