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Student Concerns Over Casting Cause Theater School to Cancel Production

Bridgett Martinez is one of several students who shared concerns about casting decisions made for "West Side Story"
ANNA HUNTSMAN
/
WKSU
Bridgett Martinez is one of several students who shared concerns about casting decisions made for "West Side Story"

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.

https://youtu.be/-Nnjt8q2e9A

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. 

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Anna joined ideastream in 2019, where she reports on health news for WCPN and WVIZ in Cleveland. She has also served as an associate producer for NewsDepth. Before that, Anna was a 2019 Carnegie-Knight News21 fellow at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.