An actress who was due to play a bisexual character in a production of The Color Purple will no longer take part in the show after an old social media post, which included homophobic comments, was unearthed.
Seyi Omooba was due to play the lead role of Celie in the forthcoming tour of the musical, but questions were raised about her casting when a post written by the actress on Facebook in 2014 surfaced, in which she claimed homosexuality was not “right”, and that people cannot be born gay.
The Facebook post went viral when Hamilton performer Aaron Lee shared a screenshot on Twitter and said she owed an explanation to the LGBTQ+ community. The character she was to portray has a gay relationship.
Omooba’s post said: “I do not believe you can be born gay, and I do not believe homosexuality is right. [Even] though the law of this land has made it legal doesn’t mean it’s right.”
‘Widely Expressed Concerns’
In a joint statement, Chris Stafford and Nikolai Foster, representing the Leicester Curve and the Birmingham Hippodrome, have now announced that Omooba “will no longer be involved in the production,” after the post resulted in “widely expressed concerns” about her casting.
Curve and Birmingham Hippodrome statement regarding The Color Purple pic.twitter.com/32J8whGQYu
— Curve (@CurveLeicester) March 21, 2019
The musical production of The Color Purple, an adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that was later turned into a film starring Whoopi Goldberg, is due to be staged at the two theatres in July. It follows the life of its “tormented heroine”, Celie, over the course of 40 years.
It has not been made clear whose decision it was for Omooba to leave the show.
“On Friday 15 March a social media post dating from 2014, which was written by The Color Purple cast member Seyi Omooba, was re-posted on Twitter. The comments made by Seyi in that post have caused significant and widely expressed concerns both on social media and in the wider press,” says the producers’ statement.
“Following careful reflection, it has been decided that Seyi will no longer be involved with the production. This decision was supported by the Authors and Theatrical Rights Worldwide,” they add.
Protection From Discrimination
Seyi Omooba in rehearsals for Little Shop of Horrors at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. Credit: Johan Persson
The outrage over Omooba’s casting has sparked debate about the limits of free speech in the arts, and the protection of both sexuality and religious views from discrimination.
However, the difficulty in the case of Omooba is that protections are offered in both the cases of people’s sexual orientation and their religious beliefs.
There is no evidence that she has imposed the views shared on her social media on fellow cast members or creatives involved in The Color Purple, meaning that the protection of the actress’s honestly held religious beliefs have been in conflict with potentially failing to protect the LGBTQ+ staff and community from hate speech.
The Color Purple is due to run from July 16 to July 20.