Theater drops ‘Cinderella’ with mostly white cast

Published 7:00 pm Friday, March 26, 2021

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CHANHASSEN — A suburban Minneapolis dinner theater has scrapped plans for a production of “Cinderella” because the cast was mostly white and it didn’t fit with its efforts to become more diverse on and off stage.

Instead of putting on the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Chanhassen Dinner Theatres will make its next production “Footloose,” likely debuting in 2022. The theater company cited its “ongoing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion” in making the move.

Artistic director Michael Brindisi said the cast did not align with its work toward equity and inclusivity.

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“It was 98 percent white,” he said. “That doesn’t work with what we’re saying we’re going to do.”

Brindisi said he considered recasting, but ultimately decided to “start fresh with a clean slate.” Some of the actors were disappointed, he said, “but every one to a person said they got it and that they respected the very hard decision we had to make,” the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

After the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May, Brindisi said he realized it was time to “change our culture and make us more diverse and more equitable as a company. We’ve really dug in on diversity, equity and inclusion, the commitment to social justice and getting more diversity into our business across the board.”

Floyd, a Black man, died after a white police officer pressed his knee against his neck for about nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed and pleading that he couldn’t breathe. The widely seen video set off street protests in Minneapolis, some violent, that spread across the U.S. and the world.

The theater company has hired a diversity consultant, Kelli Foster Warder, who devised a plan to address changes in how the theater operates in the future.

“We wanted to meet it head on,” Brindisi said. “We need to fix things and we’re going to do just that.”