Following very closely on yesterday’s announcement that Abigail Breslin will make her Broadway debut as Helen Keller in a revival of The Miracle Worker at Circle in the Square next year, the advocacy group Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts has stated its opposition to the casting decision. The group, rightly but hopelessly, makes a habit of protesting the casting of non-disabled actors as disabled characters. Most recently, the group organized protests when New York Theater Workshop didn’t audition any deaf actors for the part of a deaf character in an upcoming production of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.
In the case of The Miracle Worker, the production company behind the Broadway show wanted a star from the get-go, and there was never a question of casting a deaf or blind actor in the part of Keller, who cannot hear or see. Lead producer David Richenthal explained the predictable financial reasons to ArtsBeat:
It’s simply naïve to think that in this day and age, you’ll be able to sell tickets to a play revival solely on the potential of the production to be a great show or on the potential for an unknown actress to give a breakthrough performance. I would consider it financially irresponsible to approach a major revival without making a serious effort to get a star.
Which is both exactly what you’d expect from a Broadway producer and very naïve in its condescension to Broadway audiences.