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Michael Penn
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Posted: 30 June 2020 at 8:17am | IP Logged | 1 post reply

Miranda in a 2015 interview sided with "authorial intent."
If a play about MLKjr was written to be cast with a black
actor, then that's how it should be cast. If the play's
author intended any race could be cast in the lead, then
that would be fine.

Here's the short but complete interview:

http://www.hesherman.com/2015/12/03/what-does-
hamilton-tell-us-about-race-in-casting/
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John Byrne
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Posted: 30 June 2020 at 11:26am | IP Logged | 2 post reply

Miranda in a 2015 interview sided with "authorial intent." If a play about MLKjr was written to be cast with a black actor, then that's how it should be cast. If the play's author intended any race could be cast in the lead, then that would be fine.

••

This does not help my comprehension. Movies like THE JAZZ SINGER and HOLIDAY INN were written with the "authorial intent" that they include White actors in blackface. Does that mean this fuss about blackface should go away?

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Michael Penn
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Posted: 30 June 2020 at 12:59pm | IP Logged | 3 post reply

It's a fair question: in what way does respecting
"authorial intent" mean respecting the author's work
product? Should HOLIDAY INN never be shown again? Edit
out the blackface scene? Show it unedited but with added
explanatory intro?

Mr. Miranda seemed not to be speaking, though, to the
problem of what to do with stand-alone artifacts like THE
JAZZ SINGER or GONE WITH THE WIND, but what to do (if
anything) in terms of race when re-casting a new
production an existing work. If, for example, Peter Stone
never intended for non-white actors to portray the
Founders, then by Mr. Miranda's code of "authorial
intent," a new production of 1776 should not be
cast with non-white actors. But Mr. Miranda himself did
intend that Hamilton be cast with non-white
actors, and thus that should remain going forward.

I'm only extrapolating from what Mr. Miranda stated in
that interview. Perhaps his "authorial intent" code would
thus also mean that Mr. Sulu, while played by a gay actor
in the original series, should always remain a straight
character in every remade series or movie ever after?
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John Byrne
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Posted: 30 June 2020 at 4:53pm | IP Logged | 4 post reply

Meanwhile, Tina Fey has participated in removing “blackface” episodes of 30 ROCK from streaming services, saying “intent” is not a factor when there is offense.

At the risk of getting myself in trouble (again), this begins to sound like different sauces for goose and gander.

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Tim O Neill
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Posted: 01 July 2020 at 4:00pm | IP Logged | 5 post reply


I love HAMILTON, and I am thrilled it will be on Disney Plus this Friday. JB, I
suggest the best way to understand HAMILTON is to just see it. If you don't
have Disney Plus, this is a good excuse to give it a test run, or maybe it will
show up On Demand soon. The one thing I would recommend to friends
before seeing the stage show was to familiarize themselves with the story
ahead of time - like stage productions of LES MISERABLES, it can pass you by
pretty fast if you don't know what is going on, and with a show this expensive I
didn't want to blow it. The show is based on Ron Chernow's biography, and
one of the main delights in the show is seeing how Lin-Manuel Miranda mined
some real events and relationships into a hip-hop narrative. He picked his
source material well - it is a very smart show! I think you already have a better
handle on history than most, and I assume it will be easier to pick up lyrics in
TV, so I think you're good to go.

In regard to the casting, I think this article from THE ATLANTIC has a good
approach in referring to HAMILTON being "color-conscious" casting rather
than "colorblind." The article is from 2016, when the show was being
challenged about casting:

The Atlantic - "HAMILTON: Casting After Colorblindness"


From the article, by Spencer Kornhaber:

"Hamilton is not, by the common definition, colorblind. It does not merely allow
for some of the Founding Fathers to be played by people of color. It insists that
all of them be. This insistence is part of the play’s message that Alexander
Hamilton’s journey from destitute immigrant to influential statesman is
universal and replicable (and comparable to the life stories of many of the
rappers who inspired Hamilton’s music). Obama, recently hosting the cast at
the White House, gave the standard interpretation: 'With a cast as diverse as
America itself, including the outstandingly talented women, the show reminds
us that this nation was built by more than just a few great men—and that it is
an inheritance that belongs to all of us.'

That last line might sound like a platitude, and there have been times in history
when it may have really been one. But movements like Black Lives Matter, and
renewed calls for the consideration of reparations, are built on the idea that
'all' remains an unfulfilled promise—and that fulfillment can only come by
focusing on helping the specific populations that suffer greatest from
America’s many inequalities rooted in oppression. The national discourse in the
past few years has demonstrated that this remains a controversial idea. While
Hamilton does not explicitly take a side, the simple fact of its casting suggests
which way it probably leans. As the production goes on tour outside New York
City in the coming years, it will spread its argument about America—and
perhaps also, finally, start a few."

I think Kornhaber hits a good note above. For me, the casting also calls
constant attention to the fact that the characters are dealing with freedom and
independence, but that was not available to anyone who was not white. It;'s a
constant presence.

