On the Scene at Hamilton’s Open Call

Special Features   On the Scene at Hamilton’s Open Call
Stories from hopefuls on the audition line.

“I was under the impression for years and years that every Broadway show was able to be cast colorblind,” explained New York-based performer Taylor Rae Almonte while waiting in line to Tuedsay’s open call for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s megahit Hamilton. “Obviously that’s not true, but what’s amazing about Hamilton is that I can come in and be literally any character. I have so many options when I approach this show.”

Thalia Romina and Taylor Rae Almonte
Thalia Romina and Taylor Rae Almonte Joe Gambino

Almonte, a self-proclaimed Angelica, was just one of over 1,200 performers who flocked to Chelsea Studios in New York City on May 3 for a chance to make their Broadway debut in the Tony-nominated musical. Hamiltons, Burrs, Elizas “and Peggys” of all ethnicities from all across the United States stood in the rain beginning at 3 AM, determined not to throw away their shot. By 9 AM, much to the confusion of pedestrians, the blocks surrounding the studios had been taken over by hopefuls, some clutching good luck charms, others listening to their favorite tunes from the show while huddled together under umbrellas. One particularly excited actress explained the open call to a passing tourist by shouting, “It’s Hamilton, dammit!”

For performers such as Thalia Romina, an actress from Queens, NY, auditioning for Hamilton offered a chance to tell a story that hits close to home. “[My parents] came to this country in the ’80s, and they suffered a lot of racism,” said Romina. “The idea that Hamilton had to pretend that he was American and assimilate is so important, especially when discussing today’s issues and how people are trying to kick [immigrants] out of this country.” Romina also discussed how important Hamilton is for Latina actresses such as herself, who are often only called into play “prostitutes, or Sofia Vergara-types.” “It’s nice to be seen as a person, as opposed to a race and the stereotypes associated with that race,” she explained.

Kaila Wooten and Jasmine Johnson
Kaila Wooten and Jasmine Johnson Joe Gambino

Kaila Wooten and Theo Tiedemann, proudly discussed Hamilton’s current cast and its inclusion or multiracial performers. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show that had biracial cast members, and that was something that I didn’t even realize I had thought about,” said Wooten, a biracial performer herself. “I had thought about it as far as casting went for me, but I hadn’t considered the fact that I had never sat down and watched biracial actors perform.” Tiedemann agreed, stating “Hamilton means progress, and it’s great to see multiracial cast members. I’m multiracial so it’s great that I can see [myself represented].”
Unfortunately, not every member of the theatre community greeted Hamilton’s open call with as much enthusiasm. Many people were upset by the call’s original language, which stated that producers were seeking “non-white men and women.” The language has since been updated to say, “Seeking men and women, ages 20s to 30s, for the non-white characters as written and conceived for…Hamilton.”

Theo Tiedemann
Theo Tiedemann Joe Gambino

Latrisha Talley, who came to the open call from Nashville, TN, explained that she feels the language was “not a big deal.” “Miranda has always gone outside of the box in terms of casting so I didn’t think anything of it,” she said. “Making room for people of color in roles that are not traditionally saved for them [is exciting]. It’s not meant to downplay anyone else or any other races; it just gives the rest of us a little bit of hope.” Talley went on to discuss the late Kyle Jean Baptiste, who made Broadway history last summer as the first black actor to play Jean Valjean in Les Misèrables. “Seeing him in that role just solidified that there is a place [in theatre] for me.”

Blessing Robinson, an actress and rapper from Philadelphia, PA, appreciated the language used in the call. “It’s saying that there are roles that black people can do,” she said. “Black people have talent, and Latino people have talent. Asian people have talent. We need to get on the same stage. Something as big as this is our chance.”

Blessing Robinson
Blessing Robinson Joe Gambino

Actors Soloman Campbell and David Anthony of Minneola, FL and Brooklyn, NY respectively, hoped that the open call would allow for them to solidify spots for themselves in the Broadway community. “When I first found out about the audition, I got very emotional, especially given the fact that it mentioned that no theatre experience was necessary,” explained Anthony. “It’s a lot harder [to be cast in a Broadway show] if you don’t have any experience under your belt. It’s daunting. It actually keeps you from trying,” he added. Campbell expressed a similar sentiment, saying, “For someone like me, who would love to be on Broadway, but typically wouldn’t get to be, this is a once-in-a-lifetime shot to get a foot in the door. I was so excited when I found out about the call.”

All of the performers interviewed expressed their excitement about the unique opportunity. “There is something so inspiring about finally seeing diverse people being represented onstage,” said Jasmine Johnson, an actress from Atlanta, GA. “There are so many beautiful diverse people who want to perform and just don’t have the opportunity. It’s great to see that finally happening.”

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