Kent State University Play Stars A White Martin Luther King Jr.
The writer behind the acclaimed “The Mountaintop” play about Martin Luther King Jr. is outraged after an Ohio college cast a white actor to portray the iconic civil rights leader.
Katori Hall blasted Kent State University and the director of the school’s amateur presentation for their “tone deaf” decision to have a white man play the role of the historic figure.
“The casting of a white King is committing yet another erasure of the black body,” Hall wrote Monday in a scathing piece in The Root. “Sure, it might be in the world of pretend, but it is disrespectful nonetheless.”
The furious 34-year-old dramatist said she was stunned when she first caught wind of the controversial casting in early October from a colleague.
“The actor playing King stood there, hands outstretched, his skin far from chocolate but a creamy buff. At first glance I was like, ‘Unh-uh, maybe he light-skinned. Don’t punish the brother for being able to pass,'” she said.
Unfortunately, the “brother” wasn’t a brotha at all. He wasn’t light-skinned. He was as white as Paula Dean.
The play’s director, Michael Oatman, said he casted both a white MLK and a black MLK and each man would split time on stage as the iconic civil rights leader.
Oatman, who did not immediately return requests for comment, said in an August press release that he purposefully selected the white and black actors to “stir discussion” about race.
“I truly wanted to explore the issue of racial ownership and authenticity. I didn’t want this to be a stunt, but a true exploration of King’s wish that we all be judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin,” he said at the time.
“I wanted the contrast,” Oatman added. “I wanted to see how the words rang differently or indeed the same, coming from two different actors, with two different racial backgrounds.”
Would you attend a play where Martin Luther King was a caucasian?
Image via Itzel Leon