West Side Story Casting Prompts Atlanta Theatre to Address Diversity on Stage

News   Atlanta Lyric Theatre Announces New Ethnicity and Casting Policy
The theatre says it “regrets” how it cast ethnically specific roles in a recent production of West Side Story.
Broadway revival of <i>West Side Story 1979</i>
Broadway revival of West Side Story 1979 Martha Swope

A recent staging of West Side Story at the Atlanta Lyric Theatre has prompted the theatre to reconsider the way it approaches ethnicity and casting for all upcoming productions. The Lyric announced via a Facebook post that it “regrets not casting all ethnically specific roles in West Side Story with Latino performers.”

West Side Story tells the tale of two opposing gangs, Puerto Rican and white New Yorkers; however, the Lyric’s production did not accurately reflect their ethnicities. “This was particularly poignant in a show that is itself an examination of the negative effects of racial and cultural discrimination,” states the theatre’s post on social media.

“Although we did not purposely exclude anyone, The Lyric acknowledges that we could have done more to reach out to the community in an effort to ensure that Latinos were well represented,” continues the statement.

The theatre has announced that moving forward, it will adhere to a new policy regarding ethnically specific casting, or the casting of any other actors of color, in which “ethnicity is a central component of telling the story.”

The announcement comes in the wake of a recent casting controversy at Chicago’s Marriott Theatre, which was criticized for its failure to cast actors of Latin heritage in its production of Evita. Read more here.

The Lyric also confirmed that it will continue to consider and advocate for diversity in the casting of all shows. See the theatre’s post below:

2016 has sparked numerous conversations concerning the lack of diversity on major stages and movie screens. The 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.”

Lynn Nottage Speaks Out Against Racism and Gender Bias

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