New York High School Cancels Musical After Selection of White Girl For Lead Role

download440px-Victor_Hugo-HunchbackThe Ithaca City School District announced this week that the production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” at Ithaca High School is cancelled. The reason is not funding or lack of interest or lack of talent. It is due to the fact that the student who won the right to perform the role of Esmeralda happens to be white. Her selection based on talent was denounced as racially insensitive and even cultural appropriation.  A Cornell professor applauded the students to force the closure of the musical.

 Students protested and sent a letter with a list of demands. The letter says in part:

The young woman who was cast in this role has hazel eyes, blonde hair, and is the epitome of whiteness. This is an unfair position to put her in. At best, this is cultural appropriation. At worst, it is whitewashing, a racist casting practice which has its roots in minstrelsy. It also reinforces the damaging narrative that only white power structures can save oppressed people, rather than people of color having the fortitude to do so themselves. It is in line with countless movies which portray white people coming into brown and black communities and saving them. We know from our history that it is people of color who have been at the forefront of social justice movements. This white centered narrative is inaccurate, damaging, and should never be reinforced on the stage of our beloved high school.

The controversy is reminiscent of the producers of Hamilton excluding white actors from applying for any roles in the production.

Obviously, students of color often play roles of characters who were white in original novels or plays.  This was an opportunity for the school district to show principle and courage and support the production.  The district could have simply said that this student succeeded on the basis for her talent and not the color of her skin.

Instead, the high school and District yielded to the protesters and canceled the production, issuing a statement that the cancellation was needed to be “more inclusive and culturally responsive” in their “efforts to eliminate institutional biases.”  Superintendent Dr. Luvelle Brown then thanked “everyone for their contributions as we delve further into complex conversations.” The conversation was actually not particularly complex. Nor was the response of the District.  It certainly was not complex for the student who has been told that an entire production was cancelled because she had the audacity to prevail on talent in a color-blind competition.

87 thoughts on “New York High School Cancels Musical After Selection of White Girl For Lead Role”

    1. It will happen when those confronted with these inane demands finally grow a spine and simply reject the ridiculousness presented them. Essentially they presently fear being shamed or the ensuing tempest-in-a-teapot outrage following the rejection. But if one accepts the SJW practices for what they are–adult manifestations of infantile screaming when little Johnny who doesn’t get his dessert–eventually they will learn to behave when the adult world is forced upon them.

  1. The reason is not funding or lack of interest or lack of talent. It is due to the fact that the student who won the right to perform the role of Esmeralda happens to be white.

    Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron should be required reading.

    HARRISON BERGERON by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

    THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal
    before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter
    than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was
    stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the
    211th, 212th, and 213 th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing
    vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

    1. In this case apparently Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame should be required reading. The students think DISNEY accurately portrayed Esmeralda.

  2. Maybe I’m just being some kind of rube, but I can’t make any sense of this “cultural appropriation” garbage.

    I also don’t remember the story being very descriptive of the role of Esmerelda, but I also haven’t read the book in over 30 years. I can only look at these protesting students and call them cry-babies. It’s not like they’re protesting something real; it’s only a stage play.

  3. Did they actually have any Roma/French girls auditioning for Esmerelda? Because she sure wasn’t black.

    There are roles in which race is relevant. For example, the director for the Twilight series required proof of tribal membership for all actors playing Native Americans. This avoids the cringeworthy portrayals of tribes in old Westerns by guys with bad accents.

    A movie about Harriet Tubman would make no sense if the lead was portrayed by a white or Asian woman.

    Being Roma was not essential to Esmerelda’s role. Acting was. Romani gypsies originated from India long ago, and travel throughout Eastern Europe. Many Romani people look Italian or Greek.

    Which would be more important, getting an actual Romani girl, or someone Greek, Italian, or Middle Eastern, to play the part who was a real brunette, or getting the best actress for the job and wearing a brunette wig?

    It should be noted that up to 25% of the entire European Roma population were exterminated by the Nazis.

    They continue to face difficulties in Europe as they live in caravans and have a high rate of illiteracy. Not all Romani are nomadic, but those who are have difficulties in schooling. France still periodically expels Romani gypsies. Not too long ago, France paid Romani gypsies to leave the country.

