Archives for category: Diversity

UPDATE: In a, ahem, remarkable turn around,  after Jordan Roth announced that his theaters would dim in honor of Joan Rivers,  and after this blog was published, The Broadway League has reversed it’s initial position:

“Joan Rivers loved Broadway and we loved her. Due to the outpouring of love and respect for Joan Rivers from our community and from her friends and fans worldwide, the marquees of Broadway theaters in New York will be dimmed in her memory.” – Charlotte St. Martin, Exec Dir, The Broadway League

Tonight, at 6:45pm, Theater Lights on Broadway will dim in honor of Ms. Joan Rivers.

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Why yes we can, Ms. Rivers – yes we can.

Rest In Peace.

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The Fairy Princess has been reflecting on what it means to be a “theater person’ today, in light of The Broadway League’s decision to not dim the lights in honor of the passing of TONY Nominee and thrice walker of ‘the boards’, Ms. Joan Rivers.

This is what Joan said about Broadway in a recent interview with  New York Magazine,

If you don’t go to Broadway, you’re a fool. On Broadway, off Broadway, above Broadway, below Broadway, go! Don’t tell me there isn’t something wonderful playing. If I’m home in New York at night, I’m either at a Broadway or an Off Broadway show. We’re in the theater capital of the world, and if you don’t get it, you’re an idiot.”

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So guess who doesn’t get it?

Apparently, The Broadway League.

“Under our criteria people need to have been very active recently in the theater, or else be synonymous with Broadway – people who made their careers here, or kept it up,” Ms. St. Martin said in an interview on Monday.

“We love Joan – she was very supportive of Broadway and came to a lot of show openings – but she hasn’t acted on Broadway in 20 years,” Ms. St. Martin added. “When you say Joan Rivers, you don’t think comedy, television and Broadway. You think comedy and television. It’s certainly nothing against her.

The night before Ms. Rivers went in to that fateful surgery which helped end her life at the age of 81, she did a show – she did a full length act at The Laurie Beechman Theater in the West Bank Cafe. As that is, in fact, a theater, and the show was over an hour of solo performance, one could argue that she in fact, defined being ‘active in theater’. Her calendar was full, even at 81, she had a bunch of live shows coming up, in addition to possibly returning to Broadway, and shooting Fashion Police.

It’s hard to fathom why Ms. Rivers is being egregiously overlooked, but let’s look at who the lights have been dimmed for recently:

“Lauren Bacall had a distinct presence onstage and screen during a career that spanned decades,” said Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of The Broadway League. “Along with her talent and memorable performances, her timeless beauty and witty intelligence will be remembered. Our thoughts are with her family, friends and fans.”

Ms. Bacall had 2 TONYS, 1 Honorary OSCAR, was a Kennedy Center Honoree, 2 Golden Globes, and 1 SAG Award and she had not appeared on Broadway since 1999 –  dim the lights.

Lauren Bacall

Robin Williams left us all, sadly too soon.

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 “Robin Williams was a comedic genius with limitless talent and stunning versaitlity who left this world far too early,‘ said Broadway League Exec Director Charlotte St. Martin. “He made an impact on everyone he met or entertained. Whether on screen or live on stage, his multi-faceted talent always created memorable performances. Robin Williams will be greatly missed and our thoughts are with his family, friends, and fans”

Robin Williams appeared on Broadway twice – once in concert – Robin Williams Live On Broadway in 2002, and as an Actor in Bengal Tiger at the Bagdad Zoo in 2011. He also appeared with Steve Martin in Waiting For Godot at Lincoln Center.

A comedic genius with 2 Broadway credits, 4 Golden Globes, 1 Oscar, 3 GRAMMYS, 1 EMMY, 2 SAG awards – dim the lights.

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“Elaine Stritch’s big personality was matched by her big talent,” Broadway League executive director Charlotte St. Martin said in a statement. “Collaborating with some of Broadway’s greatest playwrights and composers throughout her lengthy career, her signature numbers and singular style created a memorable legacy.”

Elaine Stritch had 4 TONY Nominations, 1 TONY for Best Special Theatrical Event, and 3 EMMYs – dim the lights.

So, The Broadway League will, as they should, dim the lights for someone who is known on screen, known on television, and known to be a comedic genius, with a career that spanned decades but they won’t dim the lights for Joan Rivers, who was, actually all of those things combined?

Seem odd to anyone else?

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Now, you could argue, of course, that Joan Rivers received a TONY Nomination, and that, perhaps is the criteria? They will not dim the lights for her because she did not win? That could be the ‘line in the sand’, one supposes.

Until you remember that Broadway dimmed the lights for James Gandolfini, although he was nominated for GOD OF CARNAGE in 2009, he never won a TONY award.

He appeared 2 other times on Broadway in ON THE WATERFRONT in 1995 and A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE in 1992. And, without putting it too bluntly, he was best known for his work on Television in HBO’s The Soprano’s. Television? Oh dear, whatever will Charlotte St. Martin say?

