Archives for category: Diversity

The Fairy Princess had a pretty busy week, and she has a busy week ahead. For those who read my blog regularly, yes, I am working on something in regards to performing PACIFIC OVERTURES without Asians in the show, however, it will take a bit of time, and you will have to wait a bit on that – although she is hoping when it is published, it will stand as a ‘definitive’ post on P.O.

However, just because you do not hear from The Fairy Princess all the time, does not mean that she is not fluttering about, paying attention to various things.

Here I am, paying attention...see - eyes WIDE open....

Here I am, paying attention…see – eyes WIDE open….

And when one pays attention, they can get their wings a bit bent, and that is what happened when she read this article in the LA Times by Betsy Sharkey on ’30 Actors Under 30 Who Matter”.

What The Fairy Princess noticed most on this list was that when it comes to ‘who matters’, the answer is quite clear – blondes. In fact, of all the women on this list – 17 in total, only 4 are brunettes. Only one, Hailee Steinfeld, is ‘ethnic’, she is Eurasian. There are no Latinos or Latinas on this list – at all. Two African American men. No African American women. One South Asian man.

To be fair, writer Betsy Sharkey acknowledges that her ‘list’ is whiter than I would like because of Hollywood’s continued bad casting habits‘, however by titling those listed as the ones ‘who matter’, Ms. Sharkey is contributing to the problem, not helping solve it.

While we can all acknowledge that television is leading the way in bringing Diversity to our screens, Indie film falls sadly behind. This is due of course, to most Indie films that make it to the big screens being written and directed by Caucasian males – and a large majority of them are based on some sort of retrospective of the writer/director’s life as a coming of age young man. Apparently they all lived in some generic American town that was quirky in the extreme and they were bereft of even a token ethnic friend, (which could be in part why they left), but really…who knows?

Bland upbringing means blonde casting. If they want the female lead to have depth, she is a blond with roots or a light haired brunette. She is wry, quirky, self-deprecating, but as this list points out, she is startlingly similar to the last Indie darling found by the last hailed Indie genius.

What is ‘wrong’ with this list is not, in fact, that these Actors are working, but that they are being held up in a way that Actors of Color are not – which takes an already un-level playing field and tilts it even further away from Diversity towards a very specific look.

Should Indie films continue their ‘all look same’ policy, the breadth of stories being told will become far narrower, their appeal far less, and all in all – it will contribute to the decline of Indie film as a place to go for exciting stories – after all, how many ‘coming of age gawky teen films full of desire for the cheerleader AND the ‘alt’ girl‘ are we, the general public supposed to swallow? We can only be sidetracked by their wearing some sort of superhero or 1970′s garb for so long before we realize they are, indeed, all looking and sounding quite similar.

What is happening to you, Indie Filmmakers? Why so bland?

May The Fairy Princess make a suggestion? Do not just ‘write what you know“, write what you can imagine. SEE people, SEE that stories come in all shades and sizes, and that beauty is not in the eye of the beholder, but in how the DP lights you. If you cannot cast your film with a Person of Color in a major role or large supporting, then perhaps you should look to another profession – because the art of cinema is in how you visually paint your palette – and if there are no other colors, what are you painting exactly?

It was not that long ago that Indie film was where people looked to see diverse stories – let us remember America Ferrara, who starred in the breakout film, Real Women Have Curves – which was directed by Patricia Cordoso and written by Josefina Lopez and George LaVoo in 2002. Ms. Ferrara has had a great career in television and voice over since then. Her success in Indie film helped changed the television landscape with the show, Ugly Betty.

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Another was Gabourey Sidibe who starred in Precious, which was directed by Lee Daniels, based on a book by Sapphire in 2009. She too, has gone on to a successful career in film and television.

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Or the Cast of Better Luck Tomorrow, directed by Justin Lin, in 2002. All still working.

L-R: John Cho, Karin Anna Cheung, Parry Shen, Roger Fan, Jason Tobin, Sung Kang

L-R: John Cho, Karin Anna Cheung, Parry Shen, Roger Fan, Jason Tobin, Sung Kang

2002 was a good year for Diversity in Indie Film. It is now 2014 – and now, we have this list to tell us who are the ‘breakout’ stars for this new generation, and it includes no Latins and no Black women.

Diversity behind the camera, brings Diversity to the camera.

Here’s the truth, The Fairy Princess does not have a problem with any of the Actors on this list, she enjoys their work. TFP does not even have a problem with the writing OF this list, because the list is based on box office and Q ratings and numbers, but the title of the list IS a problem. Because it says that these are the 30 ‘who matter‘, and by inference, anyone not on that list does NOT matter.

So who does ‘not matter’ in show business, which is the subliminal take away from Ms. Sharkey’s article? Latinos, Black Women, Asian Men, South Asian Women, Middle Easterns and most Mixed Raced people.

Those are who do NOT matter.

This list is now in the hands of every Casting Director, Show Runner, Executive, and Aspiring Director as a veritable ‘who’s who’ of how to get your show or film funded, the people on this list are now ‘bankable’, and bankable means green-lit.

This list gives a play by play of how to get your film to the next level of serious consideration and the great thing about it is, as demonstrated, if you cannot get Elle Fanning, you go to Chloe Grace Moretz, and if she passes or is unavailable, and you can bring yourself to even envision a brunette, you could think about offering it to Hailee Steinfeld. If you want super hot but slightly weird you can turn to Ellen Page, and if she is not available there is always Rooney Mara, who managed this year to get cast as a Native American, simply by dint of hair color!

Because she ‘matters’.

That is the danger of this list.

With respect to Ms. Sharkey, she is not ‘responsible’ per se for up and coming actors and who they are or what ethnicity they inhabit. What she is responsible for is the way in which she has them presented. To her credit, when The Fairy Princess tweeted her about the lack of diversity on her list, she responded with a request to be enlightened (something that is presented as open minded while wearing blinders).

The Fairy Princess took it as an honest invitation, but perhaps it was not.

Ms. Sharkey also mentioned via Twitter, and it is worth repeating, that Diversity is more apparent in Actors ages 30 and up, which is somewhat hopeful and yet, appalling. Because she writes about film, and she could not name Diverse Actors in their 20′s.

The Fairy Princess has asked around and has done some research and while she may not get to 30 because of the ‘rules’ of the list – she is limited to rising film stars and not television stars (where it is acknowledged there is growing diversity), she wants to be clear that the Actors and Actresses of Color who are in their 20′s working in film ALSO ‘Matter”.

In fact, they matter more – because they are the .001% of those who have the talent to already be working in the film industry despite their not being a petite blonde whose grew up in show business or the willowy one who can do stunts while being gorgeous and wry. In fact, TFP will allow up to age 30 to be considered for this list because once upon a time, those who just turned 30 were in their 20′s. For some, it may be only moments ago.

These 20 somethings have succeeded in spite of the Industry. If TFP misses anyone who should be considered, please of course, list them in the comments – her hope is that this list too, will become a ‘short list’ of who to go to.

The parameters are again, film – successful and noted Indie films and Blockbuster Hollywood Franchises. Not the short that got you a mention in the Film Festival in your town. Not the grad school film that you appeared in for a copy on DVD. No Youtube ‘stars’  who are ‘famous‘ – just because you have ‘hits’ and money from those hits to live on does not make you an actor or actress of note.

Blockbuster Films and well lauded Indie films are the requirement to be on this list. Future projects are listed, but they are not ‘required’ to be on this list – the requirement is age, and credits.

Anything else would prove the point Ms. Sharkey has unwittingly made – that there are few Diverse actors to choose from when making film, and we all know that is NOT true in the slightest.

The Fairy Princess pulled from the world wide web, her memory, and friends to make sure she had options, so come with her now and see how she did….

PATINA MILLER (29) TONY Winner for her role in the Broadway Revival of PIPPIN, TONY Nominee for originating the role of Deloris Van Cartier in the Broadway musical version of SISTER ACT. Next to be seen on the big screen as Commander Paylor in THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY.

PATINA MILLER (29) TONY Winner for her role in the Broadway Revival of PIPPIN, TONY Nominee for originating the role of Deloris Van Cartier in the Broadway musical version of SISTER ACT. Next to be seen on the big screen as Commander Paylor in THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY.

TAO OKUMOTO (29) A model turned actress, she played opposite HUGH JACKMAN in The Wolverine, and will next grace the big screen in the Blockbuster BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN

TAO OKAMOTO (29) A model turned actress, she played opposite HUGH JACKMAN in The Wolverine, and will next grace the big screen in the Blockbuster BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN

FREIDA PINTO (29) another of the breakout stars of SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, and will play a heroine addicted Iranian Artiste in the upcoming film, DESERT DANCER

FREIDA PINTO (29) another of the breakout stars of SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, she will play a heroine addicted Iranian Artiste in the upcoming film, DESERT DANCER

ROMEO MILLER (24) First appeared in a mainstream film in HONEY opposite Jessica Alba in  2003. In  2011 he starred in JUMPING THE BROOM. He appeared in MAEDA's WITNESS PROTECTION PROGRAM in 2012, and will play the lead in the Urban Strip Drama,  CHOCOLATE CITY from Writer/Director  Jean Claude LaMarr - just announced by Nikkie Finke.  Mr. Miller has 3 films currently in Post-Production: LOOSE, BROTHERLY LOVE, SHAKER POINTE, and ONE HEART

ROMEO MILLER (24) First appeared in a mainstream film in HONEY opposite Jessica Alba in 2003. In 2011 he starred in JUMPING THE BROOM. He appeared in MAEDA’s WITNESS PROTECTION PROGRAM in 2012, and will play the lead in the Urban Strip Drama, CHOCOLATE CITY from Writer/Director Jean Claude LaMarr – just announced by Nikkie Finke. Mr. Miller has 3 films currently in Post-Production: LOOSE, BROTHERLY LOVE, SHAKER POINTE, and ONE HEART

UTKARSH AMBUDKAR (30) began his film career with ROCKET SCIENCE in 2007, and went on to do quite a lot of TV work before appearing in PITCH PERFECT in 2012,  he is currently rumored to be reprising his role in PITCH PERFECT 2, according to IMDB.

UTKARSH AMBUDKAR (30) began his film career with ROCKET SCIENCE in 2007, and went on to do quite a lot of TV work before appearing in PITCH PERFECT in 2012, he is currently rumored to be reprising his role in PITCH PERFECT 2, according to IMDB.

 

KATIE LEUNG (26) this Scottish Actress is best known for playing Cho Chang in the HARRY POTTER film franchise. Her acting career seems to be growing most on stage - WILD SWANS, WORLD OF EXTREME HAPPINESS (The Shed at The National Theater 2013), and on the BBC in the Father Brown series. She was also named one of Scotland's Most Stylish Females

KATIE LEUNG (26) this Scottish Actress is best known for playing Cho Chang in the HARRY POTTER film franchise. Her acting career seems to be growing most on stage – WILD SWANS, WORLD OF EXTREME HAPPINESS (The Shed at The National Theater 2013), and on the BBC in the Father Brown series. She was also named one of Scotland’s Most Stylish Females

KARAN SONI (25) Appeared in the Indie hit film, SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED, which won numerous awards.  He is currently filming a GOOSEBUMPS movie and an indie called B-Roll in addition to appearing in numerous TV shows.

KARAN SONI (25) Appeared in the Indie hit film, SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED, which won numerous awards.
He is currently filming a GOOSEBUMPS movie and an indie called B-Roll in addition to appearing in numerous TV shows.

NATHALIE KELLEY (29) this Aussie is of Peruvian and Argentinian descent. Best known for appearing in THE FAST & THE FURIOUS; TOKYO DRIFT she also appeared in the feature TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT and will reprise her role in FAST & FURIOUS 7

NATHALIE KELLEY (29) this Aussie is of Peruvian and Argentinian descent. Best known for appearing in THE FAST & THE FURIOUS; TOKYO DRIFT she also appeared in the feature TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT and will reprise her role in FAST & FURIOUS 7

 

NATHALIE EMMANUEL (25) this UK Actress has a combined heritage that included Dominican, St. Lucian, and British. Though most may know her as Missandei,  the Interpreter for Khaleesi in GAME OF THRONES, she is set to light up the Big Screen in FAST & FURIOUS 7. She has also appeared in the stage musical of THE LION KING in The West End playing Nala.

NATHALIE EMMANUEL (25) this UK Actress has a combined heritage that included Dominican, St. Lucian, and British. Though most may know her as Missandei, the Interpreter for Khaleesi in GAME OF THRONES, she is set to light up the Big Screen in FAST & FURIOUS 7. She has also appeared in the stage musical of THE LION KING in The West End playing Nala.

TYLER  JAMES WILLIAMS (21) starring in the upcoming Indie film DEAR WHITE PEOPLE from writer/director Justin Simien.

TYLER JAMES WILLIAMS (21) starring in the upcoming Indie film DEAR WHITE PEOPLE from writer/director Justin Simien.

