30 May Diversity on stage: who’s afraid of color-blind casting?
Last week, a casting director in Portland, Oregon, posted a Facebook message saying the Edward Albee estate had denied him the rights to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? upon learning that he intended to cast a black actor in the role of Nick.
The estate’s decision echoes similar actions by the estates of Samuel Beckett and Tennessee Williams to deny rights when a proposed cast member did not match the race or gender that the playwright had originally delineated. Even the rights holders of fluffier stuff, such as Grease, have made similar refusals.
At a time when, for example, the Broadway lineup offers a Hispanic founding father, a black Russian countess, racially diverse rogues in Chicago and the occasional black Phantom, are we moving toward an era in which the actions of the Albee estate will seem retrograde? Yes. But just like the subways rumbling under 42nd street, progress is pretty slow.