Friday, August 12, 2016

A White Actor is Cast as Usnavi in the Musical IN THE HEIGHTS, Setting Off a Complicated Debate in the Chicago Theater Scene

Who has the right to tell whose story?

"The Color Game: Whitewashing
Latinx Stories" panel at Chicago's
Victory Gardens Biograph Theater.
Photo credit: Maisonet Photography.
Enough people to fill every seat at the [Chicago's] Victory Gardens Biograph Theater [299 seats] gathered Tuesday [August 9, 2016] night for more than three hours to debate that very question during "The Color Game: Whitewashing Latinx Stories," a town hall [meeting] hosted by Victory Gardens and the Alliance of Latinx Theatre Artists Chicago. (Latinx is a gender neutral alternative to Latino and Latina.) 

The ongoing discussion was inspired by a production of Evita with a largely white cast at the Marriott Theatre in April and, more recently, a casting announcement from Porchlight Music Theatre that included a white actor of Italian descent, Jack DeCesare, as Usnavi in In the Heights, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegría Hudes' Broadway musical set in the Latinx community of Washington Heights. The role of Usnavi was originated by Hamilton creator Miranda and, in the opening song, requires that the actor rap: "I emigrated from the single greatest little place in the Caribbean / Dominican Republic."

Members of the "In the Heights" cast, including DeCesare, were in attendance at the forum. Find our what happened at the meeting by reading the rest of Morgan Greene's article in the Chicago Tribune by clicking here.

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