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James Gandolfini was a consummate actor who brought individuality to each role and inspired a true connection with the audience. Whether on screen or on a Broadway stage, he made every role believable and seemingly effortless, said Charlotte St. Martin, executive director of The Broadway League, in a statement. “Our thoughts go out to his family and friends, and certainly to all of his fans who felt as if they knew his characters.

I see.

So, no, Broadway League, you cannot argue the “she only had a nomination and 3 appearances on Broadway” because, well – so did James Gandolfini, and you dimmed the lights for him.

Rightly so.

He was a great theater person.

Joan Rivers was also a great theater person.

In fact, all of the above mentioned people were great theater people – being a theater person is not just appearing in a show.

It is being generous of spirit by continually supporting the efforts of others -

for example, attending a show….

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At Sister Act

At Sister Act, the Musical

Attending a show where you know that Broadway Producers are going to use your image and your name to sell more seats at their show and make money off of it – money that you, personally will never see.

Producers that are all in The Broadway League.

Ahem.

She would go to shows multiple times and bring people, was a major fan of anything Broadway. Most of our conversations were about what she saw or what I was going to see, or I had seen – she was always recommending what show to watch. Our last trip she yelled at me to see HERE LIES LOVE.

One of her favorites was Jerry Herman, she thought he should have written the music for ROCKY…or ANY Broadway show. Of course she loved Broadway, she starred in her own Broadway show that she wrote! Nominated for a TONY!”

                   – Dan Glosser, longtime friend & pianist

With Arnold Steifel, Kenny Solms, Dan Glosser & Tony Tripoli

With Arnold Steifel, Kenny Solms, Dan Glosser & Tony Tripoli

Being a Theater Person means raising money for charity - she was one of the first celebrities, if not the first celebrity, to come out in support of raising money and awareness for AIDS prevention and treatment. She was on the Board of God’s Love, We Deliver, and delivered meals to those in need herself on Thanksgiving.

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She supported Guide Dogs for the Blind, a school which helps connect guide dogs to those who are in need of canine assistance due to blindness or low sighted ability.

Joan presents George Basioli with a guide dog named after her late husband, Edgar in 1988

Joan presents George Basioli with a guide dog named after her late husband, Edgar in 1988

 

Ms. Rivers served as an honorary Director at The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, having experienced that particular loss in her life. These mentioned were but a few of her many, many charities.

Joan Rivers & Tony Tripoli

Joan Rivers & Tony Tripoli

Being a theater person is having to surround yourself with it’s music and texts constantly and wear them like a coat even in your darkest hour.

“Joan was so devoted to New York Theater. She went to absolutely EVERYTHING and having done Broadway 3 times, often said it was the toughest, most rewarding place for any actor to work. She was planning a return to Broadway with a remount of her show, “Sally Marr & her Escorts”. She insisted that every loved one who came to town go to at least one show – her treat, naturally – each visit.

When I sat with her while she was in a medically induced coma, the Original Cast Album of OKLAHOMA was filling the entire Intensive Care Unit. At one point, I couldn’t take it any longer and I changed the cd to A CHORUS LINE – I secretly hoped she’d wake up and tell me again about going to it’s Opening Night.

For the Broadway League not to dim the marquee lights for Joan is an insult to the memory of one of the New York stage’s most passionate advocates and talented performers.”

-Tony Tripoli – Head Writer, Fashion Police

Being a theater person is knowing that if you make it look easy, everyone will think that they can do what you can do ‘no problem’, when you know it took thousands of hours, endless preparation, and a combination of luck and talent that is different in everyone who succeeds.

 

Being a theater person is getting back up when they knock you down, and smiling while doing it.

“Joan Rivers is the top of the pyramid when it comes to comedians – male or female. She was also a devastatingly underused actress. Over the years, I had the great fortune to meet  and work beside her several times. Beyond being funny, she was incredibly warm, caring, and full of life and love.

The world, not just the people in showbiz, have suffered a huge loss, and I for one, would dim every light in the world to honor the great Joan Rivers. Shame on the Broadway League for being too dim to realize what a disgraceful decision they have made. In the end, Joan herself probably would have laughed and said “Oh F*uck em if they’re too dumb to realize they could’ve saved a few bucks on the electric bill!”

-Scott Nevins, Bravo’s The People’s Couch

Joan Rivers & Scott Nevins

Joan Rivers & Scott Nevins

Joan Rivers was the epitome of what it means to be a theater person – she loved it, she lived it, she wrote it, she experienced it. She did the Broadway ‘8 shows a week’ time step, and she also did television, and she wrote books, and she also did charity work, and she  did films. She was also a wife, a mother, and a grandmother.

