Chicago actor Bear Bellinger has penned an open letter to the Marriott Theatre’s leadership regarding its casting of Evita, set to begin performances in Lincolnshire April 13. According to the statement, the production features only one actor of Latin heritage.
Set in South America throughout the 1930’s and 40’s the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical follows the rise of Eva Peron, the second wife of Argentine president Juan Perón.
“You are situated outside of a city that is 28% Hispanic or Latina/o...,” states Bellinger’s letter. “To not make an effort to reflect that portion of your city, in a show that is a representation of their culture, is shameful.”
The production is being directed and choreographed by Alex Sanchez, with performances set to run through June 5.
Marriott executive producer Terry James issued the following statement in response, published in Chicago Time Out: “We at Marriott Theatre are deeply saddened by the letter that Mr. Bellinger posted today. It undermines a continuing partnership with Actors‘ Equity Association in efforts to encourage ALL ethnicities to join in the audition process. The theatre announced Latino director/choreographer Alex Sanchez for Evita and encouraged all ethnicities to audition. The same is done for every production and stated in the audition notice.
“We have always respected and valued our actors; to say anything otherwise is a false and slanderous attack on our theater’s reputation. We have never received a complaint from any actor for mistreatment, nor has Actors‘ Equity Association who we reached out to today immediately after hearing of this open letter.”
The news brings to light recent controversies concerning the lack of diversity on major stages and movie screens. The 2016 Academy Awards nominations were heavily criticized for their failure to adequately recognize diverse artists in the acting categories, and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage recently described theatre as “the last bastion of segregation.”