Broadway is Not Yet “Yassified”

By Emilia Spina ’22

Applause echoes throughout the theater as a line of actors take their bow. A standing ovation ensues. This is the last performance for the award-winning Broadway show, after over 10 years and the regular attendance of almost 2,000 people. Since the beginning of time, theater has been one of, if not the top forms of entertainment. Although the theater industry has evolved into a cultural phenomenon that does promote social change and is one of the most well-known art forms, there is still progress to be made. 

Shows fall short of satisfying the modern fight against racism by featuring an overwhelmingly white industry. All of New York City’s 41 Broadway theaters are owned and operated by white people, according to the Asian American Performers Action Coalition. Still, theater is often associated with a progressive agenda, and this is aided by Hamilton, a musical known for its diverse cast. But, this is where we need to consider the definitions.  The term diversity is commonly described not only as a point of difference but also as a noun. This suggests that the word is a concept already in existence, rather than something that you have to actively do. Carla Stillwell, a writer for “HowlRound”, suggests that this is not necessarily accurate and defines diversity as the following: “A state of being diverse can only be achieved if there is variety. We have attempted to achieve diversity by keeping most things in American theater culturally homogenous and adding a dash of difference. But the definition of the word diversity lets us know that this type of thinking is topsy-turvy.”

Think of Hamilton. The musical tells the story of America’s founding fathers and is often praised for its color blind casting. And although the show undoubtedly made musical history with Miranda’s decision to make the color of the actors who play America’s founding fathers irrelevant, the narrative stops short of including any mention of slavery’s existence, despite even one of Alexander Hamilton’s many slaves possibly mothering up to 6 of his children. 

Despite the efforts made by the Broadway industry, the industry still falls short of actually including minority groups on stage and within the stories told. The lack of representation discourages anyone other than the majority to partake in behind-the-scenes roles, as well as in performances.

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