According to the New York Times, the playwright went public via his Facebook page Nov. 30 to voice his concern that Hartford TheaterWorks had cast Ben Cole and Clea Alsip, two white actors, to portray the Puerto Rican characters of Jackie and Veronica.
In Hartford Connecticut, the Mayor is Puerto Rican. But in Theaterworks production of my play in Hartford -- the 2 lead Puerto Rican characters are played by white actors. The play was cast in NYC & Conn, and if you look at the breakdown here, you will see that not only did they not cast Latinos, they didn't even seek Latinos for the 2 Latino leads!!! If this disturbs you, please repost. Nothing against the actors cast, but this is indefensible bull****. Please share my headshaking anger. Thanks! Stephen
Directed by Tazewell Thompson, Motherf**ker with the Hat is scheduled to conclude its Hartford run Dec. 4. Casting was announced in September.
The roles were originated on Broadway by Bobby Cannavale and Elizabeth Rodriguez, both of whom received Tony Award nominations for their work last spring. Guirgis told the Times that he had not been invited to see the production, but had been in conversation with Thompson and executives at the theatre in recent weeks over their casting choice.
TheaterWorks artistic director Steve Campos said that while the casting choice could be debated, both Cole and Alsip were the best actors for the role. It was noted that only the role of Cousin Julio was specified as being Puerto Rican in the casting breakdown. Actor Varin Ayala was cast in the role.
The Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors also voiced concern with casting for Motherf**ker, joining with Guirgis to point out that casting took place in New York City and CT, with a plethora of Latino actors available.
"I want the play to get done, and I’m not going to micro-manage casting, and I know there are parts of the country where it’s harder to find a lot of Latino actors. But this play was cast in New York City and in Hartford, and you can’t tell me that there weren’t qualified Latino actors to play characters who are Puerto Rican," Guirgis told the Times.
Guirgis' plays include Little Flower of East Orange, Jesus Hopped the A Train, In Arabia We'd All Be Kings, Our Lady Of 121st Street, Den Of Thieves and Dominica The Fat Ugly Ho.