Juan Ramirez (1992)

Cross-cultural casting, blind casting, non-traditional casting, etc., as it is being used today, has a major flaw. It assumes that people of color are somehow less fortunate than white people (or less than human) and require special assistance and/or guidance from the ruling class.

It makes sense that the characters in a production somehow represent the diversity of experience, culture, perspective of a world. This world can be a planet, a nation, a city, a neighborhood, a society, a state of mind, et cetera. Producers should want to do this. Directors should want to do this. Writers should want to do this. If the world of a writer, producer, director is filled with white people, then his/her work should reflect this. If a writer, producer, director lives in a world of color (this has nothing to do with demographics), then her/his work should reflect this.

The issue that most concerns me, as an actor/writer/director/producer who happens to be Latino, is empowerment. How much control do I have over how my story is told, how my world is portrayed? I do not want a white theater to legitimize my existence. I want to be able to tell my own story in my own way. I don’t want to be limited to a 17th Century Eurocentric definition of what theater is. It all comes down to money. It upsets me to think that some of the “major” theaters in Chicago have received hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce Latino plays, when my theater has been doing this without a cash incentive for years. What bothers me more is when these theaters then telephone me to ask about Latino playwrights whom I’ve produced and Latino actors whom I’ve trained.

When Jackie Robinson was allowed to enter the major leagues in baseball many people saw it as a tremendous opportunity for African Americans (Negroes). White people point to the Robinson example as a sign of progress. But the reality is that when Jackie Robinson and a handful of black players (not the best players, but the most acceptable) were brought into white baseball a whole league made up of whole teams with hundreds of players, coaches, trainers, managers, owners was ruined. A whole public could no longer afford to attend a baseball game because now there was only one game in town. Decades later, when we ask why there are so few black coaches, managers, etc., the word comes down that there are so few qualified. I am not surprised.

I have so-o-o-o much more to say but will end here by saying that the way to ensure cross-cultural casting is to create and support more producers of color. White producers alone should not and cannot bear the responsibility for reflecting the world on stage.

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