Predictably, these events produced epic threads across the tapestry of social media. At least in those I followed, the conversation inevitably turned when one or more posters (if not always, than nearly always, white men) suggested that Hall and Suh were themselves guilty of discrimination by refusing to consider certain actors for certain roles, positions the posters supported by praising "color-blind" productions they have authorized of their own plays. (Here it must be emphasized that neither director asked for Hall's or Suh's permission before casting white actors.) These posters were then told that their opinions do not matter—that they "do not get" to have these opinions—and the arguments quickly degenerated.
Rather than step further into these particular outrages, I would like instead to explore a more general question: As a white playwright, do I have the right to form and express an opinion about "color-blind casting" in plays by writers of color? To begin, I hate this language of "rights," which I think distracts more than illuminates, but it's the default stance for contrarian posters: "I won't let anyone take away my right to my opinion!" begins oh-so-many replies. It would be just as meaningless to proclaim one's right to have ideas. We have opinions because we're human—as long as we're thinking and experiencing, we cannot not have opinions. About everything.
But there's a flip side to opinions, if everyone is having them at every moment: The vast, vast majority are disposable. And so the more interesting—and relevant—question is whether a particular opinion is worth sharing. And if so, to whom? As a white playwright, my opinion is that it's great I don't have to worry much about proponents of "color-blind casting" ignoring—or thwarting—my intentions; on the contrary, it might be thrilling to discover what black or South Asian actors bring to characters I have always imagined as white. As a male playwright, I have the same opinion about "gender-neutral casting." As a straight playwright, I'm open to rethinking heterosexual relationships in my plays as homosexual. It's great to have that privilege!
All these opinions would be relevant—I hope—to a director of my work, and in that context I will eagerly share them and, when necessary, insist they be respected. All these opinions are irrelevant—I believe—to writers of color, to writers who are women or who are gay or who belong to any other group that cannot take my privileges for granted. Of course I "get" to have them. The question I should ask, whether in person or with fingers poised above keyboard, is why anyone else should listen. If my only answer is Because I'm Brent Englar, I should probably do most of the listening. And afterward, I can call up my mom and tell her.