By Caleb Parke
Published October 02, 2018
Kent State University has cancelled its fall musical production of “West Side Story” following complaints that too many white students landed lead roles.
Bridgett Martinez, a junior musical theatre major who is of Puerto Rican descent, tried out for her “dream role” of Maria, but she said “it all just got screwed up” when “it was given to a white female,” KentWired.com reported.
Martinez was instead cast as her understudy, and the other three leads that portrayed Latino characters were given to non-Latino students.
The outrage to the casting led to a September schoolwide town hall meeting, in which Eric van Baars, Kent State’s School of Theatre and Dance director, decided to cancel the show as a substitute for recasting, and replaced it with a production of “Children of Eden,” a musical which he believes will regroup the divided school.
“The cancellation of West Side Story was in response to our community members’ voices and the national dialogue regarding the desire for authenticity on our stages,” van Baars told Fox News. “To be current and culturally engaged, the School of Theatre and Dance supports the progression of conscious casting in the American theatre today.”
Van Baars announced the move in a schoolwide email, writing “while not all will agree with this choice, I hope most everyone in the school supports a fresh start on the process.” He added that all the actors cast in West Side Story will also be in Children of Eden.
Students pointed, not to talent, but rather diversity and inclusion as their main focus.
“Something we would like to continue to push for is have a person of color in that room all the time – auditions, callbacks, cast lists being made – because we should have someone on our side in that room,” Martinez told KentWired.com.
One student told Campus Reform the theatre program is “bowing to racists.”
Skyler Dye, a theatre performance minor, blasted the decision to cancel the performance because “those people can’t see anything but skin color" and said the decision says more than enough about the university and its dedication to quality.”