I have not seen "My Sister's Keeper," the movie which is Abigail Breslin's claim to fame. I am certain she is a fine actress and I certainly wish her the best in her career. There is a bigger issue here, however.
I remember watching "The Mask of Zorro" for the first time. I absolutely loved Antonio Banderas in the role of the masked man. In one of many interviews, Mr. Banderas explained how proud he was, after decades of Anglo-American actors being cast, to be the first Latin man to be cast to play Zorro. He explained how, growing up, he idolized Zorro and watched the series intently. But even as a young Latin man, he noticed and was puzzled as to why someone Latin had never been cast in the role.
This is the concern of many in the disability community. There is a play currently set to release on Broadway about Helen Keller. I have a great deal of admiration for Ms. Keller. One of the first movies that moved me as a child was "The Miracle Worker," the movie about her life. Both major renditions of this story, the 1962 movie version with Patty Duke portraying Ms. Keller, and the 1979 TV version in which Ms. Duke portrayed Helen Keller's assistant Anne Sullivan, were cast using non-disabled actors. Isn't time a blind and/or deaf person was placed in this role?
"...the show's producer, David Richenthal, claims that the production was unable to find a blind or deaf child actor with the star power to bring in enough of an audience to justify the show's large budget, saying "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," he said. "I would consider it financially irresponsible to approach a major revival without making a serious effort to get a star." The show will, however, be making an effort to find a blind or deaf actress to play Breslin's understudy -- but they won't make any promises."
I take exception with his arguement. If a blind or deaf child may be adequate to be cast as an understudy, why not in the lead? I see nothing but draw and appeal to a show that casts a young blind and/or deaf actress playing a lead role in a major production. Can you imagine the appeal? I see all the morning news shows, the "Oprah's" and "Ellen's" clamoring to get interviews and review it.
My guess is that this producer wants to cash in on the story, but that he doesn't really "get" it, which is often the case. He doesn't want to take the time to work with the disability community. He has his bias and is short-sighted, only seeing the box office appeal of this young up and coming actress. How sad.
I do hope that this production is successful in that it opens more people's eyes to the disability community at large. I also hope that in that same vein, it opens this producer's eyes to that same community. Maybe it will allow him to open his mind, as well, by allowing someone who experiences the same disability that he is cashing in on, to portray Ms. Keller.
Check out the original article here.