VANESSA HUDGENS  (25) has a mixed ethnic background of Filipina, Irish and Native American, she is known for the Indie film THIRTEEN, THUNDERBIRDS, SUCKER PUNCH and SPRING BREAKERS. Her next project is a Pre-Broadway workshop of the musical, GIGI by Lerner & Lowe

VANESSA HUDGENS (25) has a mixed ethnic background of Filipina, Irish and Native American, she is known for the Indie film THIRTEEN, THUNDERBIRDS, SUCKER PUNCH and SPRING BREAKERS. Her next project is a Pre-Broadway workshop of the musical, GIGI by Lerner & Lowe

KEKE PALMER (20) shot to fame as the lead character of Akeelah in the indie, AKEELAH AND THE BEE. She has a long resume that includes the Animated feature ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT, JOYFUL NOISE, THE CLEANER, and BARBERSHOP 2:Back In Business. She will next reprise her role as Peaches in ICE AGE 5, she has a film called THE PIMP in Pre-Production, and another film, BROTHERLY LOVE in Post Production.

KEKE PALMER (20) shot to fame as the lead character of Akeelah in the indie, AKEELAH AND THE BEE. She has a long resume that includes the Animated feature ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT, JOYFUL NOISE, THE CLEANER, and BARBERSHOP 2:Back In Business.
She will next reprise her role as Peaches in ICE AGE 5, she has a film called THE PIMP in Pre-Production, and another film, BROTHERLY LOVE in Post Production.

ADAM BAKRI (26) star of the Palestinian film OMAR, which was nominated for an ACADEMY AWARD for Best Foreign Film in 2013. The Film won the Special Jury Prize in Cannes. He self identifies as a Palestinian Israeli, who now lives in the US full time. His next project is the feature film ALI AND NINO directed by Asif Kapadia. The story is regarded as 'the jewel of Azerbaijiani literature' and charts a romance between a Muslim Prince and a Georgian Christian Princess, the book was published in 1937 and written by Kurban Said

ADAM BAKRI (26) star of the Palestinian film OMAR, which was nominated for an ACADEMY AWARD for Best Foreign Film in 2013. The Film won the Special Jury Prize in Cannes.
He self identifies as a Palestinian Israeli, who now lives in the US full time.
His next project is the feature film ALI AND NINO directed by Asif Kapadia. The story is regarded as ‘the jewel of Azerbaijiani literature’ and charts a romance between a Muslim Prince and a Georgian Christian Princess, the book was published in 1937 and written by Kurban Said

HANA MAE LEE (27) This Korean American Actress started modeling at 16 for major brands before making the leap to Acting. She is known for her roles in PITCH PERFECT and will reprise it for PITCH PERFECT 2.

HANA MAE LEE (27) This Korean American Actress started modeling at 16 for major brands before making the leap to Acting. She is known for her role in PITCH PERFECT and will reprise it for PITCH PERFECT 2.

JAMES FLOYD (28) This UK Actor who is half Indian-Singaporean and half British won the Best Newcomer Award last year at the British Indie Film Awards for his role in MY BROTHER THE DEVIL. He has also been seen in THE INFIDEL (2010) and EVERYWHERE AND NOWHERE (2011)

JAMES FLOYD (28) This UK Actor who is half Indian-Singaporean and half British won the Best Newcomer Award last year at the British Indie Film Awards for his role in MY BROTHER THE DEVIL. He has also been seen in THE INFIDEL (2010) and EVERYWHERE AND NOWHERE (2011)

TESSA THOMPSON (30) - WHEN A STRANGER CALLS (2006), MAKE IT HAPPEN (2008) ,FOR COLORED GIRLS (2010). Next up for her, the highly anticipated Indie DEAR WHITE PEOPLE

TESSA THOMPSON (30) – WHEN A STRANGER CALLS (2006), MAKE IT HAPPEN (2008) ,FOR COLORED GIRLS (2010). Next up for her, the highly anticipated Indie DEAR WHITE PEOPLE

BRITTENY ALGER (25) is listed as having Mixed Ethnicity by her Agent, and hails from New Orleans. She has appeared in the films PITCH PERFECT, 21 JUMP STREET, and THE DEMENTED. She will next appear in FAST & FURIOUS 7 as Jasmine.

BRITTENY ALGER (25) is listed as having Mixed Ethnicity by her Agent, and hails from New Orleans. She has appeared in the films PITCH PERFECT, 21 JUMP STREET, and THE DEMENTED. She will next appear in FAST & FURIOUS 7 as Jasmine.

DARREN CRISS (27) appeared opposite comedic heavy hitter Kristen Wiig, in GIRL MOST LIKELY. Mr. Criss is Eurasian, having heritages of Chinese, Spanish, Filipino, English, German, and Northern Irish

DARREN CRISS (27) appeared opposite comedic heavy hitter Kristen Wiig, in GIRL MOST LIKELY.
Mr. Criss is Eurasian, having heritages of Chinese, Spanish, Filipino, English, German, and Northern Irish

ODETTE ANNABLE (29) She has been seen in CLOVERFIELD (2008), THE UNBORN (2009), AND SOON THE DARKNESS (2010), YOU AGAIN (2010) She will next appear in the feature film, THE TRUTH ABOUT LIES, which is in post

ODETTE ANNABLE (29)  whose heritage is French, Italian and Cuban took her Husband’s name, her original surname was Yustman. She has been seen in CLOVERFIELD (2008), THE UNBORN (2009), AND SOON THE DARKNESS (2010), YOU AGAIN (2010)She will next appear in the feature film, THE TRUTH ABOUT LIES, which is in post. She was raised in a Spanish speaking household and is fluent.

TRISTAN WILDS (24) has appeared in THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES (2008), the Indie HALF NELSON (2006), and RED TAILS (2012) TRISTAN has been quoted as saying "I get offered a lot of black roles because apparently, I don't look Latino enough"

TRISTAN WILDS (24) has appeared in THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES (2008), the Indie HALF NELSON (2006), and RED TAILS (2012)
TRISTAN has been quoted as saying “I get offered a lot of black roles because apparently, I don’t look Latino enough”

ALEXA PENAVEGA (26)  started off her film career with the SPY KIDS films, and also appeared in the film REPO, THE GENETIC OPERA. She has 5 new films coming out - DWELLER (pre-prod), SPARE PARTS (post-prod), SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR (Post Prod), 2 BR/1BA, 23 BLAST, and THE REMAINING.

ALEXA PENAVEGA (26) started off her film career with the SPY KIDS films, and also appeared in the film REPO, THE GENETIC OPERA. She has 5 new films coming out – DWELLER (pre-prod), SPARE PARTS (post-prod), SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR (Post Prod), 2 BR/1BA, 23 BLAST, and THE REMAINING.

LEILA BEKHTI (30) is a French Actress of Algerian descent. She won the coveted Cesar Award for Most Promising Actress for her role in TOUT CE  QUI BRILLE,  which was a critical and commercial success. She starred in THE SOURCE, competed at Cannes in 2011.  In 2013 BEFORE THE WINTER CHILL, and in 2014 Maintenant ou jamais.

LEILA BEKHTI (30) is a French Actress of Algerian descent. She won the coveted Cesar Award for Most Promising Actress for her role in TOUT CE QUI BRILLE, which was a critical and commercial success. She starred in THE SOURCE, competed at Cannes in 2011. In 2013 BEFORE THE WINTER CHILL, and in 2014 MAINTENANT OU JAMAIS

DESIREE AKHAVAN (29) is a Writer, Filmmaker, and Actress whose feature, APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR is being shown at LA's OUTFEST 2014. She has been called "The next Lena Dunham" and refers to herself as a Bisexual Iranian American.  This film was her thesis for NYU's Graduate Directing Program, and premiered at Sundance Film Festival.  The LA Times just did a feature article on her - coincidentally, the same paper that the 30 under 30 list appeared.

DESIREE AKHAVAN (29) is a Writer, Filmmaker, and Actress whose feature, APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR is being shown at LA’s OUTFEST 2014. She has been called “The next Lena Dunham” and refers to herself as a Bisexual Iranian American.
This film was her thesis for NYU’s Graduate Directing Program, and premiered at Sundance Film Festival.
The LA Times just did a feature article on her – coincidentally, the same paper that the 30 under 30 list appeared.

MALESE JOW (23) has appeared in THE SOCIAL NETWORK, BRATZ the movie. Upcoming she has the film, PLASTIC

MALESE JOW (23) has appeared in THE SOCIAL NETWORK, BRATZ the movie. Upcoming she has the film, PLASTIC

Ki HON LEE (24) has appeared in SHE HAS A BOYFRIEND (2013), THIS IS HOW WE NEVER MET (2013). He will be playing Minho in the film adaptation of James Dashner's THE MAZE RUNNER

KI HONG LEE (24) has appeared in SHE HAS A BOYFRIEND (2013), THIS IS HOW WE NEVER MET (2013). He will be playing Minho in the film adaptation of James Dashner’s THE MAZE RUNNER

AML AMEEN (28) this UK Native appeared in Lee Daniel's film THE BUTLER playing a younger version of Forrest Whittaker's character, Cecil Gaines.  He will appear in THE MAZE RUNNER Trilogy later this year, as well as in the the feature LILA & EVE opposite Jennifer Lopez & Viola Davis. He will also appear this year in the feature BLACKBIRD alongside Minnie Driver and Danny Glover.

AML AMEEN (28) this UK Native appeared in Lee Daniel’s film THE BUTLER playing a younger version of Forrest Whittaker’s character, Cecil Gaines. He will appear in THE MAZE RUNNER Trilogy later this year, as well as in the the feature LILA & EVE opposite Jennifer Lopez & Viola Davis. He will also appear this year in the feature BLACKBIRD alongside Minnie Driver and Danny Glover.

NATASHA WANGANEEN (30), This Aussie Native is shown here with her 2004 AFI Award for her turn in the film RABBIT PROOF FENCE. She also appeared in JESSICA in 2004

NATASHA WANGANEEN (30), This Aussie Native is shown here with her 2004 AFI Award for her turn in the film RABBIT PROOF FENCE. She also appeared in JESSICA in 2004

JESSICA HILDA MAUBOY (25) is an Australian Actress who gained International notice when she starred in the Indie film, THE SAPPHIRES (2012). She earned a AACTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. She appeared in the Aboriginal Musical Film,  BRAN NUE DAY. She is also a Pop Star in Australia  and was nominated in 2013 for "Young Australian of the Year". She is of Indonesian and Indigenous Australian descent.

JESSICA HILDA MAUBOY (25) is an Australian Actress who gained International notice when she starred in the Indie film, THE SAPPHIRES (2012). She earned a AACTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.
She appeared in the Aboriginal Musical Film, BRAN NUE DAY. She is also a Pop Star in Australia and was nominated in 2013 for “Young Australian of the Year”.
She is of Indonesian and Indigenous Australian descent.

QUVENZHANE WALLIS (10) is known for her roles in 2 Oscar Nominated Films - BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (2012) and 12 YEARS A SLAVE (2013). Next up for her is starring in the reboot of the latest film version of the musical, ANNIE

QUVENZHANE WALLIS (10) is known for her roles in 2 Oscar Nominated Films – BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (2012) and 12 YEARS A SLAVE (2013). Next up for her is starring in the reboot of the latest film version of the musical, ANNIE

KEISHA CASTLE-HUGHES (24) nothing like launching an Indie career by riding in on the back of a Cetacean, but this actress from Western Australia is known for her debut in WHALE RIDER (2002). She also has been seen in THE NATIVITY STORY (2006), STAR WARS REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005), RED DOG (2011), with a rumored part in GAME OF THRONES coming up. She has completed filming on 2 features - MILLION DOLLAR MATE and QUEEN OF CARTHAGE

KEISHA CASTLE-HUGHES (24) nothing like launching an Indie career by riding in on the back of a Cetacean, but this actress from Western Australia is known for her debut in WHALE RIDER (2002). She also has been seen in THE NATIVITY STORY (2006), STAR WARS REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005), RED DOG (2011), with a rumored part in GAME OF THRONES coming up. She has completed filming on 2 features – MILLION DOLLAR MATE and QUEEN OF CARTHAGE

Well heavens, The Fairy Princess made it to a list of 30!

Now, of course, Dear Reader,  this will spark your memory and you will OF COURSE comment on who was left off of this list – AS WELL YOU SHOULD. Let us make the list longer!

One group which she wanted to include was Native Americans, there are quite a few from The Twilight Movies, however – they generally did not have their birth dates listed on IMDB, so The Fairy Princess could not determine – given the parameters of the list – whether or not she could include them on this particular list.

The Fairy Princess did want to let you all know that there is a wonderful list of NA Actors on IMDB, and if you click HERE, you will find it – and Congratulations to them all, TFP was glad to know that there were so many.

The Fairy Princess is not a professional writer who patrols screenings and looks for new talent as part of her job, she is someone who blogs about Diversity and what lack of Diversity does to our culture at large – and this list took her one day to compile.

ONE. DAY.

And, there is NO DOUBT that she could have written more, there is not a doubt that she could have gotten higher than 30, but… she has to go to bed. That is the truth. The Fairy Princess has a toddler who will be awake and chatty at 5:30 am, just as he is EVERY morning, and simply put….she has to call it a day.

However, she wants you to remember, that the next time someone deigns to tell you who or what ‘matters’, that it is clearly something to ignore.

We all matter – whether it is to your Family, your Friends, your Career – YOU matter. Do not let Hollywood and it’s lack of creativity in Casting have any effect on your personal feelings about yourself because The Fairy Princess SEES you, she does, and take it from her – YOU MATTER.

