The text below was sent to Donna Rosenstein, Head of Casting at Amazon Studios; Jackie Snyder Benz, Senior Casting Associate at Grant Wilfley Casting, and Amy Sherman-Palladino, creator and showrunner of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, regarding a casting notice for “white female dancers” to portray burlesque dancers in the upcoming 4th season of the show.
I am the executive director of the Burlesque Hall of Fame, the world’s premiere museum dedicated to preserving and sharing the history of burlesque. A casting call was recently placed on Backstage (and presumably elsewhere) seeking “White/European Descent” dancers to portray “1960s burlesque-style strip club dancers” to appear on season 4 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
I urge you to rethink casting only white women for these roles. Maybe this approach stems from a mistaken notion of the historical reality in burlesque clubs in the 1960s. As it happens, however, from World War II on, burlesque shows grew increasingly more diverse. By the time Mrs. Maisel hit the comedy scene, most shows included at least one or two BIPOC performers in their lineups. Some of the most popular and well-paid performers of the post-War era were BIPOC women: Toni Elling, Lottie the Body, Princess Lahoma, Jean Idelle, Mitzi Dore, Jadin Wong, and many more appeared on marquees around the world.
It is disappointing to see a show like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, whose main premise is the repeated struggle of a woman to overcome prejudices against her sex, engage in this kind of racial discrimination in its casting. It is doubly disappointing coming from a major studio in a year when issues of prejudice and representation have been front-and-center. Ironically, your casting call is more discriminatory than the casting at the clubs you intend to recreate in your show.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel owes its popularity to the indefatigable spirit of its protagonist, a woman who dares to take on the social limitations of the day and triumphs. A half-century later, surely Amazon can find the courage to do the same!
Please cast BIPOC performers in these roles and throughout the show.
–Dustin M. Wax
Burlesque Hall of Fame
Fkn Awesome says:January 26, 2021 at 3:34 pm
Let’s make Mrs. Maisel black while we’re at it to fill the race quota you so desire…
Dsteel says:March 18, 2021 at 9:58 pm
I would imagine you are one who moans and gripes when historic statues are torn down or places renamed – because it was part of history. The blog author merely pointed out historical accuracy and the irony of the show’s premise vs it’s presentation. Don’t be so angry. Try peace and love.
Ginger Janet says:March 5, 2022 at 5:40 pm
I was burlesque performer durinthe “Neo burlesque” 90’s, and I had the privilege to share the stage with legends such as Dixie Evans. I remember following her act and being gob-smacked that she already knew about me, and gave me the “good on you” wink! It delights me that the legacy of burlesque is so lovingly guarded, but if the issue is the story of women and prejudice, perhaps the argument about the Mrs Maisel casting notice would resonate more coming from, well the voice of the female performer. MR Dustin Wax assuredly advocates with 100% devotion to the burlesque art form and its history; but I wish he’d not taken the route of speaking of behalf of the FEMALE dancers, most of whom are remarkably more talented than myself. There are so many current FEMALE Legends that should be the voice of the ongoing burlesque generation. Not to discount all you do, Mr Wax, but in your mission to support the burlesque legacy, maybe take a step back on the Exec Director status, and forefront the women of this art form. Finally, what has truly upset me is that I am trying to find the credits for the amazing burlesque ladies who performed in Season 4 Mrs Maisel. I can find no names, just this casting drama. Please give these wonderful performers their due instead of drawing attention away from their accomplishment