Kent State’s School of Theatre & Dance cancelled its fall musical ‘West Side Story’ after students spoke out about controversial casting choices.
The musical features two rival New York City gangs in the 1960s – the Jets, who are white, and the Sharks, who are Puerto Rican. When the theatre school picked the show for its 2018 season, Latin-x students like Bridgett Martinez thought this was the perfect chance to showcase the school’s underrepresented students -- that is, until several white students were cast as the Puerto Rican characters instead.
“If they didn’t have this diverse cast in mind, and they didn’t think that we as the Latino students could fulfill these lead roles, then why would they continue on with the show in the first place?” Martinez said.
Martinez and other students voiced these concerns to faculty members in a school-wide meeting on September 4 at noon. School director Eric van Baars opted to pick a different show, 'Children of Eden.' Going forward, he said the school will take steps to ensure more representation in casting and include more students in the show selection process.