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‘Bowing to racists’? University in Ohio cancels musical over ‘whitewashing’ backlash

‘Bowing to racists’? University in Ohio cancels musical over ‘whitewashing’ backlash
A university in Ohio has cancelled a planned production of the musical ‘West Side Story’ after students complained that Latino roles were given to white students instead of students of Latino descent.

Kent State University decided to cancel the show entirely instead of recasting it and replaced it with a production of the Children of Eden, which is expected to be less problematic.

Eric van Baars, the director of the university’s School of Theatre and Dance said the decision to cancel was “in response to our community members’ voices and the national dialogue regarding the desire for authenticity on our stages”. Van Baars told Fox News that in order to be “current and culturally engaged,” the school was trying to support the progression of “conscious casting” in theatre.

Martinez told KentWired that it was important to have “a person of color in that room all the time – auditions, callbacks, cast lists being made – because we should have someone on our side in that room.”

Another Latino student, Viviana Cardenas, who auditioned for a major role was passed over and the role was given to an African American student. “I don’t get to tell other people’s stories because of the color of my skin, but yet when there is this story that is about people of cultures like me, about people of color like me, and that gets taken away from me…that was the most heartbreaking,” she told KentWired.

Cardenas said she felt the professors who made the casting decisions wanted the best for the show but that there are “more things that need to be considered” than that.

READ MORE: ‘Not inclusive’: Students union bans clapping at events – use ‘jazz hands’ instead

Not everyone is happy with the university’s decision, however. Theatre student Skyler Dye told Campus Reform that it reflects badly on the university and that appearance should not be what matters.

“Plenty of people of Puerto Rican descent ‘pass’ as white for all kinds of reasons. I think being too strict on the look for certain groups of people is actually more insensitive on the whole,” he said. Dye admitted the issue was complicated, but ultimately said the decision to cancel the play was “bowing to racists.”

“I think if belief can be suspended for a good production, there is no issue,” he said.

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