Her comedy was caustic and rough at times, yes, but so was Elaine Stritch’s – and the lights were rightly dimmed for her – The Fairy Princess was there. It was special and moving, because ordinary New Yorkers and tourists and Broadway professionals stopped and looked at her image and said their own personal farewells. My group had people who were very close to her, and it comforted them.

Do not Ms. Rivers’ friends and family and extended audience deserve similar comfort?

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Did she swear? Yes.

So the f*#!k what?

Ms. Rivers surely could not have cursed more than David Mamet, and though no one wishes it, when the time comes, do we not all agree that Broadway will dim the lights in his honor?

They F*#!kin’ better!

Was she a saint? No. Are any of us? Do not we of the theater salute and embrace all our colorful people with all their eccentricities?

Yes, we do.

When did we of the theater start scorning people who started in the theater and went on to other things?

When did we become that small and petty? When, Broadway League?

When did we toss people out of our little group simply because they became successful in another area? The woman began her career starring in a play opposite Barbra Streisand!

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The Fairy Princess would like to remind The Broadway League that dimming the lights takes….

ONE MINUTE.

This woman promoted Broadway, appeared on Broadway, was nominated for one of Broadway’s highest honors and we, of The Broadway cannot turn off the lights for ONE MINUTE?

“In the ever changing world of Broadway, the ‘rules’ for the TONY Awards change every year due to ‘unique circumstances’ and a changing art form. Why all of a sudden is The Broadway League clinging to an interpretation of a random rule – especially when it comes to honoring such an Ambassador of Broadway – it is beyond me.

By the way, what are we talking about here? Someone pushes a button and then pushes it again sixty seconds later? She gave us 81 years, I think we can give her 60 seconds.”

-Erich Bergen, JERSEY BOYS the movie, Madame Secretary

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The Fairy Princess would like you to look at this next photo – (she found it on the web, Melissa, don’t yell at anyone) it is the program of Joan River’s final service

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Only a true theater person would ask to be saluted by The NY Gay Men’s Chorus singing “Nothing Like a Dame“, segue to multiple TONY Winner Audra McDonald singing “Smile“, then bring in TONY Winner and the tallest Aussie to grace our stages, Hugh Jackman to sing a song Peter Allen wrote for Judy Garland, and finally, end with a bagpipe salute of “Give My Regards To Broadway”.

To quote that Peter Allen song:

So put your hands together and help her along

All that’s left of the singer

All that’s left of the song

Stand for the Ovation

And give her one last celebration

Quiet Please, there’s a person up there

And she’s been singing of the things

That none of us could bear to hear for ourselves

Give her your respect, if nothing else

While Jujamcyn President, Jordan Roth, has announced that his theaters will dim their lights in honor of Ms. Joan Rivers tomorrow, Tues. Sept 9 at 6:45 pm, as of this writing, none of the other Broadway theaters have announced their intention to do so.

Oh – nicely done Mr. Roth, you Sir, are a man of the theater!

The rest of The Broadway League needs to catch up – your arguments as to ‘why not’ simply do not make sense – you can honor men who have appeared on Broadway exactly the same amount of times as Ms. Rivers, or who have had exactly the same type of fame, but you cannot honor Ms. Rivers?

Not ONE MINUTE for a career that spans over 40 years?

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81 Smacks of The Wand to The Broadway League for using some made up excuse that is probably based, in part, on sexism and jealousy, to deny Joan Rivers ONE MINUTE of theatrical respect that we, The Broadway Community, should give her.

She left us asking us to “Give her regards to Old Broadway”, cannot Broadway give her regards in turn?

Cannot Broadway give her ONE MINUTE of regard?

‘Shouldn’t just everyone go to The Broadway League Facebook Page and ask them to dim the lights for Joan? Shouldn’t they?”

- Jim Caruso, Cast Party

Linda Lavin, Joan, and Jim Caruso at Feinstein's

Linda Lavin, Joan, and Jim Caruso at Feinstein’s

So from The Fairy Princess, and in Honor of Ms. Joan Rivers, please-

Kiss our (##*!?#)Fan, Tan Fannie!

And DIM THE DAMN LIGHTS!

The Fairy Princess is having a bad few weeks, along with the rest of the world. The news has been devastating each and every night. While she normally does not write about events that are ‘newsworthy’ – let’s face it, she writes about Diversity and Asian American theatrical representation, the events of the last weeks must be acknowledged.

And so…the blog:

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It bears repeating that my thoughts and prayers go out to the Family of Robin Williams, who was a superlative performer and, according to all accounts, a superlative person in his personal life.

My small son had viewed Aladin the night before the announcement of his death, and was so filled with wonder and awe, his joy so apparent, that even at that simple moment, before we knew, I marveled once again, at the talent of Robin Williams and thought “what a blessing’ to have that kind of gift, that is accessible to all ages.

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What should be spoken of is how much he gave, and how much we shall miss him, and how grateful we are to his Family, for sharing him with us all these years.