10 smacks with the wand to Ms. Sharkey, who in one fell swoop, managed to push the Hollywood agenda steadily forward, by paying lip service to the problem, but not, in any way, becoming part of the solution.

Dear Ms. Sharkey The Fairy Princess has no idea why your list was so heavily stilted towards blonde actresses…

Betsy+Sharkey+AMPAS+Celebrates+30th+Anniversary+XyLiSO04rtZl

but she could take a guess.

Let’s do better next time.

Also, please take a look at this new film’s trailer…because we are getting restless, and when we do, we People of Color,  we get funny….

 

 

The Fairy Princess has a two year old – most people who read my blog know that. She blogs, generally, about diversity in theater and representation on television – and Diversity is an ongoing conversation.

The reason the conversation about Diversity is ongoing is because the world is not run by, this is a generalization and The Fairy Princess knows that, however it is a generalization for a reason – not because this is intended to be a rallying cry – the world is not run by People of Color.

Unless you work for Shonda Rhimes.

Are there People of Color everywhere?

Yes.

However The Fairy Princess and her Family reside in the United States. She is also a Member of the UK Commonwealth by Citizenship, so in HER world – barring The President of the United States – the world is run by white people.

White, straight people.

Caucasian Cisgendered People who enjoy a greater sense of Privilege.

Now, The Fairy Princess‘s Father was a Caucasian Cisgendered male – so she has nothing against people who identify themselves that way – unless in impacts the way in which she lives, or  the way her family lives -changes their ability to walk about the world doing whatever it is one does all day – with us, it is generally auditions, drink coffee, creative meetings, physical health maintenance and making sure that my child lives the fullest life for his age group that any child can live. Your regular creative nightmare.

Today, she took her child to the local pool. Her child, whose heritage is Korean, Chinese, Irish and Welsh, is one who, by appearance, looks 100% Asian. He is gorgeous. The Fairy Princess has been told this by People who work in Entertainment, so of course it must be true because People in Entertainment are always honest.

Ahem.

Personal attractiveness aside, she will say, her kid has an amazing personality and a love of life that reminds her every day that we should all strive to be as full of the wonder of the world as we can.

Anyway, today she took him to the local pool – he looked very cute. He was running around enjoying himself, with Mommy only a few steps away because…well…there was water and he was in the pool, capice?

Everyone who looked at him enjoying himself and laughing, smiled.

Even the very cute little 5, possibly 6 year old girl who was near him in the water. It is a wading pool, and kids younger than 8 generally stay in this area.

As this lovely little Caucasian girl with the long lovely brown hair looked at him, she smiled. She looked up at me and she smiled. She looked at The Fairy Princess‘s son, who was laughing and splashing, and smiled again. Then she looked at The Fairy Princess and asked her a question.

“Can he see?”

The Fairy Princess took a second, because well…she had to watch her son, and also, she wanted to take stock of the situation in full, to see if she understood it correctly. Which is when the question was expanded.

“Can he open his eyes?”

Because The Fairy Princess‘s son has beautiful and expressive Asian shaped eyes. Asian eyes tend to be smaller in appearance than Caucasian eyes, but they are not. They are the same sized eye that everyone has -  generally, Asians have an epicanthic fold – which is just skin, Folks, it’s just skin. The eyeballs are the same size as anyone else.

Yes, we can see.

This is why Diversity on our television screens and on our stages and forty feet high in the movies matters.

This little girl, it seems, has has no interaction with Asian Americans, and her question was simply her trying to understand something that she had never seen. So she asked a question that, had The Fairy Princess‘s son been older and more aware, probably would have hurt his feelings. It might have made him, had he been older and more able to understand, question his own worthiness. It might have, had he been older and more able to understand, might have made him shut down and feel isolated.

The Fairy Princess never wants that to happen to her son, so she has surrounded him, since birth, with people who all walk different paths. He is awash in the love and kindness of so many, that it gives him a confidence and an armor to go out into the world where he will, no doubt, hear this kind of question again – only not given so innocently.

The next time he hears it, it could be to belittle him, or used as a tool to make him leave a situation. The next time he hears it, it could be the prelude to violence – the thought of which keeps The Fairy Princess up at night, because no matter how safe you feel in America, a Person of Color – like any woman walking around the world anywhere, has to keep an awareness of personal safety that straight, white, cisgendered males do not.

This little girl was not, herself, being racist. She was trying to understand because in her daily life, and in the life her Parents have allowed her to enjoy – she does not, it is clear, encounter People of Color. No one has explained to her that the world is large, and that people come in all shapes and shades, and that love can be all manner of things to all manner of people. No one has shared with her the notion that there are questions that are inappropriate, or that just because someone looks different to you or acts different to you, it is not your ‘right’ to demand an answer for their existence.

This little girl and her question are why we need, at a young age, to be exposed to different peoples. Not just racially – there are people with disabilities, and people who love people of the same sex. There are people who come from cultures where facial tattoos are a right of passage, or people who have lost limbs to war. There are people who began life as one type of person and have found that they are another type of person. There are people who have weight issues, or people who have scars…there are so many different types of people in the world.

They all deserve to walk about the planet without having answers demanded of them, with no notice, from someone who only knows one type of world – even if the person asking is only five. Or six.

The Fairy Princess‘s answer to this little girl, who smiled so innocently while asking was brief, “Yes, he can see.”

The Fairy Princess‘s look at this little girl’s Mother, bikini clad in a Lily Pulitzer transparent cover up, standing outside the water but able to hear every word her daughter asked, said a bit more.

Ahem.

The little girl’s Mother pulled her out of the pool rather quickly, and, one hopes, took her home to give her a talk on the Diversity of the planet, perhaps she popped in a DVD of Disney’s Mulan or something to explain it further. Hopefully, this little girl’s Mother now realizes that what she is giving her child – confidence, charm, inquisitiveness – perhaps needs to be expanded by visiting museums, and venturing to other areas like New York City. Perhaps she will realize that she is doing her child, and my child, a disservice by presenting only one world view.

Perhaps she will not.

However, if our television screens continue to diversify, if our films continue to show different types of people, if our stages start to represent our entire populations – that little girl will have exposure to other peoples. No one will be ‘foreign’ to her, she will have seen a world that encompasses many things.

As she grows, if she sees Diversity, her questions will hopefully focus less on appearance and more on…oh, science or art or music or the environment or…there is so much more to focus on, when we all can just accept one another without demanding answers for another person’s existence, for when we stop asking why someone looks the way they look. Perhaps if she can stop with the questionable questions, she will be able to set about finding answers – to things like world peace, conservation, global warming, sex trafficking…that little girl seemed very bright, The Fairy Princess bets she could do it.

That is why Diversity matters, because lack of Diversity makes the conversation stop and focus only on one aspect, and there is so much more to see and do, than ask if Asian people can open their eyes.

The Fairy Princess hopes that, in hearing her child ask an Asian American child if they could see, that little girl’s Mother learned a lesson today too.

Because the next time, that Mother might get more than a look from The Fairy Princess, she might get an earful too.

The Fairy Princess wanted the weekend off.

After all, she had brought up a few uncomfortable topics in the last week – the TONYS and AFTER MIDNIGHT not having a Cast Recording…she thought she was done for the week. Plus which, she was just informed that – in what could only be termed as excellent timing – Lincoln Center Archives announced that they were going to tape AFTER MIDNIGHT for their records, so the show will not go quietly into that dark night, never to be heard from again.

The Fairy Princess was feeling good!

Dance Break!

 

Until she read the New York Times review of the revival of The King & I currently up in Paris till June 29 -

‘If there is a theater outside the English-speaking world where productions of American musical comedies equal or surpass those of Broadway, Théâtre du Châtelet is it.’

The Fairy Princess has a few objections to this sentence in general – first, Rogers and Hammerstein’s The King & I is not a musical comedy. Which tells me that the ‘critic’ writing this piece has already veered away from credibility. He could have said that Théâtre du Châtelet is the premiere house for English language musical productions or something, but he chose to focus on comedy as the main characteristic of this house’s renown.

To that end, The Fairy Princess must concur because when she perused the article further, this production could only be labeled a farce, once one has seen the casting.

But let us look back…yet again….at the real King of Siam that is the basis for this character:

Phra Bat Somdet Phra Poramenthra Maha Mongkut Phra Chom Klao Chao Yu Hua (Thai: พระบาทสมเด็จพระปรเมนทรมหามงกุฎ พระจอมเกล้าเจ้าอยู่หัว), or Rama IV, known in English-speaking countries as King Mongkut (18 October 1804 – 1 October 1868), was the fourth monarch of Siam (Thailand) under the House of Chakri, ruling from 1851–1868. He was one of the most revered monarchs of the country.

King Mongkut (18 October 1804 – 1 October 1868), was the fourth monarch of Siam (Thailand) under the House of Chakri, ruling from 1851–1868. He was one of the most revered monarchs of the country.

Ah yes, King Mongkut – quite a dignified man – a beloved man, a Siamese (now what we would call Thai) man.

An actual man.

Who actually lived and ruled and had children and prospered and was an actual living, breathing Asian man.

And this is what Théâtre du Châtelet and it’s Scottish director, Lee Blakely came up with:

Actor Lambert Wilson

Actor Lambert Wilson

The Fairy Princess is confused. With over 66,000 views of her blog on these varying incidents, she would have thought that she could actually retire now, we all have been seen, repeatedly telling the white people that this:

Oh BUDDHA, GIMME THE AID OF YOUR STRENGTH AND WISDOM BEFORE THE FAIRY PRINCESS GOES TO FRANCE AND PUNCHES A SCOTTSMAN.....OHMMMMMM

Oh BUDDHA, GIMME THE AID OF YOUR STRENGTH AND WISDOM BEFORE THE FAIRY PRINCESS GOES TO FRANCE AND PUNCHES A SCOTSMAN…..OHM!

is not ok.

As one can clearly see from this photo – there are indeed, Asian heritaged dancers and singers in France, because there they are right behind the esteemed Lambert Wilson.

So the white washing of this production only applies to certain leads -  check out Lady Thiang:

Scottish Soprano Lisa Milne in Fidelio

Scottish Soprano Lisa Milne in Fidelio

Yep, totally getting Queen of Siam from this photo – anyone else getting it?

The Fairy Princess is lying, there is no getting Lady Thiang from this photo.

That is what is a puzzlement about this production – they clearly know where Siam is, and they clearly know that Asian heritaged peoples should be IN Siam – because the singers playing Tuptim and Kralahome and Lun Tha not to mention the choir et al are, in fact, Asian heritaged singers and dancers.

It is just the two leads that are the ‘star’ roles where the story does not matter. It seems, in fact, a bit like friends got together and thought about a show they would like to do and then hired all the Asians as backdrop for their ethnic hubris, believing no one would notice.

The Fairy Princess noticed.

Now, everyone knows that France has innate problems with racism – there are articles like this one, and this one, and this one…it’s endless. There is a Wikipedia page devoted to racism in France, holy wow!

We get it France, you do not like anyone.

Heck, France didn’t even like MISS FRANCE!

It’s like hating brie or Impressionism or wine- how can you hate MISS FRANCE?

Miss France 2014, Flora Coquerel

Miss France 2014, Flora Coquerel

Though, curiously, you loved Josephine Baker…

American born singer, Josephine Baker, a star of the Folies Berger

American born singer, Josephine Baker

So ironic – take it away Gigi -

 

Perhaps it is better to say, that while there is plenty of racism in France, both then and now, in the Arts, there has always been a home for Artists of Color. Some even called the freedom offered to People of Color in Paris in the 1920′s, a Renaissance.

Which is why it is curious that Théâtre du Châtelet would pick a piece that is meant to represent the ultimate struggle against racism and imperialism – The King & I – to perform, and then negate by it’s casting, the very lessons it was meant to impart.

Lessons about  how exchanging and appreciating a different culture can be mutually beneficial, and ultimately, can lead to a new world order. For a country so steeped in the writers and efforts of Age of Enlightenment, it is sad that the France of literary traditions is making this choice – it is going against reason and individualism, and with the ‘tradition’ of yellow face.

InReviewKingHdl2614

 A red headed Anna is also a puzzlement considering it is now widely acknowledged that the true Anna Leonowens was, in fact, Eurasian – or rather an Anglo -Indian as it would have been stated at the time. Which means that there could be a most interesting dynamic – a Eurasian schooling Asians on how to act British to save themselves from Caucasian invasion.

It would be… a sensation.

You may sense my frustration.

Perhaps, on another occasion.

(Apologies, could not stop myself)

In that scenario, one could take inspiration from Anglo-Indian actors of the past like, for example, Merle Oberon.

Merle in Wuthering Heights

Merle as Cathy in Wuthering Heights with Sir Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff

It would be both a startling and historically interesting way to go, The Fairy Princess would welcome a chance to view that kind of production of The King & I. That kind of production would take a Director of extreme vision and knowledge, and that would be a Director that The Fairy Princess, for one, would want to work with.

However one cannot just blame the Parisians for this casting kerfuffle, because they had help. They hired a formidable director and ultimately he chose the cast.

Director Lee Blakely does not hail from France, he is from the UK.

Here is where the BAME  (Black Asian Minority Ethnicity) Artists are going to go mad, because in the grand tradition of The Royal Shakespeare Company cleansing The Orphan of Zhao of its British East Asian Actors in a story about China, he chose a Caucasian to play an Asian - actually he chose two.

