Hundreds of transgender advocates rallied in Manhattan on September 6 for the Trans March on Broadway following anti-trans statements from Cameron Mackintosh, the producer of the award-winning plays “Les Misérables” “Mary Poppins” “Cats,” among other shows.
Last month, Mackintosh told the Telegraph that casting transgender actors in classic musicals is a “gimmick” and that doing so is “trying to force something that isn’t natural.” The producer also said he would not cast a transgender woman as a lead in “Mary Poppins.” Within days of posting the story, advocates ripped the producer for his transphobic messages and ramped up calls for more representation of transgender actors on Broadway.
Sis, a transgender actor and founder of the Next Generation Project, which organized the Trans March on Broadway, said Mackintosh’s comments brought renewed attention to the ongoing fight for trans, non-binary, and gender-non-conforming actors to be treated fairly and equally in the theater community.
“I’m not marching because of Cameron Mackintosh. I’m marching because there is trans erasure in this industry, and I want to have a conversation about trans people, led by trans people,” Sis told Variety in an interview ahead of the march.
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The march commenced at noon in Central Park’s Sheep’s Meadow and ended in Schubert Alley, the heart of Manhattan’s theater district. Some of the event’s speakers included “RuPaul Drag Race” star and alum Peppermint, actress and Okra Project Founder Ianne Fields Stewart, performer Jayae Riley Jr., Qween Jean of the Stonewall Protests, and Iris and Nora Schell, who are former cast members of “Jagged Little Pill.”
Peppermint, a former cast member of “Head Over Heels,” made history in 2018 as the first out trans woman to originate a principal role on Broadway. During the march, she recalled the challenges of her trans castmembers and echoed calls for transgender actors to work without the weight of discrimination and transphobia.
“When we were starting to rehearse ‘Head Over Heels,’ there was one person who identified as non-binary and was sorting that out during the rehearsal process. They asked their supervisor to use their pronouns, and their name went through so much turmoil and was eventually fired. I felt so horrible that I couldn’t protect this person,” Peppermint said during the march, according to Variety. “This Broadway show that was claiming cred in every newspaper also had other transgender and non-binary people who were feeling unsafe.”
In the wake of the backlash, Mackintosh released a statement apologizing for his transphobic remarks. The producer claims that his answers were “misinterpreted” and that he is not against casting transgender actors in his productions.
— CameronMackintoshLtd (@CamMackLtd) August 30, 2021
“Unfortunately, my answer has been misinterpreted to suggest that I am opposed to casting a transgender performer to play the role,” Mackintosh said in a statement. “This is absolutely not true. I meant only that I would not as a producer disregard the author P.L. Travers’ original intention for the character.”
“To be clear, whether a person is trans has no bearing on their suitability for any role in any of my shows, including Mary Poppins, as long as they can perform the role as written,” he added. “I am very sorry for any distress caused by my remarks being misrepresented. Trans actors are welcome to submit and audition for any of my productions.”
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