Northwestern students upset burlesque cast didn't represent 'oppressed' groups

Anthony Gockowski
Investigative Reporter

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  • Protesters are “hurt” because the initial casting decisions did not sufficiently represent “marginalized experiences.”
  • Students at Northwestern University (NU) are protesting the school’s annual burlesque show, which typically includes a variety of stripteases where students get “ pretty close to naked.”

    Protesters, however, are not upset with the slightly pornographic content of the show but are “hurt” because the initial casting decisions did not sufficiently represent “marginalized experiences.”

    "...we’re taking that criticism into account and really trying to reestablish a safe space.”   

    “If we’re claiming to be the most diverse show on campus, we need to be better at representing the groups oppressed in our society than the rest of society,” said student Taylor Cumings, who is in her third year with the NU burlesque cast.

    Directors of the show told The Daily Northwestern that they received a number of complaints from students after they posted their casting decisions.

    “It was brought to our attention that there are people in our community who feel that those solos and duets and trios are not best representing what the Burlesque community is. We do have a very inclusive and representative cast at large and we’re taking that criticism into account and really trying to reestablish a safe space,” said co-director Avril Dominguez.

    As a result, directors are holding a second round of auditions to recast the show so that it is more inclusive. Some students, though, were too offended with the decisions and decided to drop out of the show even after the directors announced a recast.

    Genesis Garcia, a student at NU who called the show one of the best things she has done, said she considered leaving the cast because she could see that her fellow students were hurt. “I decided I’ll stay because I want to see changes being made – I want to make sure people are being held accountable and to be held accountable myself. The biggest thing from here on out is accountability.”

    “I decided I’ll stay because I want to see changes being made – I want to make sure people are being held accountable and to be held accountable myself. The biggest thing from here on out is accountability,” Garcia said.

    Other students were upset they were not given a lead role or a solo in the show but directors said they stand by their initial decisions.

    “It’s upsetting to us that people not getting a solo or small group piece makes them feel excluded from the Burlesque community,” said co-director Alaura Hernandez.

    Hernandez pointed out that students are unfairly basing their criticism on a list of names, and may not actually know the students who were casted in lead roles.

    “People are upset because they don’t think we have diversity in our small groups, but they don’t know the people who got solos — all they see is a name, so they might have made an assumption based on those names. We see the diversity in our acts because we saw the auditions, but it’s not our place to broadcast what these acts represent,” she said.

    The directors did, however, establish “a constitution” to ensure casting decisions are more inclusive at the outset moving forward.

    Co-director Lauren Hamilton said the show has never had an issue with casting decisions in the past but agrees the show needs to be more inclusive.

    “Even though this is something new that we’re being confronted with, that doesn’t make it any less valid,” she said. “It’s very important that we are always consciously thinking of deliberate ways to uplift people that are not uplifted in society.”

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    Anthony Gockowski

    Anthony Gockowski

    Investigative Reporter

    Anthony Gockowski is an Investigative Reporter for Campus Reform. He has previously worked for The Daily Caller, Intercollegiate Review, and The Catholic Spirit.

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