    It’s the nomadic lifestyle that is the source of many problems, although it’s hard to tell which came first, rootless caravanning or not being accepted into society. There are descendants of the Moorish invasion of Spain who have been part of society for centuries, so why did the Roma keep the nomadic lifestyle? Romani often camp where camping is not allowed, the children receive an indifferent schooling because they don’t stay in one school long enough, illiteracy is high, teenage marriage is high, poverty is high. I do not know why some immigrants from far off lands were able to sink down roots in Europe while others were not. Perhaps they were persecuted during a crucial period of immigration and never recovered. They have literally been living in caravans, once horse driven and now motorized, for 1,000 years. Apparently, this migratory nature varies in Eastern Europe, where they are pushed on frequently, and Western Europe, where they attach to society.,8599,2013917,00.html

  4. From the list of demands: “STOP ignoring and denying that you have created a white centered program run by white adults for the benefit of white children,” the list of demands states. “White children should also be educated about interrupting these practices of White supremacy. Hollow lip service about equality is shameful and the eyes of our concerned community are now focused on you.”

    Casting can be complicated and the most talented is not always the best person for a role. Many parts can be played by women as well as men, by a person of color as well as a white person. That’s leaving gender and skin color to talent and general fit to a role. But there are roles where gender and/or skin color matter. While there are light skinned Romas, many are not. Given the general theme of the production, an actress of color makes a lot more sense.

    Esmeralda sings “God Help the Outcasts,” lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, “Please help my people, the poor and down-trod. I thought we were the children of God.” Somehow I don’t see a white actress, regardless of talent, being more effective than one of color.

    1. Ithaca is a very progressive community and in a way, I was really surprised to see this. otoh, I’m not surprised that the students are being heard.

      1. I wouldn’t be all that surprised. This type of behavior is mainstream with a large faction of liberals and progressives. And the practice worsens as it gains wider acceptance among these individual communities.

    2. You are just promoting more racism. And promoting the “gimme dat” low black culture.

      What was that Martin Luther King said about auditions and tryouts for acting roles—I hope we can be judged by the content of our talent, not the color of our skin. or something like that.

      Squeeky Fromm
      Girl Reporter

    3. Esmeralda was NOT Roma. She was kidnapped. Read chapter 3 in Book 5 and chapter 1 in book 10 in The Hunchback of Notre Same.

      1. Dang it! Stupid autocorrect and a badly cracked phone screen. Notre Dame, for heaven’s sake!

  5. Pitiful, better not put on any more plays because no matter what,who you pick for actors someone or group will be excluded. Everyone is so sensitive these days. What gonna happen when these kids get in the real world and find out no one gives a crap about your feelings…. Lol

  6. So this is a bunch of Cornell students poking their noses into a local high school play casting decision?
    I think they need to be thrown out of college. That’ll teach then to mind their own business.

  7. How do you know her selection was “based on talent?” I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a deeper racial dynamic at play. I’ve never seen a high school where favoritism of one kind or another didn’t heavily influence casting decisions. When I was in high school, the drama teacher routinely cast all the lead roles with white students and relegated black students to the background chorus parts. That continued until all the black kids refused to be in any more of her plays. The next show saw blacks and whites cast in lead roles.

    1. If what you are saying is true. Then you must be in favor of cancelling ALL extra curricular activities. No student will ever get the opportunity to be in play, sing at concerts, play instruments, sports, etc, etc. Because in your opinion, all decisions are race based and we can’t risk someone’s feeling being hurt. School is for learning only. And by learning, I mean liberal/statist indoctrination.

  8. Was there a casting controversy before, during or only after the auditions were completed and the play was cast?

  9. I have never read Hunchback or seen a production, but research indicates that in the book she was thought by others to be a Gypsy, although her mother was French and her father unknown. Simply because she was raised by Gypsies (Roma) does not mean that she was one biologically.

    So I don’t get why the role needs to be played by a dark-skinned actress.

    1. Esmeralda’s parents were both most likely French, since her mother was a prostitute in a French town. While Esmeralda’s hair was described as brunette, many French people have dark hair. The students are ignorant of Victor Hugo’s novel. Esmeralda was kidnapped by the Gypsies. There is a lovely chapter about ‘the little shoe’ that they ought to read.

    2. A Roma was still white. Clue to all. the play Hamilton has hispanics and blacks portraying our founding fathers. Last i looked hamilton washington adams jefferson were all WHITE!!!

  10. Come on, people, do your civic duty and send a nastrygram to the school principal. I did. You know that in connection with the inevitable civil litigation to follow, what you email now will later have to be turned over in discovery. Have some fun with this. I just did. The principal’s email address is It only takes a minute to send him an email calling him out on his own racism.

  11. Gary T, quite right, and I also wondered when or if someone would have the good sense — perhaps the parents of the young lady? — to consider a lawsuit based on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Racism is as racism does … and it seems to me it sure was done, this time. (By the way, gang, ‘Roma’ are found in many places throughout Europe, I saw them in Istanbul during several of my trips there . . . tanned skin, blue eyes, honey-colored and brunette tresses and all.)

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