The Theatre Department lost four months of preparation time two weeks ago when controversy caused it to change its Homecoming Musical from Aida to Seussical.
The decision came after members of the community expressed concern that a lead role, a Nubian princess, was given to a white actress.
Adam Hester, associate professor of theatre, said he made the decision, not because he felt the casting was improper, but out of a desire to be "instruments of peace" and encourage reconciliation with those in the community who were offended by the casting.
The Optimist agrees with Hester that the original casting was the right decision for a musical that portrays no characters of Caucasian descent.
As Hester has said, Aida’s script does not mention skin color, and the production’s licensing company, Music Theatre International, said no ethnic restrictions existed for casting.
The Theatre Department made the proper decision of following its standard colorblind casting policy, which bases casting on talent rather than ethnicity.
In recent history, the Theatre Department’s casting has allowed a black actress to play Calpurnia in the play Julius Caesar, and two white actors played the role of servants in You Can’t Take It With You, when the roles were written as two black characters, among other examples.
If any anyone on campus has proven the ability to look past skin color, the Theatre Department has, and moving ahead with Aida would have been justifiable.
However, for the Theatre Department and university to move ahead without a dark cloud hanging over their heads until Homecoming, the musical had to be changed. Had the department moved ahead with Aida, by mid-October, the controversy would likely be a bigger story in the news than the production itself, which would have been just as unfair to the cast and crew as the current situation they’re in.
By weathering this situation, the Optimist hopes that reconciliation has occurred and the problems don’t have to arise again; however, no one can learn or change from this if everyone simply moves on in hopes of forgetting the controversy.
True reconciliation can’t take place until all issues from all sides have been aired out; problems don’t disappear until they’re dealt with.
The Theatre Department has reached out in an effort for reconciliation-at the cost of months of planning and effort put into Aida. The cast and crew now deserve to move ahead with its preparation for Suessical.
Only time will tell if others involved in this controversy will allow true reconciliation to take place.