 

Thank you, Oh Captain my Captain….

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The Fairy Princess would also like to share a story, given that she has also passed now, of meeting Lauren Bacall. By all accounts she was very feisty and the life of the party, with a razor sharp wit. It seems that everyone has a Lauren Bacall story and actually, The Fairy Princess has two, and she thinks that Betty would kind of get a chuckle out of her sharing them.

The first was viewing her on stage, 6th row in the orchestra, in her TONY winning role in the musical, WOMAN OF THE YEAR.

 

Being a mere 6 rows from Lauren Bacall leaves a lasting impression.

Lauren Bacall

Luckily my Grandmother, who was a concert pianist, realized what was ‘happening’ and after the show, she bought me the Cast Album – on tape. So I ‘wouldn’t forget’. I had memorized it by the next afternoon and performed it for my Parents, and I remember my Mother looking at my Father and saying, “Well…I know how this is going to go now...”

After that, I was in love with every musical I came into contact with – except 1776 – and I set off on my merry way to sing and dance and befriend people of similar ilk. WOMAN OF THE YEAR always remained a favorite, and on my Senior recital, I even did a set of songs from the show. I could probably recite some of the songs, if not all, lyric for lyric even now.

In 2003, Lauren Bacall came to see a Broadway show that I was a cast member of, and she came backstage – well, our backstage was really an alley behind the theater, and I was thrilled to see her, almost at the same distance that I  had first seen her in person many years prior.

We had a chance to speak and I said, “Ms. Bacall, I saw you in Woman of the Year when I was a kid, and I was so blown away. My Grandma bought me the Cast recording and I had it memorized by the next day. I think that is why I am in this business!”

And Ms. Betty Bacall looked at me for a moment, and then drawled in her inimitable way, “Woman of the Year? That old piece of sh*t?”

(a beat)

And then I said, “The camera is right over there, please smile”.

Jordan Gelber, Carmen Ruby Floyd, Lauren Bacall, Erin Quill backstage at Avenue Q

Jordan Gelber, Carmen Ruby Floyd, Lauren Bacall, Erin Quill backstage at Avenue Q

Thank you, Ms. Bacall, you gave us plenty to watch, and you lived ‘fascinating’ in such a way, that we all shared a tiny bit of it.

A true legend, a powerhouse, and the last icon to leave us from a great era of American Film.

RIP Betty.

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The Fairy Princess would also like to send support and share her horror at the death of photojournalist James Foley, who the Islamic State Militant Group known as ISIS has claimed to execute. She has no words. He was doing his job, and he was killed for what he was, as much as who he was. Many thoughts of peace go out to his Family and Friends.

Photojournalist James Foley

Photojournalist James Foley

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And then we have the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO.

Michael Brown, RIP.

Michael Brown, RIP.

Michael Brown had been visiting his Grandmother, when he was stopped for jaywalking. He wound up with six shots in his body, which killed him. Four shots to the right arm, and two to the head. His body, his corpse, was then left lying in the street for hours while law enforcement tried to figure out what to do with what had just happened. They did not call for medical assistance for Michael Brown, he was not rushed to any hospital. He died, in the street, and was left there for hours.

Michael Brown was 18 years old.

Michael Brown possessed no weapon.

The Fairy Princess has her own opinions about why Michael Brown was stopped for jaywalking. Michael Brown, who was set to start college two days after he was killed, was killed because he was not safe to walk the streets in his Grandmother’s neighborhood as a young man of color.

The Fairy Princess knows that in most places in America, it is not truly safe to walk around alone as a Person of Color….or as a Woman, or as a Elderly person, or as an openly LGBT person, or as a small child.  For a majority of the population, to be caught walking alone by someone bigger, or someone armed, or someone intent on doing harm to us who is hanging with like minded individuals is a daily nightmare.

It can be seen as women brace themselves to walk past a group of men who are likely to catcall, it can be seen in the tensing of young men in sweatshirts when a patrol car drives slowly by them or a large pickup truck filled with individuals who may have been drinking. It can be seen in the elderly, who strive to be home before dark. It can be seen in the way parents hover over their children, fearful that this day, when one is a minute late to the bus, your child will no longer be there.

We would like to believe this not to be true, we would like to believe that as we journey into far away lands to ‘fix’ things, we remain a shining light to aspire to – but this is not the case.

A shining light to aspire to in the Western World is Canada. They have Universal Health Care, Marriage Equality, Police who patrol unarmed, and great skiing. Not to mention maple syrup, Sandra Oh, and Michael J. Fox.

The United States falls far behind, and with the violence in Ferguson, we are falling even further.

Fear of other people, fear of people different than oneself is the monster under America’s bed that no one is talking about.

