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Why Can't A White Man Play Martin Luther King Jr,?

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posted on Aug, 30 2013 @ 06:39 AM
Dude...this isn't so difficult. If you want to play a black man on stage, look back at history. Look at the actors of decades isn't that difficult. Just dress up in black-face...go back to the teacher and let her know that NOW you are ready to play King.

posted on Aug, 30 2013 @ 07:38 AM
This is probably an isolated incident... i was in drama class and skin colour did not matter, i took many different roles.

The West Side Story was done by 90% Asians.

posted on Aug, 30 2013 @ 08:33 AM
There should be nothing wrong with it if acting were only role playing but we know it is not, acting and casting seek to put a character into play that looks as closely in all aspects to the character, I mean you know that historically roles are cast attempting to find the actor that resembles as closely the character, but most of the time it ends up with someone at least also ethnically resembling the character as closely as possible, I would say use a tiny bit of common sense.
Do not turn this into some racial thing, it has nothing to do with it, it is expected that the audience (the receiver ) of the intended message of the body of work will go to see the movie especially if it is an autobiography or authorized biography, they will go looking for themselves in the depiction or the memory they had of the individual if it is someone, like MLK, Malcolm X, Bob Marley, Che or Richard Nixon or Patton, just think of just having Denzel Washington cast as George S. Patton, how genuine would that be?

On another note, you can go back to historical works in Hollywood, where we have controversial depiction of figures in history that no one really know what they looked like, living and breathing, but Hollywood cast the role how they want to and no on really says anything about it, even if there is proof said character was not portrayed by someone that was of that race or ethnic group.

IMO, I really think you should let this go, it is nonsensical, if there are characters that would depict MLK that look and sound closer and are better actors, hands down, the director is not going to pick you, you do not fit the cast and most of the time casting sheets I have seen, have the race, gender and other characteristics, it's always been like that.

Do not turn this into some racial thing or that someone is discriminating against you.

edit on 30-8-2013 by phinubian because: (no reason given)

posted on Aug, 30 2013 @ 09:57 AM
I wasn't sure what to say, but there was a black guy playing Samson in this Bible series, so why not?

posted on Aug, 30 2013 @ 11:33 AM
Don't you think that if the paying public went to watch a play depicting a certain person from history who was African American, that they would find it quite ridiculous if that character was played by a white person?

If I went to see a play about Muhammad Ali, and the person playing Ali's role walked from the wings of the stage and it was a white man. I would personally think that the play's director had had a mental breakdown...

This is not a racism issue, it is more to do with common sense...

I think you are being a little pedantic and also I think the real issue here is that you are just unhappy and jealous because somebody else has got a role in the play that you wanted, but you weren't chosen....

I don't think this is a racist issue, I think it is an issue of stupidity that you are showing...

And for goodness sake don't think about blacking up because that is a complete no no....

posted on Aug, 30 2013 @ 12:20 PM
This is so ignorant, I actually don't know where to begin.

posted on Aug, 30 2013 @ 01:11 PM

Originally posted by wrabbit2000
Personally, I think it's like Johnny Depp recently playing Tonto to the Lone Ranger. Some roles and acting is so deeply and totally defined by race or ethnicity...

Johnny Depp has Cherokee ancestry.

posted on Aug, 30 2013 @ 01:32 PM
one time, this guy said:

" they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

Character...hmmm.. A Play...with Characters. played by people with character.

So how is the content of your Character..

posted on Aug, 30 2013 @ 02:11 PM
if You're motivated enough to file with ACLU, go lawyer shopping - and see if one will help you pro-bono to sue the school district.

Or just file a lawsuit, file a press release, and solicit a lawyer after it goes public.

This discrimination needs to stop.

posted on Aug, 30 2013 @ 02:20 PM
reply to post by Grifter42

My advice would be to view it as "director's choice".
The director ultimately chooses how realistic or not he or she wants the play, and the director will also be responsible for the critique.
Also remember the context of the audience, and school-type theater is not usually meant to be too challenging or confrontational.
I'd say do the best for whatever part you're given.