As Joseph said in his post, the show is the result of a perfect storm - and we
can say that about most shows like this that resonate in such a big way without
a precedent coming before. It came at a time when most people's impression
of the founding fathers was that of staid authoritarian figures dressed in
foppish, ornate dress. HAMILTON restores the badass revolutionary aspect
that has been lost to time and gives it a modern voice. Wearing historically
accurate costumes underscores the casting - the costumes remind us that the
show is depicting historical events despite every other element being modern
(hip-hop music, modern phrasing, color-conscious casting).

This is my reaction to the show, but I hardly think I am an authority on this. I
think it is meant to be challenge how we see musicals, how we think about
historical figures, and how we think about America's original sin of slavery.
And it does it through the inherent abstraction and heightened reality of a
staged theatrical musical. I think it is very much in line with "1776" - they are
both using song to express feelings and events. I don't think anyone would
argue either is meant to be literal - but we can look at those to see how each
show uses history to speak to its modern audience and comment on America,
then and now. "1776" was speaking to a 1969 audience, and HAMILTON
speaks to today's audience.

If you're looking for an equivalence, such as casting someone who is not
African American in the role of MLK, I feel like this is searching for an
equivalency that does not exist. HAMILTON's casting is not a way of
establishing rules for race and casting, it's a comment on how American
society has been so racially dominated by white people. It's unique to this
show. Looking for an equivalence for this would be like saying "All Lives
Matter" after hearing "Black Lives Matter." The point of the show is to both
celebrate their revolutionary ideas while commenting on its limits in a way that
has opened up these historical figures and their ideas to young people (and
some adults that I have discovered are astonishingly uninformed about
history). In a way, the show is saying the Alexander Hamilton is so cool that a
hip-hop artist with Puerto Rican descent can play him. Conversely, the show
can challenge/piss off a white supremacist with the question - what if
Alexander Hamilton were a Puerto Rican kid?

This is where the topic of "intent" comes up. I think the better word would be
"context" - if the heritage of the character is important to the context, then
that is how they should be cast.

If the context is not clear, then it is fair for
producers/exhibitors/media/academia to dig into intent, and modern
productions can alter it to match intent. While I find authorial intent important,
we ultimately have to defer to just what is in the final product. The 30 ROCK
episodes are a good example of intent vs. context. The intent was not cruel -
if I recall these episodes, the intent was making fun of racism. Comedy is of its
time, and most people accepted the context from the characters, but it
appears it didn't resonate with people of color and therefore does not stand
the test of time. I tried watching HOLIDAY INN years ago, and for the first part
I thought it was better than WHITE CHRISTMAS - I thought, how could they
haul out WHITE CHRISTMAS each year if this exists? Then the blackface
scene came on, and it pulled me right out. I turned it off. We can assume the
scene was not done with malice - that it is a reflection of an unenlightened
time. But that does not work for the long run - its context is hurtful and at
odds with the truth of the African American experience. It sucks the light
hearted right out of the film.

I see one of the big problems with white artists that they think their good
intent should be a pass. But I think Tina Fey handles this as she should - she
re-evaluated her own work and realized it didn't pass an inclusive
interpretation. Jimmy Kimmel did a similar mea culpa, but he has struggled
with his own context. I think it's important to reevaluate art through this lens.
Rather than defend intent, it's a good time for artists like Fey and Kimmel to
listen to criticism with an open heart and mind.

And if one chooses to listen to HAMILTON, you're in for a great show and some
SERIOUS earworms that will stick in your head long after the show concludes!


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Brian Miller
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Posted: 01 July 2020 at 4:21pm | IP Logged | 6 post reply

Why in the fuck would Martin Luther King Jr ever be cast as anything
but a black man?
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John Byrne
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Posted: 01 July 2020 at 6:24pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply

Why in the fuck would Martin Luther King Jr ever be cast as anything but a black man?

•••

Seriously? In THIS discussion?

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John Byrne
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Posted: 01 July 2020 at 6:46pm | IP Logged | 8 post reply

In 1983, Linda Hunt, a White woman, won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as an Asian man in THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY (1982).

Should this now be considered wrong?

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Christopher Frost
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Posted: 01 July 2020 at 8:39pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply

In this day and age, the folks that made The Year Of Living Dangerously (one of my late fathers favorite movies) would be accused of white washing.
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Michael Roberts
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Posted: 01 July 2020 at 8:59pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

Perhaps his "authorial intent" code would 
thus also mean that Mr. Sulu, while played by a gay actor 
in the original series, should always remain a straight 
character in every remade series or movie ever after?

-----

That's the stance that George Takei took.
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Michael Roberts
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Posted: 01 July 2020 at 9:00pm | IP Logged | 11 post reply

In this day and age, the folks that made The Year Of Living Dangerously (one of my late fathers favorite movies) would be accused of white washing.

----

THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY is guilty of both white washing and yellowface, yes.
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David Miller
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Posted: 01 July 2020 at 9:48pm | IP Logged | 12 post reply

THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY is also guilty of starring Mel Gibson.

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