 

The Fairy Princess took a look at the resume of good ol’ Scotsman, Director Lee Blakely, and mostly, he directs Opera – which is a great thing. However in Opera, there is a carelessness and often a blatant disregard for the appearance of the singer – either racially or size wise  (which is changing a bit, which is a shame) or anything else – which is a conceit that The Fairy Princess has discussed before, and which was answered by the English National Opera.

Sometimes the ethnicity of the character, in opera, cannot be accomplished by casting due to the restrictions placed on the role by the vocal demands. Again, things are changing, but in Opera, change is slow, and there is no ‘message’ in most operas – it is mainly about the love story and it is definitely about la voce.

Black World Class Heldentenor for Verdi’s Otello? Not yet.

However - The King & I is not an Opera, it is a Musical, and there is a message in it -  as in all Rogers & Hammerstein musicals – issues of racism, sexism, imperialism and what those three things do to people caught in those circumstances. You cannot separate The King & I from those issues, or you have no show. Why? Because Oscar Hammerstein was concerned with and worked actively on those issues all his life.

Which any Director worth his or her salt should have known. Particularly one who studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow, as Mr. Blakely did. Because when you study at a Royal Academy, they include theatrical history as part of your University courses.

The Fairy Princess knows this, because her MOTHER is an Advanced Teacher of Ballet in the Royal Academy System and she grew up hearing all about it. (The Fairy Princess did her Uni study in the USA, at Carnegie Mellon, so she has not studied at a Royal Academy herself – full disclosure.)

(And by the by, what the heck are they now teaching in those Royal Academy Conservatories that they are sending out Directors who regularly white wash minorities out of productions on every stage, in every art form?)

Not to mention that being from the UK and working within the UK, one would be unable to not see Actors of color as part of your regular activity as a Director. Yes, the BBC is having a problem with it’s diversity on screen, but Glasgow is in Scotland – and Scotland hosts the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the largest international theater festival which hosts artists from all over the world. So it would be categorically impossible for Mr. Blakely to have been unaware of Singers of Color, or that they exist in the world. Not to mention he has directed in the USA, in London, in France, and so forth.

While Mr. Blakely could, if he was casting Otello,  legitimately say that he ‘could not find any‘ Black Heldentenors at this time in our history, could he say that he could not find Asian Actors to perform the role of The King and of Lady Thiang at Théâtre du Châtelet t?

No. He could not.

In fact, he has a ton in this production,

Je Ni Kim as Tuptim and Damian Thantrey as Lun Tha

Je Ni Kim as Tuptim and Damian Thantrey as Lun Tha

 

Small House of Uncle Thomas Ballet

Small House of Uncle Thomas Ballet

Buddha send an Angel to Eliza

Buddha send an Angel to Eliza

just not The King of Siam nor his First Wife, Lady Thiang.

So one has to ask oneself about this strategic white washing, the arrogance of having a white couple play “King & Queen of the Asians” and have the Cast of actual Asians have to fall to their knees every time at least one of these Caucasians enters the room.

There are times I almost think I am not sure of what I absolutely am looking at here

There are times I almost think I am not sure of what I absolutely am looking at here

It has to be difficult for this Cast.

Oh BUDDHA, GIMME THE AID OF YOUR STRENGTH AND WISDOM BEFORE THE FAIRY PRINCESS GOES TO FRANCE AND PUNCHES A SCOTTSMAN.....OHMMMMMM

Do these Monks look happy to you?

The Fairy Princess would not like it herself.

It is a clear and potent message that the Director and Theater send to Actors of Color with this production – you will always have to kow tow to Caucasians, even if you hope to tell a semi-authentic story based on a historic events where you are supposed to be represented. It tells them, even in a story about you, we can erase you, and we will get rave reviews for doing so.

Ouch. Double ouch.

Are there Asian Heritaged Actors and Actresses who have extensive Broadway, West End, and World Credits to perform The King and I in the two of the leading roles written for Asian heritaged people?

YES!

And you can find them every damn day.

tumblr_mn7lilBTsO1sqykc2o4_r4_250

Vous ne comprenez?

There are PLENTY of them.

The Fairy Princess is very tempted to LIST them, very tempted – but that would play into the supposition that they are hard to find, or that there are not these wonderful people called CASTING DIRECTORS whose job it is to keep that information handy.

Casting is not accomplished by magical little elves that leap out of the woodwork and whisper choices into a Director’s ear – they are hard working, theatrically savvy people who have an eye and an ear for talent, and they can and do, regularly go on massive searches to find the ‘right’ person for a role. It is a hard job, and given how much American stages and screens are changing now, it is worth acknowledging that without their dedication, this would not be the case.

Mr. Blakely and his team could have done what the Australian National Opera did when they screwed up and cast someone’s boyfriend as The King in their tour of King & I, (who was not Asian and the Aussies pitched a fit), they sent an email and got Jason Scott Lee in from Hawaii to finish the tour. They fixed it. Bravo to them for doing so.

But they will not ‘fix it’ in France. They will take their rave reviews and chalk up this kerfuffle to some cheeky Yank making a fuss over nothing.

Which is, of course, the danger because….wait for it…

Lincoln Center is supposed to be doing The King & I next year.

The publishing of this ‘review’ in The New York Times, where the “oriental‘ decor and costumes is lauded, along with the three Caucasian leads, where the names of those playing Tuptim and Lun Tha are not mentioned, though they are part of the structure on which the story is built, and where they give such a glowing review for the Director – is cause for concern.

Giving space in a paper like The New York Times to a production in which a white man is crowned “King of the Asians’ by a Director from the UK, is the wrong thing to do.

It is the wrong thing to do, New York Times.

Frankly, it is shocking that The New York Times, given how much coverage it has had to give to diversity representation on Broadway in the last two years based, in a large part, on the initial writings of this blogger,

7742074_orig

would not think about how they are all but endorsing this Parisian production! Or of the ramifications?

Which is why The Fairy Princess writes this piece today – though yes, this Parisian production will close relatively soon, what lingers on is the glowing review in the highest regarded paper in New York  – and that could make people at Lincoln Center bring Mr. Blakely in for a general interview. Though Bartlett Sher has been announced as the Director of the Lincoln Center Revival, there is always the ‘unexpected’ that can pop up, and ‘back up choices’ are always on a list somewhere.

Frankly, Asian American Actors who make their living on the stages of Broadway do NOT need a director like Mr. Blakely coming into our theatrical scene where we often have to contend with things like this:

Revival of The Mystery Of Edwin Drood with Andy Karl and Jessie Mueller

Revival of The Mystery Of Edwin Drood with Andy Karl and Jessie Mueller

Asian American Performers are already under represented, they do not need to provide the ‘oriental setting’ for some Caucasian Actor with  a King complex,  repeatedly falling to their knees when he strides on stage.

On a Broadway stage?

No.

The New York Times should have said “NO” too. If they could not, in good conscience, refuse to publish this ‘review’, then the reviewer should have mentioned at least that it is perhaps a tradition at that theater to use movie stars like Mr. Lambert Wilson and that is perhaps why he was Cast – something to acknowledge that for Americans reading a review of a French production, that there are cultural differences that we may not, as Americans agree with.

The reviewer could have included a review of the Asian performers as well – like, their names, a photo, how they sang their duets…that endemic racial bias is infuriating to see in a paper of the stature of The New York Times.

That ‘review’ endorses ignoring the Asian Performers in The King & I  - the reviewer loves the “oriental’, but could not be bothered with the Asians! They were just ‘set dressing’!

photo

Overall, this production is not one that API Actors may even think to consider as being a threat to them -and that would be a mistake – because the sets are gorgeous, the direction, while hard to see in stills, could be absolutely magnificent – but we would be stupid to discount the message that in this King & I, it’s all about the white guy.

Because easily, they could do that here in the States – basing it on the ‘success’ in France.

We do NOT want that esthetic on our side of the pond – get it? We do not want it – it’s insidious, it’s dangerous, and it’s endorsed by The New York Times!

So start writing letters and sending emails, Asian Americans, to The New York Times and let them know what you think about their endorsement of this Parisian production, express yourself like Madonna always told you, because even if you think that people would say

34griwx

about casting a Caucasian as Asian in New York City, let’s be clear, we are hanging on to Diversity in casting on Broadway by a very slender thread – and we are not being supported by regional theaters for the most part – they are doing what they want, when they want to and how they want to.

Or didn’t you hear about the protests against BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON? And how they are being ignored?

That could easily be a protest against a Caucasian King in The King & I, and we could be just as ignored. Because that Hugh Jackman does love to sing and he sells tickets….just sayin….

Shall we Wolverine? Bum, da dum....

Shall we Wolverine? Bum, da dum….

For crimes against theater – The Fairy Princess sentences Théâtre du Châtelet, it’s Director, Lee Blakely, and this ‘reviewer’ from The New York Times, 10 whacks of the wand because

tumblr_mmqykm7uiz1ql5yr7o1_400

and they can all….

KISS MY FAN TAN FANNIE!

 

 

After Midnight, the kickass Broadway show that takes the audience on a ride through the music of Harlem’s well known Cotton Club, has announced it is closing – far quicker than originally planned. Originally it was in August, and now, it is June 29th.

Shows close, that is the nature of the business, but one of the great things about After Midnight was that it brought some of the living legends of the African American singing community to Broadway – some for the first time…

Patti LaBelle & Dule Hill

Patti LaBelle & Dule Hill

some Broadway veterans who had been there before – and all were incredible.

Vanessa Williams

Vanessa Williams

 

Fantasia & the men of After Midnight

Fantasia & the men of After Midnight

However because of this early closing, there are some that were announced who will, sadly, not make their Broadway debuts….like Gladys Knight and Natalie Cole.

After-Midnight

While it was fantastic that some of these Divas appeared on the TONYS…

 

not everyone did.

This, also, is very sad – both for those Artists and for their fans – but mostly for their fans because….wait for it -

There is no Cast Recording of AFTER MIDNIGHT!

SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!

SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!

 

Nor, apparently, are there solid plans to record one!

rupaul1

Which is a huge loss. Many of these artists did not, ’tis true, make their names singing the type of music that is in AFTER MIDNIGHT, but they grew up on it.

Which is to say they are making it their own in ways that is almost too delicious to contemplate, and which, given how often Broadway embraces the music of that era (Black & Blue, anyone?), may be the last time we get to see some of them sing it.

I mean, BLACK AND BLUE  was celebrating the Renaissance in Paris!

AFTER MIDNIGHT is celebrating the Harlem Renaissance right here in New York City!

 

The women who are guest starring in the show, save for Fantasia, have a connection to this music that is visceral, because they are within one generation of being the first people to hear that music – and that kind of thing makes a difference.

 

The Fairy Princess feels lucky to have seen this show as soon as it arrived on Broadway, but now that it is closing – in part due to ticket sales, she wonders if enough of ‘the kids‘ have seen some of these Divas for it to be an inspiration?

She remembers how lucky she felt as a child, to live in New York, and to see some performances that stay with her to this day. However, being Eurasian

IMG_5653

she did not have the opportunity to look at a show and say, “Not only do I love it, and I am inspired by it, but those people up there look like me, maybe I can do that too!”

Because there just…ummm….were no Eurasians actively starring in a Broadway musical back then. (Just as it is now, as a matter of fact. Hmmmm…..)

She wishes she could have had a moment to be THAT kind of inspired – she thinks everyone should have it at least once in their lives – to see one’s own people, all different ages, all different experiences, telling their stories through dance and song – come on, that has to be a magical thing.

 From left, Desmond Richardson, Phillip Attmore, C. K. Edwards, Christopher Broughton and Daniel J. Watts

From left, Desmond Richardson, Phillip Attmore, C. K. Edwards, Christopher Broughton and Daniel J. Watts

When The Fairy Princess saw AFTER MIDNIGHT she was juggling concerns of her day and thinking about other things, as one does, until the lights came down and the first notes of a bygone era started playing – The Jazz at Lincoln Center All Stars – on Broadway! Then she just sat back and enjoyed it all – forgot about everything, it is that good a show.

The singers, and the dancers, and the costumes – it was 90 minutes of amazement, laughs, and pathos

Karine Plantadit

Karine Plantadit

 

- and it has not been given a Cast Recording.

In an era where any ding dong can whip out a phone and launch embarrassing moments on to the Internet for all to see – how is this show, which has been the recipient of so much love from the Broadway Community and the vehicle for so much talent across the generations – how is it not going to have a Cast Album?

It’s criminal. It’s a crime against theater. If this Cast is not recorded, then you know who loses?

timthumb

We all do. Young kids - who should be being bused in for the last dozen performances as a public service by the big record labels so that they get to see and hear their history – are going to lose.

We of the Broadway are going to lose – think about it – to NEVER be able to hear the sultry voiced Carmen Ruby Floyd sing “Creole Love Call” again in your life?

CRF in Carmen Marc Valvo at The TONYS

CRF in Carmen Marc Valvo at The TONYS

Not to hear the Master Class that is Adriane Lenox sing her numbers?

Adriane Lenox

Adriane Lenox

Criminal.

Total loss.

Not to mention that Divas who were booked until the show was scheduled to close in August now will not be able to make their Broadway debuts. Which is a shame, because no matter how big a singer you are, no matter how many stages you have performed on in your life – there is nothing like  stepping on a Broadway stage and singing for those crowds.

