Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Let The "Random Black Girl" Stop the Show

I come from a background in commercial musical theatre, and while it's worth noting that colorblind casting is encouraged by most, it's rare for race to stay out of the equation entirely.

Further, at least in our musical world, there are definite expectations of what black performers do and how they sound. When throwing together an ensemble, it's normal to try for at least one or two minorities. They may get nice costumes and equal treatment for most of the show, but ultimately, black actors need to be able to WAIL. Otherwise, you've used the minority card on someone who "sounds white," and what's the point in doing something like that?

This clip comes from Patina Miller, an incredible young actress with whom I've worked a few times. She's currently in London, starring in the Sister Act musical. In this clip, she comments on the place of the African American in musical theatre. In a way, it's liberating--she's aware of all the stereotypes and requirements, and still makes for a wonderfully entertaining number in what could have been incredibly awkward.

Certainly, this ties into Hall's definition of representation and "racialized knowledge of the Other" (260). We have built in expectations of what a specific race can and will do. In this case, it's SAAANGing (as they proudly refer to it) as if they were in church.

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