By Laura Acuff, Student Reporter
Aida, a production about a racially-charged love triangle in Ancient Egypt and this year’s Homecoming Musical, opens Friday and will give additional performances Saturday and Sunday.
Although Aida was scheduled to be the Homecoming musical two years ago, leading actress Jasmin Richardson, junior musical theatre major from Houston, said ethnicity became an issue when a Caucasian was cast as the female lead, a part usually played by a minority.
“There was just a concern among some in our community about casting choices who really saw the title role as being really connected with a minority,” Aida Director and theatre professor Dr. Adam Hester said. “Although it had been done with a variety of casting options in other places, in this area, it just felt like that was an important choice, and so we made the decision.
“At that point, we didn’t have an African American woman who could really fulfill all the demands of the role, and so we made a choice to do a different musical then.”
Hester asserted this year’s cast was simply better suited for the demands of the award-winning production, and Richardson said she felt divine guidance played a role in this year’s choice of musical.
“I just think that it’s time – that this was the time that God wanted the show to happen, and that’s just what happened,” Richardson said. “This is the time that he wanted it to be exposed, and I’m just basically going along with his will. I just so happened to get [the role of Aida], and I thank God for it, but as far as black and white and all these other different ethnicities, I could care less. The people could be orange or purple. I’m just so happy to be able to be in the show.”
Historically, the role of Aida and her people, the Nubians, has often been portrayed by minorities, and although Richardson is African American, most of the Nubians in ACU’s version of the musical are not.
Richardson, however, said she valued the diversity among the Nubian cast of ACU’s production.
“When people come see the show, they will notice that a lot of the Nubians are not black,” Richardson said. “That is totally OK. We’ve tried to be true to the script, and yeah it does call for some [minorities], and it helped to have a mix, but I think that it’s something we want for people in the show – that it’s OK not to have an all-black cast or all-black Nubians – that it actually helped to have some diversity in the cast as far as the
Nubians are concerned.”
Richardson, who competed with two others for the role of Aida, said her preparation hinges on focus. Her mental preparation for each rehearsal begins two hours before she walks onstage as she practices songs and lines from the play.
She said her primary goal is to maintain the integrity of the musical, staying true to the playwright’s intended message.
“How I’m preparing myself is constantly staying in prayer because it’s so easy to get caught up and say ‘the show’s about Aida, it’s about me,’ but it’s not,” Richardson said. “It really is just about the love and the power that love has to change people. It’s just so important to get that message out there.”
As of Monday, Aida’s ticket- sales had surpassed any other ACU production in the last ten years, Hester said, and Richardson noted student interest appreciatively.
“I am so impressed with the student body already because so many people, before we even performed in Chapel, have gone out and bought their tickets, and I have never experienced anything like that within my own peers,” Richardson said.
“I’m so blessed just by the way they encouraged us [Wednesday in Chapel] to say what we’re doing is appreciated, and it’s something that is valued among people our age. It was really refreshing just to see. I amjust so honored to do the role,” Richardson said.