If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. Even if you have ‘made it’ somewhere before, it is still like nothing else.

The Fairy Princess does not know who to ‘talk to’ about getting AFTER MIDNIGHT recorded,

The Big O? Anyone have her number? Or her checkbook?

The Big O? Anyone have her number? Or her checkbook?

 

Clive Davis? Who could call Clive Davis?

Clive Davis? Who could call Clive Davis?

but someone needs to start talking – because once a show closes, and the Cast scatters to new jobs….that will be that.

Truthfully, it should be a double album, because of the Guest Stars, singing, perhaps, not just what they sang in the show, but songs that perhaps were cut from the show or are ‘of that era’? That would, The Fairy Princess believes, be a huge seller – and, wouldn’t it make sense to record this cast if rumors are true, and there is a tour being talked about?

Just a thought.

Thank you, all the Cast of AFTER MIDNIGHT – you were breathtaking – and The Fairy Princess hopes you have sell out crowds and standing Ovations for the rest of your run – y’all danced and sang your butts off.

The Fairy Princess had a Broadway day the other day- dinner and a show. Magical, yes?

Actually, yes it was – she went to see IF/THEN and if one was looking for any indication of PTTS (Post Traumatic TONY Syndrome), you could not find it at this viewing. The audience gave standing ovations to the entire company, and no, jaded theater critics, the house was not full of 14 year old fans of FROZEN, it was an adult audience.

Because it’s written for adults. Adults who used to worry about rent, but who now worry about a lot more…like being alone.

 

Maybe the kids went to the matinee? Who cares? Let’s let it go.

When you see jaded New Yorkers overcome by a show, and hear them ‘ugly cry’ during some dramatic scenes in Act 2, and then seen what looked to be over 100 people waiting at the stage door for the leads, it makes it hard to walk away not feeling confused, given what happened this past awards show.

Though Hugh Jackman was ‘hopping’ as a host, and The Fairy Princess liked all the musical numbers coming where they did,

 

there seemed to be underlying tension throughout. If one did not follow the show on Twitter, one may not have known that there were some very cool things going on – people winning awards for the first time,

 

or for the second, or third because you were not seeing it on the small screen. There were oddly made decisions as to who warranted small screen time that made the show at times seem, well… petty.

Not to mention odd choices for ‘entertainment’

 

Meredith Wilson garnering accolades for being a rap composer, when they refused to televise the composer who won for a musical that was actually on Broadway this season was a time suck that The Fairy Princess could have done without.

Yes, BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY closed, we all knew that – but why wouldn’t BEST ORIGINAL SCORE or BEST ORCHESTRATION be televised?  Aren’t BEST ORIGINAL SCORE and BEST ORCHESTRATION the cornerstones of Musical Theater?

Who can do a musical without scores or orchestrations?

No one.

Plus, Jason Robert Brown gave good speech:

 

While JRB was ‘shouting out’ to women and acknowledging the relatively small number of women on Broadway in all the different aspects, The Fairy Princess would like to ‘shout out’ to him, that she appreciates that in what must have been a very bittersweet moment – accepting individual awards when your show has already closed – he took time to speak on the issue of representation and diversity.

That was classy.

However, having viewed JRB’s speech, and now seen IF/THEN, The Fairy Princess is truly wondering why some potential nominees were all but shut out of the process?

Mathematically, yes, it is explainable – there are 50 members on the Nominating Committee.

They have to see everything and then, of course, they vote. Their votes are tallied and  then get turned over to the general TONY voting population of just under 900 people. Those under 900 vote by another secret ballot, which is how we get our winners.

They have, the Nominating Committee, certain instructions in the category of Best Show:

1. Where there are are 9 or more potential nominees, the NC must vote for 4 shows, and the 4 shows with the most votes are automatically in the BEST SHOW category.

2. If there are 5 or FEWER shows in the category, the NC must vote for 3 shows, and nominations are awarded accordingly.

Now HOW and WHO decides if there should be a FIFTH nomination? Or a FOURTH nomination in a year with less choices?

An Accounting firm.

SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!

SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!

OH. Ohhhhhhhh.

The Accounting Firm that counts the secret ballots is the one who gets to decide – and there must be a difference of only 3 votes from the lowest ranking of the nominees.

It is not an Artistic Decision, which seems odd given that these awards are given to and given by Artistic People.

The Fairy Princess is not disagreeing with any of the Nominations, but what she is disagreeing with is that there is no ability for the Nominating Committee – not to take away, but to add, or for them to debate the use of that 5th spot.

Perhaps it is adding an additional level that the TONYS does not want to be bothered with, but in a season packed to the gills with talented people in excellent musicals – and with the amount of money a show brings to the New York economy, why could not there be an addendum vote?

Isn’t there room for an Executive Decision – not as to what show to put IN that last spot, but an Executive Decision to say yes, that last one should be used let’s keep our top four, and let’s vote again for the last one?

There was an additional spot open in the BEST MUSICAL category, and if only for the good of the New York Economy (and yes, there are plenty of other reasons), it should be filled if at all possible.

A BEST MUSICAL nomination can keep the doors open and keep people employed – and not just “people who need people‘  – there are dozens of people who make every Broadway show work every night from the ticket takers to the Teamsters, who,  when they are working, are adding to the general prosperity of the theater district as well as pulling in a paycheck themselves. Broadway and it’s denizens contributed $11.9 BILLION to the New York economy and 87,000 jobs.

87,000 jobs!

A TONY Nomination all but screams “IF YOU LOVE THEATER BUY A TICKET”.

Every day someone walks up to a ticket window who has never been to a Broadway show, and they buy their first ticket, and what usually makes them ‘jump’ to do so is the number of TONY Nominations or Wins a show has. Likewise when the show goes on an AEA Tour, the amount of Nominations or Awards helps with the pre-sale. Which one could argue, might have an impact in keeping shows on AEA Contracts? Worth a thought.

We of the theater should be invested in that theatergoer, because it is a cyclical thing – they have to love us to keep coming back. Giving them, as Sondheim once wrote “More to see….“, is a better business plan. Strict adherence to numbers – in short, strict counting of 50 votes, is limiting their ability to ‘fall in love’ with a new show.

The Tony Nominating Committee did their jobs, they voted – the numbers just did not add up, and now, shows are closing. Shows  have closed.

Maybe a nomination would have made a difference to a particular shows fate? It is worth thinking about.

The Fairy Princess loved, loved, loved A GENTLEMEN’S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER, and she was thrilled when it won BEST MUSICAL,  but she also would have been thrilled to have seen the fifth spot used.

The choice to not revisit if the fifth spot should be used left Broadway with Casts feeling, oh HOW did Julie Andrews put it?

 

The Fairy Princess knows that ‘rules are rules’ and they are drafted for a reason, but this year was a very odd year, a very odd year, and she did not want to let it go by without remarking upon it.

It was damn passing strange. (Some people will get that joke)

In short, if Broadway is worth $11.9 Billion Dollars, but the Accountants do not ‘get’ that it is worth it to consider a fifth nomination….well, the idea of that makes The Fairy Princess as jumpy as a puppet on a string – and she knows from puppets.

GYPSY OF THE YEAR Performance - Jodi Eichelberger, Aymee Garcia, Carmen Ruby Floyd & Erin Quill

GYPSY OF THE YEAR – Jodi Eichelberger, Aymee Garcia, Carmen Ruby Floyd & Erin Quill

They may be great at counting, but they seem not to see ‘value’, and in the musical theater, we like things…how shall I say, on an angle?

 

The Fairy Princess LOVES The Tony Awards – this is not a crack at the Awards themselves, but the process seemed…well anyway, NEXT year…she wants it BIGGER….apologies to Hugh….

 

 

The Fairy Princess needs some sleep. Seriously, between the time zones and demands for this or that to be put on tape, she is too tired to function and well, to say she is needing some intervention…

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would be putting it mildly.

The Fairy Princess is mainly exhausted because her 2 year old has discovered that he can climb, and at less than a moments notice she has to pull him from the top of a table or a piano or a flight of stairs – you understand, he’s a maniac, maniac on the floor – or the stairs, or the hallway, or…you get the idea.

However she came across a letter written by the BBC  explaining why they cannot have a more diverse television palette in the UK, which she found shocking because here in the US of A, our  television Networks continue to make great strides in their commitment to Diversity – particularly, it should be noted, the aptly named ABC (American Broadcast Company).

American Networks, though not ‘even Steven‘ integrated ’tis true, are hosting shows that reflect a broad range of experiences, families, and most importantly, diverse faces. In short – our televisions are slowly but surely starting to ‘reflect the American scene‘ as required in production contracts.

Why is why she felt a bit flummoxed upon reading the response from the BBC – and while she is NOT in the UK, she felt she should let some support to the British East Asian Artists who are having to deal with some outrageous Public school prats who live in the proverbial bubble and never deign to step outside their world, lest they have to deal with the riff raff.

Which would be me.

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Not that they perhaps, know who I am, but um….The Royal Shakespeare Company and the English National Opera do, so if the BBC has questions, they can ring up an old chum from the Academy and have a chat.

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The beginning of the story is, a letter was written to the BBC by a British East Asian Actress named Bess Chan

She asked the BBC why in America, Asian Americans are viewed as Americans, but why in the UK, Asians are viewed as “Foreigners’ and vastly underrepresented in a variety of roles.

(I have to interject that we fight that same battle in the USA every day, but we do have several examples of Asian Americans on the small screen who do not play ‘foreigners’, in terms of representation, we are light years ahead of the UK)

The BBC wrote back to Ms. Chan. Their letter is exceedingly long winded, and as a real Queen once said…

Queen-Victoria-Quotes-1

So The Fairy Princess is going to break it down, the BBC’s reasoning for accepting public funds but refusing to represent the public.

1. They are ‘too big’ to demand diversity from themselves.

“…we are a much larger, much more complex and massively more separated multimedia broadcaster with many different and separate departments and divisions, as opposed to one all-encompassing department which oversees absolutely everything.”

2.  They believe demanding Diversity would limit the freedom to ignore people of color

Some…believe that we as a publicly funded public service broadcaster should be subject to formal quotas on diversity, but the the reality is that this cannot happen as it would be contrary to the Equality Act….television must be able to maintain artistic choice and discretion in what they do’

3. They believe that hiring few actors of color is because they hire the best actors available 

“The actors hired are employed on the basis of their judged suitability for the role…this includes things like ethnicity…but that’s not to say there is any bias against or in favor of any group of society in terms of television drama productions…what we couldn’t do is simply shoehorn a British East Asian family …in for no reason or relevance…that would equate to…’positive discrimination’…’

4. They believe that writers are immune from having discrimination, and they cannot force them to write about people they do not want to

“There is absolutely no discrimination by writers and producers against any section of society….it’s simply about characters, relevance….questions would be is there a sizeable British East Asian population/presence/culture in the type of area (it) is mean to reflect?….a medium like television does have to allow programme makers withe ability to have a very wide choice based upon the dramatic and artistic requirements upon them.”

5. They are not ‘The Boss of Everyone”aka “There are none”

“…put simply we ourselves cannot create British East Asian Actors, we have to rely on schools, colleges, drama clubs…the theatre and so on to identify, train and nurture young talent, which then feeds through…The BBC does not oversee or govern such things itself, no should we, as it is not our role to create actors…”

6. They have ‘initiatives’ that are just not working, but that’s not really their fault

“But what we can do and do do is work with many different partners across the country and support emerging talent to come forward, is to encourage applications and approaches from…groups which might be under-represented’.

And then they list each and every British East Asian Actor who has EVER, and I mean EVER, appeared on the BBC.

Ok, BBC, The Fairy Princess has heard your reasoning and….well….Victoria, you want to ‘take’ this one?

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First off, the BBC is unaware of the ethnic population of London, London is fairly diverse.

(40% BlackAsianMinorityEthnicity – BAME)

ethnic_density1-528x396As the yellow, pink, and blue dots represent People of Color in London, it is interesting to note that those colors appear in every neighborhood – some more or some less, but they do appear. Which means anyone who works at the BBC knows someone of color, it would be mathematically impossible given the density of diversity  in London to live a life without a person of color in it.

Unless you live in a palace. Which, some do. It is London.

Let’s see, do people who live in a palace know people of color?

Prince Charles with Will.I.am

Prince Charles with Will.I.am

 

Prince Charles & his wife Camilla with

The Royals with Bollywood Actress Kajol, Nita Ambani, Mukesh Ambani & Ajay Devgan

The Royals with President Tan, of Singapore and his wife, Mary.

The Royals with President Tan, of Singapore and his wife, Mary.

HRH's Wills & Harry with Kanye West & Sean Combs

HRH’s Wills & Harry with Kanye West & Sean Combs

The Royals in Tuvalu

The Royals in Tuvalu

I guess they do.

Even people who USED to live in a palace know people of color

Sarah Fergusan & Naomi Campbell

Sarah Ferguson & Naomi Campbell

Just so we all understand one another, the Royals extended social circle has more diversity than the BBC.

The BBC, just like the Royals, receives funding from The Public. However, in the Royals case, they do their best to be ambassadors for Britain the world over and meet people from any and every social strata, the BBC….not so much.

