The celebrated Broadway musical Hamilton has come under fire for a “non-white” casting call, which the producers have since defended.

Hamilton Casting Call

The original ad for Hamilton‘s open auditions for Broadway and upcoming tours says that it’s seeking, “NON-WHITE men and women, ages 20s to 30s.” Among those who took issue with the ad was human rights lawyer Randolph McLaughlin.

“I don’t know how a producer in the 21st century can think this is ok,” McLaughlin told CNN. “Even when the intention is obviously good, you can’t express racial preference. This is an issue we have been fighting for decades and it started for black people. Imagine if the casting call was for WHITES ONLY. Al Sharpton would have a picket line. Listen, Idris Elba might not be the best person to play James Bond, but he should certainly be allowed to audition for the role if he wants to.”

Howard Sherman, former executive director of the American Theatre Wing, empathized with the concerns of McLaughlin and others, but said it was merely a matter of syntax and dismissed the idea that Hamilton or its producers are discriminatory.

“The problem here rose entirely from the way the casting notice was written, because it referred to actors themselves, who are covered by labor regulations, as opposed to describing the characters as they are to be portrayed,” Sherman explained to USA Today. “Every production has the right to determine the characteristics they choose for the people they cast, and that can include gender, age, race and so on. But it was the seemingly exclusionary language in reference to the acting pool which gave someone the opportunity to suggest that this incredibly inclusive show was being discriminatory.”

Hamilton producers have stood by their preference for having the roles in the musical be filled by non-white actors, as its “essential” to the story that Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote for the stage, and which has been playing to such widespread acclaim.

“It is essential to the storytelling of Hamilton that the principal roles — which were written for non-white characters (excepting King George) — be performed by non-white actors,” producer Jeffrey Seller explained in a statement. “Hamilton depicts the birth of our nation in a singular way. We will continue to cast the show with the same multicultural diversity that we have employed thus far.”

As producers promised, the casting call has been amended with language that indicates that people of all ethnicities are welcome to audition for Hamilton – though the show maintains the precedent of calling for actors of specified characteristics in casting for roles. The new casting call still asks for “non-white actors,” but now encourages “performers of all ethnic and racial backgrounds” to audition.

Read more about: