Theater community pushes for diverse, non-traditional casting

RIDGEWOOD, NJ — Broadway has embraced diversity even before Hollywood did, when it comes to colorblind casting.

In the Asian community, it was Lea Salonga who paved the way for non-traditional casting – being the first Asian to play the roles of Eponine and Fantine in the hit musical Les Miserables, roles historically played by Caucasians only.

Non-traditional casting is the casting of ethnic minority actors in roles where race or ethnicity is not germane – according to the Actor’s Equity Association.

Broadway-style concert producer Scott Siegel says the sense of diversity is stronger now than ever before.

“It’s very self-affirming, so for Filipinos to come out and see Filipino actors, whether on Broadway or off-Broadway, or off-off Broadway, it’s self-affirming, it’s helpful to them, to the performers and so enriching for the people to come see them.”

Jarred Martin has played lead roles based on European characters such as Quasimodo and Sancho Panza in regional theaters.

“It’s very uplifting and inspiring that I got to have the opportunities to play parts that weren’t written for an Asian American… that I can be able to audition for those parts that I wouldn’t be able to in the past.”

Award-winning Broadway performer Brian Charles Rooney says Broadway may be ahead of the game but, traditional casting is just the first step.

When it comes to Asian writers writing for Asian actors, Mayi Theater is leading the way.

Lysley Tenorio’s book “Felix Starro” is being developed by Fil-Am playwright Jessica Hagedorn into a new musical with the same name.

The story is about this fake Filipino faith healer called Felix Starro, and Starro goes to San Francisco as TNT and there’s a song about it in the play.

“Felix Starro” is still under development and is expected to go in full production in 2019.

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