Hamilton is the hottest show on Broadway at the moment. The cast has performed at the White Hosue and the Grammys and inspired people to learn more about history—wins all around.
The production team is currently looking for non-white actors in their 20s and 30s (no experience required) to play a number of roles (maybe even the leads!) as the show ramps up to expand into a number of cities and go on tour and so it's planning to hold open auditions in early May. However, the producers may have just run into a problem: explicitly stating you're only looking for "non-white" employees might be illegal in New York City.
At least that's what one lawyer, civil rights attorney Randolph McLaughlin, is saying, according to CBS New York.
One critic said “Hamilton” takes a story that “valorizes dead white guys” and replaces it with black, Latino and multi-ethnic performers playing America’s founding fathers.
“What if they put an ad out that said, ‘Whites only need apply?’” said McLaughlin, of the Newman Ferrara Law Firm. “Why, African-Americans, Latinos, Asians would be outraged.”
McLaughlin believes the casting call violates the New York City Human Rights Law which makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate against a potential hire based on race.
“You cannot advertise showing that you have a preference for one racial group over another,” McLaughlin told CBS New York. “As an artistic question—sure, he can cast whomever he wants to cast, but he has to give every actor eligible for the role an opportunity to try."
McLaughlin points out that the notice violates the Broadway performers union Actor's Equity's policies as well. A December listing on Backstage.com for Hamilton on both Broadway and national tours says the production is looking for actors of "all ethnicities."
The city Commission on Human Rights has not yet received a complaint about the new, "non-white" listing, but a source told CBS New York that the city would work with the production to ensure it was complying with the law if need be.
Update: We received a statement from Hamilton's press representative this afternoon:
The producers of HAMILTON regret the confusion that's arisen from the recent posting of an open call casting notice for the show. It is essential to the storytelling of HAMILTON that the principal roles — which were written for non-white characters (excepting King George) — be performed by non-white actors. This adheres to the accepted practice that certain characteristics in certain roles constitute a "bona fide occupational qualification" that is legal. This also follows in the tradition of many shows that call for race, ethnicity or age specific casting, whether it's THE COLOR PURPLE or PORGY & BESS, or MATILDA. The casting will be amended to also include language we neglected to add, that is, we welcome people of all ethnicities to audition for HAMILTON.
“HAMILTON depicts the birth of our nation in a singular way,” said producer Jeffrey Seller. We will continue to cast the show with the same multicultural diversity that we have employed thus far."
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