On the other hand, your thinking is quite correct, and I would continue to work on perfecting a Dr. King character or scene.
Read up on acting, postures and accent, and watch him on film.
Somebody might one day like you to do a short monologue, or an audition.
Don't lose the passion.

Playing characters from another race has a long and awkward history.
What was definitely already unacceptable when I did first year drama in college was the "black-face"/"white face" make-up (although that was still done in segregated schools, especially when they had no black actors to portray the black tribes in the epic kind of realist theater that supposedly showed the conquest of South Africa).

I don't think really good actors need that, and accent cannot be stressed enough.
A few decades back people actually spoke of going "to hear a play", rather than seeing a play.
There's movies about South Africa with mostly American actors, and although the actors are racially correct, their terrible versions of South African accents destroy the suspension of disbelief for local audiences.
All we see is Americans acting like South Africans, both black and white.

I suppose every country has its ethnic and racial issues.
I recently saw a documentary titled: Black Indians: An American Story, which claimed that James Earl Jones, Tina Turner and Jesse Jackson are black Native Americans, and the often hidden story of that ethnicity has never been told in popular film to this day.
So "African American" is itself a complex term, which repeats certain stereotypes.

I've seen terrible and great versions of actors playing characters that are traditionally expected to be another race.
For students it's unavoidable in SA, where theater moved largely from segregation to racial quotas at colleges.
Eventually the technique should be good enough that the race of the actor or actress shouldn't matter after about two minutes into the performance.

Suffice to say that a good actor of any race or gender should be able to play Dr. King, perhaps with minor props like a tell-tale suit, facial hair and a hat.
It always depends on what theater however, and here college and university theater is very different to school or traditional theater.
I recall a production of The Dairy of Anne Frank where local student performers of various races deliberately kept their accents to draw a direct parallel between apartheid and the holocaust.
Although debatable, one old lady in the audience actually started crying, and when "the Nazis" banged on the door at the end (just a violently loud knocking in the theater), it really felt like everyone (including the circular and intimate audience) was going to be arrested!
It really was quite a terrifying moment for the relatively small audience - but that's what real theater magic, sound, lighting and space can do, regardless of the race of the actors.
However, that's slightly more advanced theater.

Otherwise, that's actually a huge pressure, especially if the play is realist in other respects, and doesn't do away with furniture and props in favor of movement, symbolism and abstraction.

Unless one is ready to perform naked in Equus or topless in Woza Albert! then I'd be careful on wanting to be too radical for the moment.

In reality it can be quite a horror story to be assigned such a difficult role without being ready.
If the audience is not convinced they might view it as a joke (and laugh throughout the performance) and it could destroy reputations and egos - are you ready for that at this stage?

It's certainly true that racial minorities in the US may be given roles of traditionally white characters rather than vice-verse.

It could also be true that they might choose somebody who is African American but looks or acts nothing like Dr. King.
Let it be.

I would not call the ACLU because they might check it out for merit, and the other actor might be better than you, and then you'd look like a real jackass.
I'd assume that if they're auditioning somebody from the outside he'd be pretty talented and professional.
You brought up a good argument, and the rest is not in your control, nor will it damage your reputation.

Keep studying drama and acting, and join a more inclusive and experimental group when you can.

edit on 30-8-2013 by halfoldman because: (no reason given)

posted on Aug, 30 2013 @ 02:28 PM
reply to post by Grifter42

Under the given circumstances of this being an In-class thing, and not a production that will gain revenue for the school, I feel your teacher is in the wrong. If the circumstances had been different however, I could see why she would make that decision. My advice would be, before you bring in the ACLU try to find a way to prove to the teacher your are perfectly qualified to the play the role. Even if it is going as far as making yourself look black, or finding a Martin Luther king mask. (check ebay)
Yes your teacher is wrong. She may change her mind.

posted on Aug, 30 2013 @ 03:11 PM


She refused me specifically on race. In a play about racial equality. Now, that's offensive.

Yeah that is pretty damn ironic.

But offensive?