How can one live and work in London, walk around, talk to people – people of color – all day, and then shut out their existence from your place of work? A place which, incidentally, is supposed to represent them? The denizens of the BBC live and work in London, mainly, and yet, they apparently do not ‘see’ BAME people. Remarkable.

The Fairy Princess read with interest the letter from the BBC, and marveled at the hubris and pomposity with which a self admitted “…massively separated multimedia broadcaster’ deigned to address the issue of diversity, she read it over and over again – even out loud with a posh accent – in order to better formulate her thoughts on the matter.

Are you ready, BBC?

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First off – when one IS a ….what was that self described term again? Oh right, “Massively separated multimedia broadcaster‘ it essentially means one is a corporation. What is a corporation?

A corporation is a separate legal entity that has been incorporated either directly through legislation or through a registration process established by law. Incorporated entities have legal rights and liabilities that are distinct from their employees and shareholders,[1]

Corporations are (to The Fairy Princess’s horror) able to be treated legally as individuals. They can be guilty of human rights violations, they can be convicted of offenses in a court of law, the only thing they are not considered is a breathing human. A Corporation is, in theory, owned and controlled by it’s stockholders, under the supervision of appointed peoples.

The BBC is a corporation, independent from direct government intervention, with its activities being overseen by the BBC Trust.

The BBC is a a public service broadcasting statutory corporation – and it operates under a Royal Charter. (Which, actually, can be revoked – will never happen, but it can, in theory). It’s main responsibility is to provide impartial public service broadcasting in the UK, Channel Islands and the Isle of Mann. It’s work is funded by an annual licensing fee, which is awarded by Parliament and is charged to all British households – it is charged, in fact, to anyone who watches television in the UK on any type of equipment that receives broadcast signals.

In short – taxes. Taxpayers are the BBC’s stockholders.

The BBC does have many channels, and they all have their ‘thing’, some are Arts based, or Sports, or News – but they all fall under the giant BBC umbrella – even if they are BBC4 and not BBC3, even if BBC2 has a complex about being the second channel and therefore not as loved – they are all in the same family.

In 2007, the BBC Trust was formed, and they, 12 Trustees appointed by Monarchs, set the strategy for the Corporation. The whole thing. All of it’s multi-media-ness. BBC Channel ad infinitum – all under the Trust. And what is the Trust supposed to do? It’s stated aim is to make decisions in the best interests of those who pay the licensing fees.

The taxpayers. The Trust is supposed to watch out for the taxpayers and see that they are best served. How can one best serve the taxpayers on the small screen?

They can have people on the small screen who look like the people who are watching it.

In response to the first point in their letter, The Fairy Princess wanted to point out that, actually, you CAN require more Diversity because ultimately, you are headed up by 12 individual people who hang with The Royals.

No, David Beckham is not a Trustee of the BBC - but he TOTALLY COULD BE if he plays his cards right

No, David Beckham is not a Trustee of the BBC – but he TOTALLY COULD BE if he plays his cards right

The BBC is not an amorphous matrix of broadcasting, it is simply a Corporation where 12 individuals set policy and then they allow minions to run and do work for them. There are, of course, existing policies and different levels within this corporate structure – but…it’s not  MI-5 or 6.

It is not an ‘I’d tell you but then I would have to kill you‘ scenario. It’s television.

You CAN actually know what other departments and associated productions are doing because at some point during a Trustee meeting, it has to pass by 12 individuals. According to the way it is set up by Royal Charter.

Therefore to that first  point, which is really -we can’t know what we are doing because we are too damn big to know….

The Fairy Princess replies:

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The second point in their response, is that to require Diversity would violate The Equality Act.

The Equality Act is England’s Anti-discrimination law designed to protect people from discrimination based on race, creed, color, sexual preference, sexual harassment and so forth.

However, by citing The Equality Act as a response, the BBC has actually weakened it’s ‘case’ because The Equality Act is supposed to guarantee equal access in employment. Equal access to everyone and everywhere within their entity – and that includes on the screen, writing for the screen, and producing.

Monitoring being what it is, in our ‘Big Brother’ society, it should be easy to pull the records – how many pitch meetings for writers who are BAME? How many BAMEs cast on a show set in London? How many produced shows by BAME producers on your Network?

The Fairy Princess is Asian, and  horrible at math, but even she can see that this response does not add up.

Perhaps before citing The Equality Act, you should have looked at their list of current productions.

Numbers do not lie.

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If the BEA are not being given equal amounts of auditions as their Caucasian counterparts, then already, the BBC is in violation of The Equality Act. Therefore in order to fulfill the requirements cited by The Equality Act, they should instigate some sort of Diversity program to get more People of Color on their small screens.

Taking steps to ensure equality is not a violation of The Equality Act.

It’s making sure that The Equality Act cannot NOT work.

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The rest of their points – they cannot talk to their poor, overly sensitive writers?

 

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Let me tell you about writers – they will write just about anything if they think it is going to sell. Therefore when hearing pitches for new shows, or showing them numbers from their existing shows, perhaps it is best to cite numbers from American shows that are diverse in order to show them that DIVERSITY SELLS.

And no, you do not always have to ‘write what you know’ personally – you can make stuff up and have it be fantastic and magical and include Diversity, oh British TV Writers.

The more diverse the cast is, the better it does – and if they do not believe you, hand them this article from the USA’s National Public Radio.

The BBC believes that  they have already hired the best actors around?

Well…not really – BAME Actors are fleeing to the USA in fairly large numbers because of the opportunities to be seen as something more than ‘foreign’ in the UK.

Opportunities to headline a Broadway show perhaps?

Or did you not know that Sophie Okonedo won a TONY last week for her role in “A RAISIN IN THE SUN” on Broadway?

 

What did Lenny Henry say again?

 

“….Since 2006 -2012 the number of BAMEs working in the UK TV industry has declined by 30.9%”

Diversity is, as Diversity does.

Lastly, while I do not have exact numbers from British Equity on the number of Union members who self identify as BAE, The Fairy Princess is confident that there are Conservatory graduates and dwellers of the leading British theater companies who are British East Asian. They are on your stages RIGHT NOW!

Gemma Chan & David Yip in DHH's YELLOWFACE, re-opening in May 2014

Gemma Chan & David Yip in DHH’s YELLOWFACE, re-opening in May 2014

Why, there is even a whole Facebook page  devoted to British East Asians, called – wait for it -

British East Asian Artists

- so the answer that you are waiting for BAE’s to pop out of conservatories like Dame Edna out of a corset is ludicrous. There are many, and they have been on the stage and all sorts of screens, and by even talking that way it only shows you have not practiced  your due diligence when responding with that wretched letter.

Come ON my BBC Possums!

Come ON my BBC Possums!

You are probably feeling a bit knocked around now, bit bruised by now BBC? Aren’t you?

Listen BBC – there are, yes, a few British East Asians that have appeared on your network – some in groundbreaking shows, some in good roles, but they are few and far between. The fact that you can list them in one paragraph in a letter should show you right there that you are aware that this is an issue.

Besides, when did having a few Caucasians on your networks prevent you from hiring more Caucasians?

The answer to that is never.

Having Caucasians on the screen has never been an obstacle against having more. And all things being EQUAL…..having a few BEA Artists on television shows of the past should not prevent you from having more in the future. British East Asians have been in England for the last few hundred years.They have been part of the fabric of the UK, because you are a seafaring nation.

Or have we forgotten The Opium Wars?

Chinese people have been visiting England since the 17th Century!

This is the first one – he was a friend of the King James the Second.

Shen Fu-Tsung was the first ever recorded ethnic Chinese person to set foot in what is now the United Kingdom, having visited over 300 years ago in 1685

Shen Fu-Tsung was the first ever recorded ethnic Chinese person to set foot in what is now the United Kingdom, having visited over 300 years ago in 1685

Which means that in any period drama, there could be one. Or two. The Fairy Princess does not wish to limit you, but to cite historical accuracy or population numbers as a reason that there are not enough BAEs on television is a diversion.

En garde!

 

It is time, BBC, to acknowledge that you are trying to run what we in the States call a ‘shell game’ with that letter. You want us to look here, when the truth is there, meanwhile you have been hiding it all along and it never was a possibility to win in the first place.

You are the BBC! You exist by Royal Charter! You are supposed to be gracious!

You know what would have been a better answer?

I will write it for you:

Dear Ms. Chan,

Thank you for your letter. We at the BBC do understand that the UK is changing and we exist to serve our various communities and our population as a whole, as per our Royal Charter. The numbers you state and the questions you ask are ones we are grappling with ourselves, and we do understand your frustration.

We do have a plan to introduce more Diversity on our screens, or rather encourage it, by having workshops, panels, and showcases of underrepresented talent for our writers, producers, and show runners. We are also setting up Diversity departments that will have regular meetings with Casting Directors, to encourage them to broaden their scope when looking for an actor to fill the role. While the BBC cannot control anything on the Agency sides – meaning the Talent Agents that submit their clients to our Casting Directors, as part of our public service, we will invite, to these showcases, Agents from the top UK Agencies, in hopes that they may add someone found at our showcases to their roster.

Our Diversity Department will also be responsible for meeting with each showrunner and asking for their Diversity numbers from past seasons, and requiring that they examine the demographic for the area in which the show is set, and try and remember that when casting.

This is not going to be a quick process, because we do, at the BBC encourage Artistic License, however we are aware that this is an issue that is ongoing, and we are going to push for our screens to represent our population as much as possible. It may not be ‘every’ show, but within the next year, we hope to see a huge rise in the number of, at least, guest starring and supporting roles that are BAME, with of course an ultimate goal of series regulars who are BAME Actors, to better serve our country.

Thank you for your letter and allowing us to respond, we appreciate that we exist by public support.

The BBC

That would have been a better answer BBC – and look, The Fairy Princess has actually shared with you the way American television has made their screens more diverse!

That’s the way it worked – with mission statements, by coordinating casting, production, executives, and writers, by having showcases…all of these things worked, and now our small screens look more like America.

Don’t you want your small screens to look more like the UK?

Take a look at our Networks -  because they too, are corporations, but they look a bit more like….

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Some of the Cast of "Madame Secretary"

Some of the Cast of “Madame Secretary”

The Cast of SCANDAL

The Cast of SCANDAL

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They look like America.

Come ON BBC! Do Better!

Because BAME Artists are not going silently into ANY dark night, and as for me?

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The Fairy Princess had an audition and she was required to use an Accent.

If you have been reading along, you might guess that The Fairy Princess has a problem with this, and the answer is – within parameters, The Fairy Princess does not have a problem using an accent of any kind.

Yes, some people just flat out refuse to do them, due to personal mores (which is fine), but The Fairy Princess comes from a family built by immigration and the accents she heard growing up – Irish, Australian, Chinese – and by marriage – Korean -, and through friendships – too numerous and international to be counted – means that she is well aware that accents exist on the planet, and it would be completely ridiculous not to acknowledge that when one is acting.

In her own opinion.

This post is not really for Actors, who kind of ‘get’ what the job is, but it is more for the “Activists’ out there, who I have noticed, seem to lose their mind when an Actor of Color has to use an accent.

So The Fairy Princess is going to share her very simple rules for when a Minority Actor or Actress should/can use an accent without getting flack for it from the general public, bloggers, and those who share their every thought on social media.

You know – people like me. :)

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THE FAIRY PRINCESS’S EIGHT SIMPLE RULES FOR USING AN ACCENT

1. If the character is an immigrant.

Asian Americans will not like this first one, but the truth is, though the API population is growing rapidly, we still get most of our population numbers from immigration. It would be ludicrous to assume that someone arriving in America is going to get off the plane speaking “The Queen’s English”, one or two – likely, every single one? Not possible.

Immigrants have accents because they have not assimilated to the new country – and this is not just an Asian accent thing, immigrants from Australia, Britain, Ireland, Wales – they all have accents to American ears – accents are not ‘owned’ by any particular group. We all have them – look at New York vs. Chicago  - Fuggitaboudit!

2. If the character comes from a region where a specific dialect is well known and expected

Examples would be, of course, the American Deep South, or Australia, or Norway. Or a particular city within the USA that has well known regional flavor…or Canada. There are lots of regional accents out there, and if a play is set in a particular city, one would expect to hear them.

3. If the character and the play are set in a historic time and the entire cast is using an accent -

Well, for example, Shakespeare – even Americans sound vaguely British-y when they do Shakespeare, perhaps it is psychological or perhaps it just sounds better that way, who knows – but it is hard to say “Out damn spot!” without trying to Dame Dench it.

Judi Dench

Those are my top 3 reasons of why an Actor would choose to do them, but having said that, The Fairy Princess has rules, for herself (but she is sharing now), of what she expects of herself when doing an accent as part of her work, so here are 4-6….

4. It must be authentic.

If the character is Korean – then the accent must mimic someone from Korea who has just learned English – likewise for Hispanic, Cyrillic, Celtic, just ANY accent – it has to be authentic. If you are supposed to be from Japan, you cannot sound like you are from the Philippines.

By being authentic, you are being respectful. Which brings me to my next personal rule:

5. It must respectful.

The Actor should not allow the accent to wear them, they should ‘wear’ the accent. In practice, Actors often need to find something about a character to like, in order to do the character justice. If the accent is being used for comedy, that is fine- but have the joke be funny by performance, not by accent alone. It is a fine, fine line – yes, but the benefits are that one does not feel that one has taken a bath in sewage after every performance.

