Australian Whitewashed Production of 'In the Heights' is Cancelled
For this article, I will be using the term, "Latinx" a gender neutral term often used in lieu of Latino or Latina that refers to individuals with cultural ties to Latin America and individuals with Latin American descent. The -x replaces the standard o/a ending of Latino and is intended to be more gender inclusive.
Last week, we called out a "semi-professional" theatre company in Queensland, Australia for casting white and non-Latinx performers in Latinx roles in the musical In the Heights, despite having a number of Latinx performers audition. Given the fact that the article was shared on Facebook alone, over 13,000 times, there was intense backlash against Matt Ward Entertainment, the producing theatre group.
In response to the controversy, it was announced today that Matt Ward Entertainment has canceled their upcoming production of In the Heights. They have also deleted their Facebook account.
According to a statement provided to local news, they said:
"We respectfully acknowledge concerns from the community regarding casting of the work and humbly accept that we have not harnessed, at this time, the number of required authentic Latinx voices to tell this particular story.
While we are motivated by providing talented local performers the opportunity to hone their craft within a professional setting, and proud of our team's commitment to multicultural casting, we acknowledge the vitalness of cultural authenticity.
To those who we have caused distress; please understand our deep regret and accept our sincere apologies.
To our talented cast, creatives and loyal patrons; we are grateful for your commitment and look forward to welcoming you to our next production.
We look forward to continuing our practice with greater awareness and consideration, and motivated to engage more deeply and authentically within our community."
There is nothing to celebrate here. There is no victory dance. In fact, I think Matt Ward Entertainment is wrong for canceling their production rather than recasting it.
Canceling this production does nothing to promote diverse casting. Canceling this production doesn't raise awareness that whitewashing is wrong and needs to stop. Canceling this production doesn't introduce a dialog about casting equality in Queensland. Canceling this production only gives a theatre company an easy way to try to erase that this ever happened. Thankfully, the internet doesn't forget.
To those who still have a hard time grasping the concept of casting equality, when characters are written for certain races to portray them, that needs to be respected.