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Old 04-13-2018, 04:22 PM
Location: Sarasota, FL
241 posts, read 666,424 times
Reputation: 127


I recently attended a production of Hamilton in Chicago. I hadn't read much about this play before I went, other than that most of the actors are non-Caucasian, i.e. African-American or Hispanic, and that the songs were hip-hop or rap in format. I read that the rationale for this was to make the play more "accessible" to a young, diverse audience.

As it turned out, in this production, all but two of the characters were portrayed by African-American or Hispanic actors. Those two white characters were very negative: King George, a villainous buffoon, and General Lee, an incompetent, indecisive army general. (Aaron Burr, another negative character, was portrayed by a very light-skinned man who identifies as African-American.) The positive (heroic) characters, including Thomas Jefferson, were all African-American.

My questions:
- was this deliberate casting, or just an accident of random selection? I understand that there have been many theater productions of historical dramas in which a role is played by an actor of a different race than the historical figure. But, taking the cast as a whole, the selection of actors seems too consistent to be random.
- If deliberate, what was the purpose?
- Could this casting be construed as a kind reverse cultural appropriation?
- If the purpose was to make the events of that time more "accessible" to a diverse audience, why not cast the play with mostly women? or Asians?
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Old 04-13-2018, 04:51 PM
7,979 posts, read 3,874,784 times
Reputation: 27326
Trying to figure out whether or not you're going to be offended?

Either you are or you aren't. Don't overthink it.
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Old 04-13-2018, 09:34 PM
Location: Denver CO
18,977 posts, read 10,047,592 times
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Because it was created by Lin-Manuel Miranda and this was his vision.

Want a different show with a different cast? Write your own.
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Old 04-14-2018, 04:28 PM
Location: Denver CO
18,977 posts, read 10,047,592 times
Reputation: 27756
I came back to give a little bit less snarky response to this although I still think the point of saying it was LMM's vision stands.

But to answer

1. Yes it was deliberate casting.

2. There are many purposes - some is to reflect America as it is today, where people of color play roles that were unimaginable in Hamilton's day. And that itself serves a double purpose - to make these historical figures more accessible and more real to people today, esp. younger people and especially younger people of color who have traditionally been somewhat ignored by both history and Broadway. But it's also a reminder that you don't see black and brown faces in the history books and on the currency and to ask the question of what did we miss by excluding and enslaving these people? As much of a genius as Hamilton was, what about the untapped genius of untold numbers of black people consigned to slavery and never given a chance to exercise their own genius?

3. I guess one could argue it's "reverse cultural appropriation" but I think a valid counter argument is that you cannot appropriate the majority culture because it's already applied to everyone whether they want it or not. We all live in a white person created United States of America, that's just the reality and there's no escaping it.

4. There were some Asian people, along with some white people in both the main roles and in the chorus. But this one really goes back to my original answer, this was Lin-Manuel Miranda's vision. He read a book about Hamilton and identified with him and wrote a show with a starring role for himself. The rest of it is how it all came together in his head. If someone else had come up with the idea, no doubt they would have approached it differently.

fwiw, I would not say that Jefferson is portrayed as a positive, heroic character in the show, I'd say his position is ambivalent at best. But then again, ambivalent is probably accurate for someone who could write the stirring words of the Declaration of Independence to call for freedom while personally owning other human beings.
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Old 04-27-2018, 12:46 PM
Location: VA soon to be NC
1,109 posts, read 1,981,221 times
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I saw this show in Chicago as well. Thought it was very entertaining. So anyway yes of course the casting was deliberate. I dont think an all Asian cast would have made much sense here.
Jefferson and Burr were cast in a negative light in my opinion . You can call it revisionist history.
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