If I worried about being offended I would be angry all the time, with the lies we are told as truths.
But Im trying to avoid an early heart attack.

posted on Aug, 30 2013 @ 05:20 PM
reply to post by Grifter42

I'm kind of confused. You say there are no black students in the class to play the part of MLK; does that mean nobody is getting the role?

posted on Aug, 30 2013 @ 06:50 PM

Originally posted by Thundersmurf
reply to post by Grifter42

I'm kind of confused. You say there are no black students in the class to play the part of MLK; does that mean nobody is getting the role?

i find it strange that the teacher decided to do a play that was about a black man with no black men in the class.
that honestly is one of the dumbest thing i've ever heard really, i mean i know that his famous speech was a few days ago but really? it's just idiotic.

i find it absurd to make this about race though, the man was black, part of his willingness to fight for equality was based on his experience as a black man. i mean if the teacher denied someone white the chance to play othello because othello is thought to be black, i would agree that is unfair. also since the majority of people who played othello were white to begin with.

but the play is about a real person, not a fictional one, and he happens to be black, so for the sake of believably, he should be played by a black man not anyone else.
making it out to be an issue of race and not just simply historical accuracy is irrational and makes anyone doing it look like a nutter.

posted on Aug, 30 2013 @ 07:28 PM
reply to post by demongoat

Maybe I am crazy. But I hold true to my beliefs.

George Washington was not a woman, yet she cast a woman as him.

Maybe I ought to let this go. Pushing this to the limit is only going to hurt people.

But there's still that part of me that wants the role, that thinks that I can do a good job.

Maybe it's a pipe dream. Maybe I'm chasing wind mills here. But my heart tells me that a person should be able to play a role regardless of race. I believe in colour-blind casting.

posted on Aug, 30 2013 @ 08:42 PM

Originally posted by Grifter42
reply to post by demongoat

Maybe I am crazy. But I hold true to my beliefs.

George Washington was not a woman, yet she cast a woman as him.

Maybe I ought to let this go. Pushing this to the limit is only going to hurt people.

But there's still that part of me that wants the role, that thinks that I can do a good job.

Maybe it's a pipe dream. Maybe I'm chasing wind mills here. But my heart tells me that a person should be able to play a role regardless of race. I believe in colour-blind casting.

I've responded a few times to this thread. I've got over 20 years in the performing arts, and make my living doing live performance.
Gender reversals are accepted- Characters who are cast ethnically (when not specified ethnically) are accepted. Ethnic characters who are cast as white, are not accepted. Take of that what you will, but that's what I've seen.

posted on Aug, 30 2013 @ 09:03 PM
reply to post by Grifter42

Well take a minute to consider how angry people get when someone from the wrong race plays a comic book character

(for example these white characters played by black actors)!-Kingpin-is-black-!-!

....And those were just comic book characters!!!

I think that playing such an important figure as MLK by a white guy, is gonna raise a few eyebrows.......You'd have to be a pretty freakin' amazing actor to be able to pull that off without a ton of controversy!

Also, as a side note..... this made me think of Morton Downy Jr in Tropic Thunder

posted on Aug, 30 2013 @ 09:12 PM
I can't believe that you started a thread to ask a question such as this.

The play is an account of actual events involving race relations and civil rights. Why in the world would they have a white guy portray Martin Luther King Jr.? It wouldn't make sense to cast a black man to portray Abraham Lincoln in a play would it?

posted on Aug, 30 2013 @ 10:31 PM
reply to post by Enzo954

That brings up the same question:

Is it skin color that is important, or the message, and actions?

Was Abraham Lincoln's race his defining characteristic?

Or was it the things he did? The people he emancipated.

There are definitely things an actor shouldn't do while playing the role of another race. You don't wear black face. That's incredibly offensive. Laurence Olivier pulled it off to a degree in Othello, but that's because he played Othello like a human being, and not a stereotype. You can't just boil people down to a race like that.
Well you can, but you shouldn't.

posted on Aug, 30 2013 @ 10:48 PM
reply to post by ForbiddenDesire

Please, we know that much of what was depicted in early Hollywood was painted how they wish it were but many of the prophets and apostles my friend in the bible were not what you think and it can be backed up by art history and the actual verses in the bible, do some real reasearch and also find Delilah was Ethiopian, how credible could Hollywood be if they had actors that aren't asian put makeup on and play the roles back in the early 20th century.

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