6. It must serve the play, television show, or film

Having an accent ‘just to have one’ does not really, to The Fairy Princess, have a point to it. Given that the world is getting more diverse, one expects to hear more accents on our screens and stages – or that is the dream, in my mind. The accent has to be given to the character for a reason other than to play into stereotype or to serve as a foil for debasing the character who has it.

Those are The Fairy Princess’s rules for personal use of an accent – but there are a few exceptions and we are going to go into them right now:

7. Caucasians do not get to use accents to mock the Immigrant character.

We have seen it in film,image14

television,

The Cast of How I Met Your Mother

The Cast of How I Met Your Mother

and Broadway,

Revival of The Mystery Of Edwin Drood with Andy Karl and Jessie Mueller

Revival of The Mystery Of Edwin Drood with Andy Karl and Jessie Mueller

- it is not what is supposed to happen in this day and age.

Let’s all agree to be better than that.

Otherwise what good are theater conferences and diversity panels? None at all if you are going to turn around and give us a tv show or musical without employing Actors who can take the stage/screen without browning, yellowing, or blacking their faces.

8. Other Minorities, likewise, should be judicious with assuming that because we ‘share’ minority status, that it’s ‘allowed’ to put on accents of other races.

Not so much, Folks – not so much.

Just because you are not Caucasian does not mean you get a free pass. Because you are not Caucasian means you know what it feels like when you are mocked by a stereotype that you do not embody – so let’s be kind to one another.

If, for plot’s sake, your character has an accent because it fit the ‘regional’ requirements listed above, that is, of course, different kettle of fish. Plot points are plot points.

Are there exceptions to any and all of these rules?

There are to most rules, but these, not really.

Accents are part of the costume that we Actors wear, and they will always be a part of the profession – unless we decide to get dull and boring and lose all sense of reality and humor – some are already there.

Ahem.

However, it is not the accent that makes the performance, it is the execution by the actor and the intention behind the employment OF an accent within a role.

If you hate the accent, so be it – turn the channel. But let us not flay actors who are gainfully employed by taking away their tools to do their job – if they are playing an immigrant, they WILL have an accent – and uber sensitivity is NOT going to help the great strides being taken by both Networks and Actors in breaking down the doors that have been closed to diversity.

The Cast of Fresh Off The Boat

The Cast of Fresh Off The Boat

Got it?

Yeah, I thought you did.

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The Fairy Princess eagerly awaited “Up-fronts’ this year like a small child whose dreams of sitting on the lap of a costumed man of girth had not yet been dashed by the commercialization of the holiday in question.

LUCKIES? Seriously Santa, WTF?

LUCKIES? Seriously Santa, WTF?

 

And, unlike when someone wanted a BB gun….

 

She got what she has wanted for every major holiday and wish upon a star for a long time….

The Fairy Princess heard tell of 4 new shows with Asian Americans featured prominently and thus, she did NOT want to shoot her eye out – which is usually how she feels after hearing what got picked up at the Up-fronts.

How many IS that Feist?

 

Let’s, for the heck of is, just list them:

Madame Secretary:

 

Set in Washington, DC – unlike other shows set in that fair city, this one has a diverse cast that does include Asian Americans like Actor, Geoffrey Arend – who was so great in Body of Proof. Also in the cast, Yale Grad, Mozhan Marno, CMU Grad & TONY Winner Patina Miller, and of course, from the Musical Theater, Mr. Erich Bergen, who is also going to be appearing in the feature film directed by Clint Eastwood, Jersey Boys coming out in June.

The cast in exceptionally diverse in gender & ethnicity & most likely, sexual preference (because why would they leave that out?), and The Fairy Princess looks forward to this show. It seems smart, quick, and topical, and when looking at the bios of the cast on IMDB, quite a few are fluent in several languages, and that can only add to the portrayal of a dynamic White House with a Madame Secretary of State.

Selfie:

 

The Fairy Princess likes this trailer for several reasons -

1. it takes it’s concept from Pygmalian by George Bernard Shaw.

2. It looks like it is going to examine our current obsession with all things superficial

3. Stars John Cho as the Romantic Lead. Yeah, I said it – ROMANTIC LEAD. JOHN CHO. ROMANTIC.

GET INTO IT.

Fingers crossed for you, Mr. Cho – I hope the show knocks it out of the park.

STALKER:

 

The Fairy Princess is going to like this show – it is going to scare the s##t out of her, because it will remind her of friends who have gone through this problem, and it will remind her of when someone did not like her blog and threatened to hurt not only her, but her kid….but she will watch this show, for sure.

The Fairy Princess is particularly partial to Hapa Actresses whose surnames end in Q.

(You may have heard that before….)

Quigley? Quill? Get it? Get it?

Quigley? Quill? Get it? Get it?

And finally….drumroll please…

Fresh Off The Boat

 

Now Fresh Off The Boat, is the story of a little guy named Eddie who grows up to be this guy:

 

Celebrity Chef, Eddie Huang. It’s based on a book that he wrote, and it is, for all intents and purposes, his ‘brand’.

The term Fresh off The Boat is giving some in the Asian American Community agita, and here’s why – because we, Asian Americans, use it amongst ourselves to denigrate one another.

We totally do.

We do. Not anyone else. We, us.

It is a term used to separate ‘cool’ Asian Americans, with an emphasis on American, from those who were freshly arrived immigrants who probably had accents, and perhaps lacked some fashion sense, according to American Asians. We are very judgy, Asian Americans – no wonder we suffer from depression – right, Kristina Wong?

So now, APIs who have been gleefully disdaining one another for YEARS, are worried that “White People” are going to hear the term, “Fresh Off The Boat’ or “FOB” (sometimes said, fob, as in watch fob and not just the initials), and they are going to add it to the pantheon of insults to call Asian Americans as they walk harmlessly down the street.

It should be acknowledged that ABC Network wanted to change the name of the show to “Far East Orlando”, but no one liked that title either – particularly not Chef Huang, and he lobbied fiercely to get it changed back to match his title and his brand.

The Fairy Princess is not disavowing that racism happens – she could not possibly when she herself has harmlessly walked down the street and been called all sorts of racial names by ignorant people driving by safely in cars, or heard what was yelled from a school bus while she rode her bike to school, or even, just you know, well, for example this is a conversation she actually had, but it is repeated at least twice a week, somewhere in her week:

ME: Bagel and Coffee Please

COUNTER GUY: Where are you from?

ME: New York.

COUNTER GUY: No, where were you born?

ME: Manhattan.

COUNTER GUY: NO, I mean, where is your Family from?

ME: Ireland.

Never got that bagel and coffee. A bit of Hapa Humor – because what he really wanted to hear was China…or Japan…or Korea…or some other Asian country that he would then be able to tell me he either wanted to visit, was once stationed there during a war, or perhaps, he wanted to tell me to go back to there.

These are all things I have heard throughout my lifetime. And worse. Much, much worse.

The Fairy Princess gets that APIs are concerned about the title – but growing up in New York, she can assure you of one thing – we all borrow from other languages to express ourselves, capice?

Even if FOB makes it into the vernacular – is it really worse than ‘Chink‘? Or “Jap“? Or “Gook“? Or “Slant“? Or “Hey, Love You Long Time“? Or “Bitch“?

Or any combination of those with added slanderous words concerning my perceived place of origin, my Parents, or my very existence, is it?

Given those variables, The Fairy Princess would relish simply being called a FOB. Because she has been called all those other things throughout her life – being a Viking explorer would not actually be that insulting.

These Folks are Fresh Off the Boat as well....I dunno, they look pretty fierce

These Folks are Fresh Off the Boat as well….I dunno, they look pretty fierce

So I’m newly arrived? So what?

rupaul1

Is that, in a nation of Immigrants, really a big deal? That one arrived by boat? Shouldn’t one be glad that someone in his or her family took a giant leap of faith and left everything they knew, in order that we, Asian Americans might wallow in hypersensitivity and yell about titles of television shows that have not even aired yet?

My Forefathers took a boat to get here – they were escaping oppression and war, and they took a boat.

It was from Dublin.

Everyone has suffered from Xenophobia in America - Everyone

Everyone has suffered from Xenophobia in America – Everyone

My point is – at one time, any transoceanic travel was only accomplished by boat – Asian Americans do not have a monopoly on arriving anywhere via ocean.

The uproar over FOB is because we are the ones that turned it ‘into something’ and now, we do not want to reap the consequences of that. Too bad.

-1

This show has not only been trashed talked because of the title, but because the lead actress, Constance Wu, has a accent. Which, she should – because her character is from Taiwan. Asian Americans do not get their increase in numbers from birth rate, we get them from immigration.

Let me put it another way – if the character were Caucasian and from Dublin, and had an Irish accent – would you have a problem with it?

Colin Farrell would probably play the part with an Irish accent, but then everyone would be upset he was playing a Mom

Colin Farrell has an accent. I am ok with it- Ladies? How about you?

No. Because it would make sense for a character from another country to arrive in America and speak with a slight accent. As it does in this case – it makes sense for the character.

The complaints keep coming though, and they are getting more and more upsetting…

I read a comment that said they were upset that lead actor, Randall Park, who is of Korean heritage, is playing a Chinese American.

Really?

REALLY?

34griwx

The Fairy Princess says NO!

Absolutely NOT!

Do not project your own issues onto an unsuspecting sitcom. Do you have ANY idea how GREAT it is to have not one, not two, but FOUR television shows on major networks with Asian Americans, showing a panoply of the depth of Asian America? DO YOU?

The Fairy Princess does.

It has been a long, hard struggle for those both in front and behind the camera to get to where we are now – twenty years have gone by since an Asian American family was the subject of a sitcom on a Major Network.

DO NOT BLOW THIS FOR US! 

Jujubee-library-reading-to-filth

Or just do us all a favor and just watch kitten videos for the rest of your life. ONLY kitten videos.

 

The Fairy Princess will NOT listen to any more of your idiotic complaints….

tumblr_mmqykm7uiz1ql5yr7o1_400

The Fairy Princess is going to challenge Asian America – here goes:

I want you to watch, DVR, On Demand, Internet – however you watch television now – I want you to watch the above four shows.

I want you to prove to NBC, CBS, and ABC that Diversity matters.

I want you to prove that Diversity = Dollars.

What you are doing, by going to town with these complaints is proving that Diversity = Damage Control.

This is the wrong message to send.

The end result will be less Asian Americans on television, because you will have effectively told the Networks that you are going to raise hell every time an Asian Family hits the air, and you will make it ‘too much trouble’ to have an Asian American family hit the air at all.

Are you hearing me?

tumblr_mn7lilBTsO1sqykc2o4_r4_250

All this bickering and in-fighting and you know what? No one cares about your insecurities except you, your Family, and a trained Therapist that you should definitely call after reading this.

The Fairy Princess does care if your internet hashtag war it is going to give a network exec pause before greenlighting another sitcom about an Asian American family that may be coming down the pipeline. Or if it gives ABC second thoughts about where it places Fresh Off The Boat come mid-season.

The Fairy Princess thought the trailer was funny. The end. Funny trailer, it deserves it’s shot.

Pull it together, Asian America – you are acting like someone who needs a Snickers bar cuz they are having delusions that they can see Russia from their backyard.

I am going to leave you with these final words, Hunties….think about them, because all these ‘protests’ seem to come from deep rooted insecurities and perhaps a smidge of self-loathing, what scares you about this show? Really? Because, it’s a comedy. It is not supposed to send you to your ‘dark place’, but if it is – you have other things to think about.

Because as Mama Ru says:

 

bc623b0e4f07149059126f88ddfa660bfa84fc5ba985f0c79e7dcb7eaf97eb0e

Can I get an ‘Amen’?

 

The Fairy Princess‘s  toddler had four “Revolutionary Costumes for the Day’ – four, before Noon.

 

Oh HIIIIIII‘. Indeed.

Grandmas should not be handing out chocolate covered strawberries like it was revenge, but there you go. (And maybe it was, I was a tough kid)

Short post today, just to ‘sum up’ as it were:

Ok, so fun things – The Fairy Princess spoke on her friend, Dennis Hensleys Podcast, “Dennis, Anyone?”

http://traffic.libsyn.com/dennishensley/DAErinQuill.mp3

Dennis is a writer, a director, and most recently, was one of the Writers for Fashion Police with Joan Rivers, on E! We have been friends for a ton of years, and I find him outrageously delightful. He also has two books I heartily recommend – Screening Party and MisAdventures in the (213)

 

The Fairy Princess appeared on Global Village Broadcasting, on the show, Cabarabia, Hosted by Director/Producer Clifford Bell. Clifford directed me in my very first cabaret show, They Shoot Asian Fosse Dancers, Don’t They?, so it was great to catch up with him.

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/47491733

 

AND…just to wrap up, she found this really fun little clip from when she went on the Frank DeCaro Show on Sirius, Jim Colucci was hosting, and she talked about the 10th Anniversary of Avenue Q.

https://soundcloud.com/jim-colucci/erin-quill-of-avenue-q-w-jim

And this is what a gal dressed as a Drag Queen looks like:

The House of Xmas Eves...

The House of Xmas Eves…

Only in regards to myself, of course – everyone else looks fantastic.

And THAT is probably one of the shorter blog posts I have done, but in case you wanted to hear what The Fairy Princess sounds like – there you go!