People fear those who have advanced learning. People fear those who have no learning at all. People fear science. People fear people who substitute religion for science. People fear skin color, but they fear more than that talking about why they fear people with different skin color than their own. People fear falling in love just as much as they fear being alone. For every fear there is a reaction – and what we are seeing in Ferguson is the reaction to fear – and it is anger, and it is being met with water cannons, tear gas, and rhetoric.

It is time for America to stop perpetuating this cycle – in the daily lives of their citizens, and as policy makers.

The Fairy Princess read an article written by Michael Bell, whose son was also killed by police, ten years ago in Wisconsin. His son too, had been stopped on a pretext, and wound up with a gunshot point blank to the temple, so close it left powder burns. There was a reaction there too, and it was spearheaded by Mr. Bell – remove the ability of the police to investigate themselves.

Mr. Bell wrote at length about it, and also is in favor of having cameras on officers and in patrol cars, which has been shown to reduce violence in police actions by 60 %.

Both of these steps sound like morally actionable changes that can improve the chances of a Person of Color surviving being stopped for jaywalking. Both of these things sound like something honorable and diligent Officers would want to have implemented. There is no reason to fear either of these actions – independent investigations and cameras on officers and in vehicles not only protects the public, it protects the police as well.

We cannot return the life of Michael Brown to his Family, to his Friends, or to himself. What we can do – all of us, People of Color and Caucasians in this country, is change the conversation from fear to legislation. Change how we respect one another, change how we listen to one another, change how we focus on differences, and instead try and focus on similarities.

Ghandi said If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”  

We need not wait.

We have waited long enough.

For Michael Brown, and so many others, we have waited too long.

Let us not wait any longer.

My condolences to the Brown Family at this wretched time.

 

Last night The Fairy Princess had a somewhat humbling moment realizing that a show she was part of has been on the New York stages for 11 years.

That’s right 11 years!

So, nothing ‘political’, no ‘message’ this time, just a few words of thanks that I was ever included in that show, and I am thrilled that it is still running and bringing the world much needed laughter.

Congrats to the current Cast inhabiting Christmas Eve, Princeton, Rod, Trekkie, Brian, Lucy T. Slut, Kate Monster, Gary Coleman and Nicki – you all did a wonderful job, and they continue to do so over at New World Stages on 50th Street – go check them out!

Here is a photo from last night:

SM Beverly Jenkins, our Original Mistress of the Puppets - Singer/Songwriter Phoebe Kreutz, John Tartaglia, Erin Quill, and Carmen Ruby Floyd - all part of the Original Broadway Company

SM Beverly Jenkins, our Original Mistress of the Puppets – Singer/Songwriter Phoebe Kreutz, John Tartaglia, Erin Quill, and Carmen Ruby Floyd – all part of the Original Broadway Company

 

Realizing it has been 11 years, really does bring home the message in “Only for now….” If you would like to read some of the tweets, because the audience was invited to do so throughout the show, please go to #AvenueQLive or if you only want to read mine, they can be found at @Equill

And…the magic ‘surprise’ at the end of “Only For Now” – SELFIES…. because as the song goes….

“Except for death and paying taxes, everything in life is only for now”

Top L-R: John Tartaglia, Carmen Ruby Floyd, Beverly Jenkins, Producer Robyn Goodman, Erin Quill, Phoebe Kreutz, Producer Kevin McCollum Lower Left Photo: Star of MEMPHIS: J. Bernard Calloway Lower Rt Photo: Carmen Ruby Floyd & Erin Quill

Top L-R: John Tartaglia, Carmen Ruby Floyd, Beverly Jenkins, Producer Robyn Goodman, Erin Quill, Phoebe Kreutz, Producer Kevin McCollum
Lower Left Photo: Star of MEMPHIS: J. Bernard Calloway
Lower Rt Photo: Carmen Ruby Floyd & Erin Quill

As someday it may happen that a victim must be found,

I’ve got a little list, I’ve got a little list.

Of Society’s Offenders who live proudly above ground,

and who never would be missed, who never would be missed.

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There’s pestilential productions who take hatred as their guide,

Who upon their being ‘caught’ then moan ’bout ‘history and pride’.

The ones who giggle with their fans, their makeup all askew

Who never seem to question,  or accept another’s view,

Their one response it seems is  “Look, don’t tell me what to do!”

They’d none of them be missed, they’d none of them be missed.

(Chorus)

She’s got them on the list, she’s got them on the list

And they’ll none of them be missed, they’ll none of them be missed.

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There’s the self righteous Director, who proceeds without concept,

The Yellowfaced soloist – I’ve got them on the list!

Those who praise the music, but perform it quite racist -

They never would be missed, they never would be missed!

There’s the Baritone who defends his lack of knowledge and of taste,

Who oft asserts his ‘ given right’ to play another race;

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And the lady from the suburbs, who dresses like a Maid,

Who knows she does not  look Asian, but finds Caucasians ‘staid’,

She’d rather paint ‘exotic‘ than go play a Cockney maid…

I don’t think she’d be missed – I’m sure she’d not be missed!

