Published On: Mon, Feb 5th, 2018

Racist New York high school students protest ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ casting due to actor’s race, show canceled

A New York high school has canceled a production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” after a student activist group complained about a white student being cast in a lead role.

All five members of Ithaca High School’s activist group called Students United Ithaca banded together to pen a letter and list of demands to protest the casting of Esmeralda to their Caucasian peer.

“It shows you that theater wasn’t made for you,” said Maddi Carroll, a member of the Students United group who is African-American. “And it shows you that, if you can’t get the parts that are written for you, what parts are you going to get?”

Their letter conceded that the student cast as Esmeralda “is a stellar actor, singer, and dancer” and that any production would be “lucky to have her.”

However, it added: “Our concern is not with her, but with the fact that in terms of demographics, she is the wrong choice for this role.”

The school now will be putting on an alternative production.

The College Fix reported on the group’s demands, listed on its Facebook page, which included a cessation of play  rehearsals, a stoppage of hiring (production) people who have not “changed their actions” following complaints from “parents of color” and “social justice activists,” and an end to the “racist and openly stated policy of ‘color blind’ casting.”

According to the Ithaca Journal, the activists got their first wish, helped by “a flood of letters from members of the community.”

“Our goal was not just to shut down the musical,” Maddi [Carroll] said. “We want to get a socially conscious director to replace the current director so that everybody can participate.”

Both Annabella [Mead-VanCort] and Maddi said they believe the issue is systemic at the school and that addressing diversity in the musical is the first step in making the school more inclusive.

“This issue is bigger than one part in one musical in one place,” Carroll said. “It’s very very systemic and is very deeply rooted in how we learn and what we do every day. So, we next want to go to the school. We want to branch out from the arts to the school in general and we want to try and make a change.”

The Ithaca School District announced Monday that a new production will replace “Hunchback.” It was delightfully swarmy in its statement:

“We thank everyone for their contributions as we delve further into complex conversations. In addition, we ask that you please stay engaged as we continually work to create community-wide support for our students and school community.”

The famous story created by Victor Hugo is set in France, so it’s unclear what ethnicity the group sees for the story.


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About the Author

- Roxanne "Butter" Bracco began with the Dispatch as Pittsburgh Correspondent, but will be providing reports and insights from Washington DC, Maryland and the surrounding region. Contact Roxie aka "Butter" at theglobaldispatch@gmail ATTN: Roxie or Butter Bracco

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  1. John Henry Lee says:

    Canceling this play because a white girl got the lead isn’t teaching these racist children anything! You didn’t do them any favors! Remind these racist kids that the original Annie starred a whit girl, the remake had a black girl playing the roll of Annie! You didn’t hear or see the white people throw a fit! These kids need to learn that to get a head, they have to do it on their own merit, not because the color of their skin! Unfortunately in todays sociality, you just hollar racism and you don’t have to work for anything because of the color of your skin! Your white child works his/her butt off to get 4.0 average, somebody of color don’t have to work as hard because if you are black, you will get an extra 235 points, if you are hispanic, you get an extra 185 points, and these kids may only have a”C” average but will get into college before the white, or Asian because they are of color! Now the Asian gets a -50, I guess because they are smarter than the rest of the races!
    They should shut this school completely down for canceling the play because a white girl got the lead!

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