To the Editor:
This is in response to a letter to the editor published in last week’s MV Times (Jan. 14, “Movie fan will tune out Oscar this year”). Thanks to Mike Bellissimo for not being too wimpy to speak up about the Oscars being an all-white event. Was this intentional or was it an oversight?
Since this has become a national controversy, maybe now is a good time to address a similar situation in our school plays. I’ve been a parent in the school district for 15 years, and I think it’s noticeable that few minority students get cast in lead roles in their school play. I think this is an oversight.
A few years ago, a middle school production of “The Wiz” featured an all-white cast except for a black girl who was cast as the Wicked Witch of the West. Her appearance was made brief, but the audience cheered because she was a trained singer and vibrant actress. People in the audience wondered why she was not cast as Dorothy. Staff missed their cue.
Another school play was “Cinderella,” first written in the 1950s and then modernized in 1997. Most of us expected to see the popular remake that starred Whitney Houston, Brandi, Whoopi Goldberg, and a multiracial cast. But staff picked an all-white cast, except for one black boy who suddenly appeared at the end of the play as a preacher. Some of us were startled right out of our seats. The black boy could have been cast as the king. Staff missed their cue to promote student diversity.
Administrators might want to consider that “the play’s the thing.” It sends a message to the audience. When we neglect to promote student diversity on stage it suggests prejudice all around. Instead, we can be socially responsible and make a deliberate effort to present a multiracial cast.
State department of education laws call for the correction of racial imbalance in public schools. I propose an outreach program in the middle schools that encourages minority students to audition for their school play. In addition, there needs to be a policy to ensure that minority students get a lead role. Granting lead roles to minority students in the middle schools will be helpful in creating a stronger and more vibrant theater department at the high school.
Maybe the Oscars are all-white this year because no one paid attention. I’m asking school administrators to pay attention.
This letter is not meant to diminish the hard work and fabulous performances that take place at our schools. I applaud the staff and students who put on great shows. I’m looking forward to the high school’s upcoming show, “Chicago the Musical.” It’s going to be one of their best shows ever, featuring students with exceptional talent.