(Chorus)

She’s got them on the list, she’s got them on the list;

And they’d none of them be missed, they’d none of them be missed.

Finally, let’s all agree this topic is just rife,

with charges, counter charges, all which causes strife.

Does no one see in fact that Sullivan and Gilbert would be pissed!

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For that you’re on the list!

They wrote the show to mock society’s rigid chain of thought,

To say what we learn should shape us, not just what we’re taught.

The show says use your brain and heart, but it seems it’s all for naught.

For that you’re on the list! For that you’re on the list!

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It’s not enough to say you ‘want to’ and then go see it done,

We do not live in places where of opinion there’s just one.

And frankly, if you have to scream and rail about so loud,

It means that of your performance there is little to be proud.

Your show is not ‘authentic’ if you’ve re-written “Little List”

Racist shows won’t be missed, they’d none of them be missed.

I’ve put you on the list – I’ve put you on the list,

You’d none of you’d be missed, you would NONE of you’d be missed.

 The Fairy Princess is a bit late to the game about writing about The Mikado Production in Seattle, or perhaps she was ahead of her time, because she co-wrote the screenplay, The Mikado Project, several years and several film festivals ago.

(There is a lovely review  of the DVD from The Huffington Post, here)

(You may purchase it on Amazon.com here)

 

There have been many, many articles about The Mikado recently, since the first piece for the Seattle Times by Sharon Pian Chan (The Yellowface of The Mikado In Your Face) .

Journalist, Jeff Yang, wrote a thoughtful response (Yellowface Staging of The Mikado Has To End) which The Fairy Princess was interviewed for that appeared on CNN.com.

Another (The Problem With The Mikado) by Brendan Kiley from The Seattle Stranger, quotes Jeff’s article, but makes other wonderful points.

NBCNews also highlighted the issue, (Stereotypes in The Mikado Stir Controversy) and in fact, the film of The Mikado Project, in discussing it – many thanks.

Each time that someone has written about this situation, the wagons around the Seattle Gilbert and Sullivan company have been circled, and they have defended themselves from charges of racism and yellowface makeup.

They even went so far as to have their African American Female Business Manager write an open letter to try to shame the Asian American community into accepting Yellowface makeup, which is a classic technique, turning the minorities against one another.

One wonders if Seattle G&S expands their repertoire to include a blackface Porgy & Bess, if she would still hold her own opinion?

Still, that was impressive, Seattle G&S. Well played.

The Fairy Princess chuckled a bit at that, because it is a technique ripped right from the Andrew Jackson playbook. Then she heard the radio interview with the DJ, Dan Ross, who refused to accept, in any way, that he might be a part of a racially tinged performance. Not surprising, the ones who know they are wrong usually shout the loudest – it is called ‘deflection’.

The Fairy Princess was still not moved enough to write about this issue.

She felt that journalists were doing a fair job of keeping the story alive and accountable, and as she had been quoted numerous times in these articles, she thought she had made herself clear – when you have a production in which satire is sacrificed in favor of racial mockery, you turn a much beloved operetta into “a racist piece of crap’.

And she was fine with that, she was.

Until this morning, when she read the response from Seattle G&S’s Producer, Mike Storie – in which he loudly proclaims two things:

1. They have an Asian American on the Board of the company who has played a variety of parts

2. The Mikado should continue to be done.

Now The Fairy Princess is mad. She is truly, deeply mad, and now she IS going to respond.

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In response to the first – who cares if you have an Asian American Board Member?

He’s played an Italian?  So what?  Italy is a seafaring nation, or was, and they traded with Asia, so there is a likelihood that there were Asians in Italy. It’s not so far fetched. That we are supposed to incredulously proclaim “Well, if an Asian American played a Gondolier, then the Company cannot have racist moments“, well, that is a failure on your part to even comprehend the issues at play here.

In addition, this API Board Member is not in The Mikado, which seems telling. There is no statement from him highlighting how he felt, walking in and seeing the show. You have cited him, fine – he’s there. Not in a visible way during this controversy, but he’s there…somewhere….lurking.

Fine, you have one.

Goody, goody.

That first proclamation was not what engendered this response, no, we’ll get to that…hold on, prepare yourself.

This is what made The Fairy Princess’s tiara tilt – none of the articles cited mentioned banning The Mikado from being performed ever again – and yet, that is what Producer, Mike Storie is intimating with his answer “It is worth performing and preserving, and can be a catalyst for better understanding“.

Aha. You see, Mr. Storie is implying that we, the ‘awful and actual’ Asians of America, are trying to reach out our little yellow hands and remove an operetta from the lily white fingers of those who would perform it with authenticity and dignity.

