A white actor will play Romeo in a controversial production of “Romeo and Juliet,” after the director’s original plan to cast a black actor as Romeo with a white Juliet was rejected.
Casting for Romeo in La Habra Community Theatre’s production of the Shakespearean classic has been narrowed to two actors, both white, director Marla Gam-Hudson said this week.
Gam-Hudson had placed an ad seeking a “black Romeo” in her intention to cast an interracial couple in the lead roles, but the company’s board of directors nixed that idea in an emergency vote last week.
Board members said that an interracial romance in the play would be too controversial for local audiences, and instructed Gam-Hudson to cast actors of the same race to portray literature’s best-known star-crossed lovers.
Gam-Hudson, who had said she would respect the board’s decision, said “seven or eight” black actors auditioned for Romeo during two days of open auditions earlier this week.
Race was not a factor in her choice of the two finalists, the director said.
Most of the black actors who auditioned “were not even close to Romeo’s age. Most of them were late 30s,” Gam-Hudson said. “Even if (the board) decision had never come down, they would not have been considered.”
A black actor is being considered for one of the other major roles in the play, Gam-Hudson said.
The director said she does not know the ethnic background of the woman she cast as Juliet.
About 60 actors auditioned for the play, which will open Oct. 26 at La Habra’s Depot Playhouse.
Gam-Hudson said she had expected a bigger turnout and believes press coverage of the board’s decision deterred some from trying out. Gam-Hudson said the low turnout hurt her plans for a multiracial cast.
“Because I didn’t have a lot to choose from, as far as that went, it is predominantly white,” she said.