Disquiet over racial representation in Vancouver’s theatre scene has bubbled to the surface again. This time it involves The Motherfucker With the Hat, which runs January 16 to 30 at the Firehall Arts Centre.
The five-person play has three Latino characters, of which only one—neither of the two romantic leads—is portrayed by a Latino actor.
A letter cowritten by Chilean-born actor and writer Carmen Aguirre noted that had the non-Latino actor first cast as the third Latino character not quit, no Latino actor would have been featured. Moreover, the letter claimed that “no Latino actors were considered for any of these roles when the play was originally cast.”
This is disputed by the Firehall Arts Centre, which is producing the play, and the Haberdashery Theatre Company.
Haberdashery company actor Lori Triolo told the Straight by phone that there was “an extensive search for Latino actors”.
Firehall artistic producer Donna Spencer said in a phone interview that she is meeting on Thursday (January 7) with interested parties to talk about how to “improve things so these things don’t happen again, or if they happen again, people understand why”.
Aguirre told the Straight by phone that this is happening within a “much larger context” regarding “fair representation when it comes to race” on stages in Canada and abroad. She cited last summer’s open letter by several people, including herself, about the lack of diversity on the boards and juries of the Jessie Richardson Theatre Awards Society.
“There are very, very, very few, if any, roles for Latino actors, especially when it’s lead roles,” Aguirre said. “So when there is an opportunity such as this one for three really great Latino roles, all we ask is that we be seen at the onset of the audition process.”
Aguirre and Latin-community members are holding a public discussion on fair representation on the stage on Monday (January 11) at 7 p.m. at Progress Lab 1422 (1422 William Street).