L-R: Dave Ross as Koko, William Darkow as Pish Tush, and Craig Cantley as Poo Bah

L-R: Dave Ross as Koko, William Darkow as Pish Tush, and Craig Cantley as Poo Bah

 

He is so convinced of this narrative, he has not only shared it, he has compelled his Business Manager to brandish her “As a woman of color…‘ sword in defense of this poor, beleaguered operetta, so sadly under attack.

 

Hopefully she will be able to pick the right one, because you know, Japanese swords all have...oh who am I kidding, they wouldn't try and get this right either.

Hopefully she will be able to pick the right one, because you know, Japanese swords all have…oh who am I kidding, they wouldn’t try and get this right either.

 

This is not the case, Mr. Storie – and this is why you have finally roused The Fairy Princess to share her personal thoughts on this issue.

You are threatening people with the thought that Asian Americans are out to erase an operetta that they very much enjoy – and this is not what happened. Asian Americans do not want to ‘kill’ The Mikado, we want you all to do better. We want you to make a Mikado that everyone can go and see, regardless of race, and feel good about seeing.

We want you to put together a production of The Mikado that we can bring our children to proudly as an example of music and art – not one where we have to usher them out of the theater and have the ‘yes, you are different and people will make fun of you for that‘ talk.

That is NOT a talk we want to have after dropping a bunch of $$$ on tickets.

Asian Americans have the HIGHEST disposable income of any group, so while you are moaning about not being able to pay your Actors for four months, you may want to adjust your thinking on who your audience is, at least in Seattle.

The argument that you are performing the piece with love and authenticity is a false one. Yes, your company may love performing it, but as every good Gilbert and Sullivan expert knows, Gilbert never intended to mock Japanese people. He went through every effort to have ‘authentic’ costumes and had visiting Japanese artists come in and advise his Cast members as to how to walk and act.

Have you followed the examples set forth by Gilbert himself in this matter? Did you have Japanese Artists come and advise you as to the the authenticity of your costumes and scenery and mannerisms? Did you even try?

 

You live and work in Seattle, a city which counts 14% of the population as having Asian heritage. Seattle also has a huge International District, which, amongst other attractions, has the Wing Luke Museum which is dedicated to telling the Asian stories of the Pacific Northwest.  The population of that area alone, just in the I.D.  is 56% Asian American. So, very easily, you could have looked in your own backyard so to speak, and found advisers if authenticity was an issue for you.

Was authenticity an issue for Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society?

The Fairy Princess guesses not.

Because here is an actual Japanese woman in the 1800’s

Vintage Photo of a Japanese Woman, circa 1880

Vintage Photo of a Japanese Woman, circa 1880

And here is what Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan did:

Production Still: Seattle Gilbert and Sullivan's Production of THE MIKADO

Production Still: Seattle Gilbert and Sullivan’s Production of THE MIKADO

Again, here are some actual Japanese women studying, so, ostensibly “Maids”

Hard at work at Geisha School, studying the art of Singing, circa 1880

Hard at work at Geisha School, studying the art of Singing, circa 1880

And…back to Seattle…

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So no, your production is not authentic to memory of Gilbert, because you have not tried to do the extra work that he did at the time it was written. In point of fact, he had much less ability to BE accurate, due to language barriers, yet he tried. You have the I.D. in your backyard, and you did not pick up a phone or send a text or even go visit the museum to see if you have the correct obis now, did you?

“Fess up. No, you didn’t.

We can tell from the photos.

Your production is also not authentic because you have likely rewritten “A Little List” and made it palatable to local Seattle audiences – which is one of the hallmarks of the show. Once a show has had a rewrite of any kind, you cannot say it’s an authentic recreation of what someone did back in the 1880’s because you have done your best to ensure it is not.

This is what is infuriating to The Fairy Princess about Gilbert and Sullivan Societies in general, and of course, specific to this production in Seattle. Citing ‘history’ as an opportunity to prance about dressed as totally inaccurate and unauthentic Japanese people, is not supposed to be the take away from The Mikado.

The lesson to be learned from The Mikado, is that blindly following something because it has ‘always’ been done that way, is wrong. The Mikado is supposed to inspire you to see the ludicrous possibilities of what can happen when people do NOT think for themselves – executions, forced marriages, breaking the law, and so on.

The Mikado is not supposed to be used as a weapon to encourage racial mockery, it is not supposed to be the last bastion of visible hatred of Asian people which is left over from the invasion of Pearl Harbor.

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The Mikado is supposed to let you know that if you follow your true self, everything will work out. It says that even if you are considered too old for love, you can find it. It says that the silliness of society’s rules, are to be taken with a grain of salt, and approached with caution. Finally, it says that if one can reason with whomsoever is in charge, and present their case, wrongs will be righted.

The Mikado ‘works’ with or without faux Japanese mannerisms – because the script and the music ring true. It has been performed in a variety of temperatures, with ethnic casts, without ethnic casts, and so it is puzzling, with the myriad of creative ways that one can perform The Mikado, that this allegiance to behavior from a different era lingers on. Not only does it linger, it seems to perpetuate and multiply.

