by Alex Grayson
A reporter in Long Island asked me if there was any significance in my character (Melchior) being black. The question caught me off guard. I quickly responded, "No, it's not a play about race." But looking back in this context, I think I was wrong.
We have such a strong subconscious default to White Straight Male as the norm that anything else seems "edgy." That bias crept into my perception of what is available and accessible to me as an actor.
When I first moved to New York City, I felt like I was limited to three or four shows like The Book of Mormon or The Lion King, or wait for the next revival of Dreamgirls. Outside of that, I felt a subconscious need to constantly change minds in an audition room. Is the creative team going to risk casting a person of color in a historically White role? I was navigating anticipated casting bias within the already daunting gamble of auditioning.
A storm of events brought Spring Awakening into the realm of possibility for me. My former director, Evan Pappas, was attached to the production as Artistic Director. More importantly, it was the end of a huge year for Black artists in theatre and film. I had just come back from an artist gathering in Vermont celebrating Black people in the arts. My pride was at full strength. I showed up at the ECC for Spring Awakening with an overwhelming feeling that all things were possible.
That feeling of possibility came from seeing faces that looked like mine. Leslie Odom, Jr., in particular, inspired me so much with his performance as Aaron Burr. I could SEE MYSELF in him. He blew me away. Lin-ManueI is the #GOAT for creating Hamilton and breaking all the rules. The racial landscape of casting is changing fast. I am truly grateful to the Argyle Theater for reimagining Spring Awakening and this incredible role, Melchior Gabor.