The Fairy Princess had a lot on her mind the last week or so- and the initial announcement of the casting of Australian Tenor, Stuart Skelon as Otello, a part that is designated as a person of color, a Moor,

Stuart Skelton, Tenor

Stuart Skelton, Tenor

at the English National Opera (ENO) was enough to make her want to

The Scream by Edvard Munch

The Scream by Edvard Munch

 

However, The Fairy Princess is a bit different than others who have written, quite excellently, on the subject of Mr. Skelton’s casting, because The Fairy Princess was a Classical Voice Major – and having been one, for these reasons – 1. she has several friends who are actively singing on the World Stages and 2. her sibling worked for Herbert Breslin, who was a famed Opera Manager who represented Luciano Pavarotti for much of his career, she thought she could write a bit on the subject.

The Fairy Princess ‘knows’ from opera. She is by no means an expert, but she has been a delighted observer, listener, and audience member for classical music since she was in sixth grade – which was when she was first shown La Boheme, performed in English, by her fellow classmates – which was a unique tradition installed by the Music teacher of the school. In fact, later that year, she auditioned for and was chosen for the 6th grade performance of The Pirates of Penzance, which started her love affair with all things Gilbert & Sullivan.

Which started her down this road in the first place.

What this means, ultimately, is that when she has a question about Classical Music, she knows who to ask. She has, both in her Family and in her friendships, some erudite and supremely knowledgeable people who work in Classical music the world over.

The world over. That is an important distinction, and here is why:

When the ENO announced their casting of Otello, The Fairy Princess assumed that this was a similar situation to The Royal Shakespeare Company’s casting of The Orphan of Zhao – that this was a ‘white-washing’ of highest order, made only more offensive because the ethnic population of London is exceedingly mixed, and the idea that a white man was going to portray a black man (or an ethnic man) on a stage where a large majority of the population is not white, and use public money to pay for it, struck her as offensive.

ethnic_density1-528x396

The Fairy Princess assumed that, with a bit of research, and well placed questions, she would be able to throw several names of world class, first rate, Black Dramatic Tenors to highlight that the ENO had missed the boat on this casting.

Now, being a Classical Voice Major, one is aware of several distinctions within the Operatic Vocal Descriptions – it is not that every Soprano is simply a Soprano, nor is every Tenor simply a Tenor, likewise with Mezzos, Baritones, and Basses. The timbre (pronounced tam-ber) of the voice in every singer is different, and to those distinctions, opera has it’s own descriptives that tell people what they need to know about the singers vocal capabilities, they denote a voice’s ‘color’ and range.

For Tenors, there are four acknowledged types: Counter Tenor, Lyric, Spinto (also referred to as Heroic), and Dramatic (also called Heldentenor).

No one sings everything – because Composers from different eras and different countries wrote for their own tastes at the time. Preference, in Opera, is everything. Some people only do Art Songs, some only do French Operas, some only sing in German – the reason they do, is because their type of voice tends to work particularly well with one specific type of role. Singers do not jump fach. A Soprano does not sing the roles of a Bass.

Are there instances when maturity changes the voice and requires a changing of repertoire? Yes. But that generally occurs rather early in one’s twenties, and usually singers have figured out their fach by the time they are in their late 20′s. Usually. There are always exceptions. However if one is a professional singer on the level of the ENO, one knows one’s own vocal abilities.

So what, The Fairy Princess asked, are the requirements of performing OTELLO?

OTELLO requires a Dramatic Tenor.

A Heldentenor.

There are arguably (because Opera fanatics love to argue) 10 great Otellos since the piece was written. Some, will knock off a name or two – they will argue over the recording, they will argue over when it was recorded in the singer’s career, they will argue over just about anything.

But here are the names of the (always and consistently in debate because classical music people are relentless), 10 generally agreed upon ‘great’ Otellos: Vladimir Altlantov, Enrico Caruso (who was preparing the role when he died and only made some recordings), Placido Domingo, Martinelli, James McCracken, Mario Del Monaco, Luciano Pavarotti (who only did it in concert), Francesco Tamagno (who was the first Otello, ever), John Vickers, and Ramon Vinay.

And as we have mentioned them,  let’s take a look at what the role requires vocally – pulling from videos available -

Ramon Vinay:

 

Placido Domingo in 1991:

 

Enrico Caruso – long considered the Greatest Tenor of all time, he never performed the role, but he was preparing it when he died – keep in mind the recording quality is not what we consider now to be even passable, and given that, how much we are ‘missing’ and yet how much still comes through:

 

And of course, with even more scratchy scratch, is a recording of Tamagno, our first Otello ever:

 

As everyone can hear – it is a big role. It is one of the biggest roles, and though it is done somewhere every year, it is not part of the standard rep, because it is difficult to cast and then there is that sticky issue with ‘blacking up’.

What is blacking up‘, you ask?

hd_100145480_01

It has been ‘standard operating procedure’ to ‘black up’ for Otello ever since it was written, because underlying racism in the story is the jumping off point for Iago’s master plan to bring down Otello, the Moorish General who is married to a white Venetian woman of great beauty. It’s not pretty – the blacking up, I mean, not the score, the score is tremendous.

The Fairy Princess is relieved that greater scholars than she have considered these issues for this book, Blackness in Opera.

She was also delighted to read this post by the UK’s Daniel York. Mr. York’s piece definitely cut to the chase, as it were, on the mood right now, amongst those frustrated by the lack of diversity on UK Stages.

The Fairy Princess does not like the idea of ‘blacking up’, she is not, in any way for it. She has no problem with a wig, or added facial hair, but excessive makeup to make one look like another race? Nope, not for it. She does not like it when they do it to Butterfly either.

In 2005, at The Royal Opera in England, they made a decision to not do it, when a white singer was cast in a black role. To somewhat of a relief, the ENO has also announced that they will not ‘black up’ Mr. Skelton. That they announced this via Twitter is, perhaps a sign of the times and a hope that they would like this whole issue to go away as fast as possible.

However, when The Fairy Princess heard about it, she was annoyed. After all, she reasoned, there must be half a dozen Tenors who could play that part, who are People of Color. She determined to research the issue, but as one who had once had a pinky toe in the waters of Classical music. She thought that she could easily hit the internet and get names and performances that would knock everyone’s socks off.

But she was forgetting the specific requirements of playing Otello, and they are – one must be a Heldentenor.

A Dramatic Tenor. Remember – 4 kinds of Tenors out there – Counter Tenor, Lyric, Spinto, and Dramatic.

There are amazing People of Color who have been gracing the World’s Operatic Stages since the 1940′s, and it is to Opera’s credit that it embraces people of varying sizes, varying appearances, and varying skin tone, because they are concerned with just one thing – the voice. La Voce.

The Fairy Princess found some amazingly talented Tenors who are People of Color.

There is Vinson Cole

 

Mr. Cole is a Lyric Tenor. (Listen to the notes at the end, just gorgeous)

There is Lawrence Brownlee, here he is with Renee Flemming

 

Amazing. He is a great interpreter of the Bel Canto (beautiful voice) style of singing. In fact, he is one of the most ‘in demand’ tenors IN the Bel Canto style, he has won all sorts of awards, and as you can hear – is a breathtaking singer.

Not a Heldentenor.

But he is thrilling. Absolutely thrilling.

There is Noah Stewart, whose solo cd, Noah, reached the top of the Classical Charts in the UK. Here he is singing with Nmon Ford, Baritone.

 

Mr. Stewart has commented publicly, as well he should, on whether or not race matters in Opera, and he would know. His journey has been remarkable and he is an acknowledged world class talent.

Mr. Stewart is a Lyric Tenor.

Eric Owens is a wonderful singer….

 

Mr. Owens is a Baritone.

Solomon Howard is a Bass. That is lower than a Baritone.

 

Ryan Speedo Green:

 

Is a Bass Baritone.

Here is Norman Garrett, singing one of The Fairy Princess’s favorite Schubert arias

 

Mr. Garrett is a Baritone.

Reginald Smith?

 

Baritone.

In point of fact, The Fairy Princess posed the question of “Where is an Otello who is a Person of Color?” to several active Opera Singers, International Voice Coaches, a Former Manager of World Class Opera Talent, an Agent at a top Classical Agency, not to mention several online searches and she only came up with one name – Michael Austin.

 

Yes, only one. Mr. Austin  has sung at The English National Opera as Joe in Carmen Jones.

But when there is only one – and Opera Scheduling being what it is – he may have been booked already.

This is not an excuse – this is a challenge and a call to actionfor Conservatories and Young Artist Programs around the Globe.

WHERE ARE OUR DRAMATIC TENORS WHO ARE ALSO PEOPLE OF COLOR?

I CHALLENGE YOU TO FIND THEM.

WE NEED THEM.

Because here you have a role that requires, requires the premise of racism as a plot point, and all the research and the experts are telling me that, well, ‘I don’t know of any” or “there are none to my knowledge’ or, “He’s a tenor, but that is not his fach“. Which should be ludicrous.

Should not even the existence of this role be an inspiration to potential Dramatic Tenors? It is a bear of a role, but if you can stay the course and study and grow – there is not even a door to knock down, you can just blow softly and it will swing open.

If the uproar over this casting has shown us anything, it has shown that there is both a need and a longing for Verdi’s great music paired with a Dramatic Tenor who fits the description of Otello without hideous makeup.

Are there social issues, issues of access, education, and exposure preventing there from being Dramatic Tenors who are also People of Color within Classical Music?

Undoubtedly.

A recent study showed that when People of Color ask for Mentors in University settings in the USA, they are overlooked, quite often. So, yes, undoubtedly that would hold true to some extent in Classical music.

There are also issues in Classical Music with Female Conductors. There are issues of every shape and size – there are financial considerations to buying a ticket, there are financial considerations to studying, Opera Companies are closing at an astounding rate,  and there has been a trend in Opera concerning esthetics that have entered into the equation as a result of all the wonderful feature video recordings that bring the audience much closer to the singer than was ever intended.

One wonders if the Great Caruso would even be able to get an audition today, given his appearance.

Enrico Caruso

Enrico Caruso

 

But the casting of Mr. Skelton is not like The Royal Shakespeare Company’s casting of The Orphan of Zhao.

In that case, there were tons of highly skilled and available British East Asian Actors who could convincingly portray people whose background was Chinese, but The RSC would not cast them because they thought that no one would accept them in a repertory season.

No, The ENO did not pull an RSC. Though, I doubt they did quite as much research as The Fairy Princess in trying to acertain that information, they knew of only one – and he has performed there prior.

Did they ask him?

We have no way of knowing.

Stuart Skelton sang Wagner at the ENO in 2012, Carmen Jones was performed there in 2007. People like to work with people that they have recently worked well with.

The Fairy Princess does not negate any feelings towards the Casting of the ENO – there should INDEED BE a Dramatic Tenor, a Heldentenor, who is a Person of Color -She does not know why she could only find one.

However, as a singer, she has to look at the role and the range requirements, and she has concluded that, aside from Mr. Austin, she was unable to find a singer who fit the bill. It is puzzling – and everyone she spoke to, emailed, texted, was equally puzzled.

It does NOT mean that he is not out there – it means he is working on it. It means, he is studying, it means he is determined, it means that there is everything for him to ‘win’ if he can stay on track.

And we must help him – whoever he is.

So, my fellow People of Color – in addition to my challenge to the Conservatories, I also charge you with one task – get yourself a recording of Otello and play it. Play it for the children, play it for the teenagers. Play it for those who sing, and for those who do not – but play it. Perhaps too, go and see it – see it for the possibilities of what could be. See it because it is one of the great Verdi Operas. See it because Opera and the love of it, is accessible to everyone.

 

Because exposure is the first step to curiosity. And Curiosity is the first step towards wanting something.

And this will change.

There are people to be inspired by in Classical Music, just listen to Mr. Stewart and the reaction he gets:

 

The Fairy Princess knows that people will become angry at this post. Because it is lovely to assume that just because one sings, one can inhabit any role – and that is, on my word as a singer, not the case. If one wants to throw names simply to show us that yes, there are People of Color in Opera, well….ok.

There are many, many talented, world class People of Color in Opera. Also on Broadway. Also, everywhere there are Singers.

But right now, I know of only one Dramatic Tenor who specializes in Otello.

People deserve to hear Verdi sung.  If we can all agree, Opera World, that “Blacking Up’ is not going to happen (Well, everyone will agree except Germany, they are in love with it over there) because of changing demographics and sensibilities, then it honestly does negate the thorniest issue.

The text is problematic – yes,  it does undermine the story to not have a Person of Color as Otello, but in Opera, it is more about the voice than anything else – everything falls second.

Perhaps that is equality in it’s purest form?

There are wonderful things happening in Opera right now – wonderful, inclusive and diverse things, and like anything else, your ‘vote’ is your purchasing a ticket. Whether it is to a recital, to an opera, to a Broadway show – you vote with dollars.

The Fairy Princess has great hope that the next time she does a search like this, for a Person of Color who is a Dramatic Tenor, she will come up with those half a dozen names that will light the world on fire. She hopes that they will fit the role vocally and physically (Otello is supposed to be imposing), they will be able to act their faces off, and they will, in every way, be a world class Verdi singer.

Until then, the current situation will stand.

No one is sadder than I about it.

 

 

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