Still from Seattle G&S Mikado

Still from Seattle G&S Mikado

The Fairy Princess does not hate The Mikado – it would be impossible to do so given it’s message of hope.

The Mikado has been present in her personal journey for years – and in fact, she was encouraged as a Vocal Performance Major at Carnegie Mellon University’s Music School to study The Mikado, because her instructors felt that at some point, her background of multi-ethnicity would lend itself to being cast in The Mikado.

You would THINK, right?

You would THINK, right?

(That this has not yet happened, despite a Broadway resume and an ability to appear Asian (ahem), is perhaps a question for the Theater Gods.)

The Fairy Princess has spent a lifetime mulling over the whys and wherefores of The Mikado, she owns giant vintage theater posters of it courtesy of the gallery FULLER + ROBERTS, she appeared in the original play by Doris Baizley and Ken Narasaki of THE MIKADO PROJECT produced by Lodestone Theatre Ensemble, she co-wrote and appeared in the movie version of the same title. She is, somewhat of an expert on The Mikado, and she has been a G&S fan since the age of 11, when she appeared in her grade school production of The Pirates of Penzance. (Which, honestly is still her favorite, and which, had she gotten to play Ruth and not a generic daughter of the Major General, may have led her on a totally different career path, perhaps accounting?)

The Fairy Princess does not hate The Mikado.

She hates the way The Mikado is often performed.

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The Mikado, as written, is not racist.

The Mikado, as performed, often is.

The Fairy Princess knows that it is fun to play dress up, and to become other characters. She has seen productions of other G&S pieces, and in those works, it seems the Actors try harder to inhabit the characters – in The Mikado, she has seen shuffling of feet, batting of fans, bowing, and giggling and scraping, but little performance. When she has seen it, it becomes about the race being portrayed, and not about the singing.

Why is that?

The Mikado is in danger of turning into the last place where Caucasians can openly mock another race without getting accused of racism.

However, if the subject arises, as it did in Seattle, everyone involved is affronted!  They cannot even begin to have a conversation about it, because it is just mean little Asian American people who ‘cannot take a joke‘, who ‘have no idea what Gilbert and Sullivan is‘, who ‘do not understand‘ the art-form.

Brace yourselves,

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The Fairy Princess is your worst nightmare – she is a conservatory trained singer, she is a scholar, she is a big G&S fan, and she is Asian American. She has worked in comedy, she knows a joke.

We are not being ‘sensitive’, we are speaking up.

We are not ‘unable to take a joke’, we are unwilling to be the butt of it.

We are not ignorant of either this piece, it’s music, or it’s message, what we ARE is wary of what productions like yours do to average Asian Americans who are trying to go about their day. Will people mock them to their faces, the way you revel in mocking them on stage? Will our children go to school and have some child who has been taken to see your production, shuffle their feet at them, and make the awful faces at them that your Katisha is making in the photos above?

If you are bemoaning that no Asian Americans came and auditioned to be in your Mikado, did you at any time, wonder why? Have you considered that the way it has been portrayed on American stages in the past years has been painful for APIs to watch?

Your stance that APIs are wrong to speak up is a huge injustice to The Mikado and it’s creators, who had much to say about tolerance and kindness, and the ability to see beyond what is presented as fact.

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America is changing, and if G&S Societies wish to survive and flourish, they are going to have to become more sensitive to diversity – both in casting and in performance.

If you are willing, she asks that you watch her speech from LA Stage Day…

 

She also asks that you take a look at these clips from The English National Opera’s production of The Mikado.

 

 

 

Seems to me that the E.N.O. did a bang up job there, and they made their concept work totally and completely.

It seems to me that that is truly the issue  – making the show work without making it offensive.

You can do it –  but you have to want to, and sadly, the ‘circle the wagons’ stance really implies that you are unwilling to entertain the notion of alternate viewpoints. What is saddest is that, with Seattle’s large Asian American population, you had a real opportunity here to introduce some great music to people who may not have been familiar with it – and instead, you blew it. Will you get an opportunity to grow your audience with the largest minority population in Seattle again?

Doubtful. Not impossible, but doubtful.

10 smacks of the wand to Seattle’s Gilbert & Sullivan Society – on top of what seems to be a questionable production in terms of sensitivity, you had your Business Manager write a ridiculous letter, you had your Koko on the radio blustering and posturing about that which he clearly knows nothing, AND you did exactly what they did in the 1940’s – you threatened people with what would happen if ‘those Asian people‘ had their way.

By Jingo you did.

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Finally, here is a message for you, from Asian America – stop trying to scare people with what will happen if we are allowed to speak our minds – we are going to continue to speak them, we do not CARE if you don’t like it -

in FACT….

 

KISS OUR FAN TAN FANNIES!

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,

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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’!

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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

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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

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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!

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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

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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?

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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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