Archives for the month of: May, 2013

The Fairy Princess is delighted to note that her speech for LA Stage Day is up and avail on the world wide Interweb, and she thanks Terence McFarland and his crew for having her. Because they were so focused on getting a clear image of The Fairy Princess, the power point photos did not make it to the video – so sometimes there are laughs or sighs or whatnot that did not make it there…

Therefore The Fairy Princess is now going to post the text of her speech WITH inserted photos and you can choose to either watch the speech first HERE, and then re-read it with photos, or you can just read it, and choose for yourself if you think it’s funny.

“I told Alec Mapa…(Oh, he’s on SHOWVILLE on AMC – Thursdays at 10pm – watch!)

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that I was asked to speak today on Diversity, and he said to me,

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“What are you going to say after you yell “Kill Whitey”?

My name is Erin Quill

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I am a graduate of Carnegie Mellon, an Original Broadway Cast Member of a show that won a Tony with dirty puppets, and I also told famed Director, Moises Kaufman that he could kiss my ass almost a year ago today .

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Over 25,000 people read that post within a few weeks, and the resulting uproar caused La Jolla Playhouse to have a ‘talkback’ on the subject,

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which prompted East West Players to have a conference on the subject,

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which lead to Chicago’s Silk Road Theater Company also having a conference on the subject. After which, I wrote about what was happening in London at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Orphan of Zhao helping out the East Asians in England – which led to a conference, and then I wrote about the Brownface makeup

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in the Broadway Revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which lead to a closed door meeting. Oh I wasn’t invited to any of them, so I am very grateful to be here at LA Stage Day.

Some might say I am blogging my way to unemployment, I say…..

Call me Tiger Blogger.

I wanted to talk a bit about theatrical ethnic cleansing, because it has been a shocking year for Asians in theater and everyone seems to be tip toeing around it. Well, I don’t got time for that, so call me Hurricane Erin, and buckle up – cuz I have got a Little List.

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Let’s start at the very beginning because Julie Andrews said to, and I always do what she says….this is where you acknowledge that there are no Asians in the production, but it doesn’t really matter that there are Caucasians in heavy makeup portraying them

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…I call this ‘neglectful’ racism, or, in the words of a country singer, “accidental racism’….because you are going to now tell us, you didn’t KNOW you were being offensive, because everyone has done The Mikado THAT WAY forever, and thus…it’s just tradition.

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Ummm, excuse me, are you trying to convince me that Tevye is going to come out and do the bottle dance now? I was born and raised in New York? Fugeddaboutdit!

I know that YELLOWFACE is fun – I totally get it. Asian people have great hair, we have gorgeous eyes, kimonos are comfortable and who doesn’t love their way around some noodles – I get it – we are blessed. Our women are gorgeous and our men can kill you wearing a cloth belt and their bare hands.

We’re a sexy bunch – but that is no excuse to culturally skin us and wear us like a coat.

Or let me put it another way – eyeliner is not supposed to extend all the way to your ear!

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No matter how much makeup you put on, no matter what kind of cheong sam you choose to wear….it’s not going to work, you are still not going to wake up and be Tamlyn Tomita….

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– I get that you are frustrated by this. I mean everyone wants to change something about themselves – I mean, I would like to be 5 foot ten and have Scarlett O’Hara’s pre-partum waist line, but that is not going to happen either. We all have to be ok with that.

There I go being too polite, damn those genes – OK– White People – and let me say now, I am White myself – just like serial killers, most movie stars, and Sarah Palin – you are now officially on notice that YELLOWFACE or BROWNFACE is not sexy, smart OR fun – it’s wrong.

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It’s offensive

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It’s culturally irresponsible…

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and you look like idiots.

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ROWR….TIGER BLOGGER!

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So now that I have taken YELLOWFACE off the table, permanently, how can we change? Well where does most theater begin?

Casting…this is where the excuses start – this is where you tell us that you would love to cast us, but there are just none of us available, which is why The Emperor of China was played by a blue eyed blonde

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According to Equity, there are 763 members identifying themselves as Asian American as of 2012. There are only 3% of the Broadway roles available going to Asian Americans, according to a study by AAPAC, so someone was available.

Unless every regional theater in the country simultaneously decided to do Miss Saigon, King and I, South Pacific, Bombay Dreams and Flower Drum Song all at once in a mass extravaganza titled The “Praise to Buddha Oscar Hammerstein had the Yellow Fever” Cherry Blossom Festival.

You can’t find us? You’re not looking. 763 Equity Members identifying as Asian American – that’s right, I brought in math, booyah!

Oh, that 3% of Broadway drops to 2% when it goes to Non Profit world – but you know, that is NY and this is LA, however we don’t even have a study like that for LA because….no one cares about Asian presence on the Los Angeles stages…and that is a blot on the great Theater City that Los Angeles is. Why are you not utilizing us? You can’t say training – we have grads here from Julliard, Yale, Carnegie Mellon, Northwestern, NYU, etc, etc, etc…so no, you can’t say training.

You COULD say it’s because you do not even think about it. It’s neglect. It’s choosing to not see us. We live in LOS ANGELES! One of the most diverse cities in the United States – don’t be lazy.

What if your play or musical is set somewhere in America, but you do not choose to have Asian people in it – you don’t call for them in the breakdowns, even if you see them, you don’t cast them simply because….“if I have Asians in it, people won’t understand because they were not in the country at that time

Just because there is not a TONG or a TRIAD or a BROTHEL in Chinatown reference in your play does not mean we do not fit in America.

Folks – You do not have to keep trying to ‘explain’ our presence in this country – we have been here since the 1800’s. No, we didn’t land on Plymouth Rock, but Gold Mountain has surely landed on us. Oooh, You know what happens when a Chinese person throws dynamite? A transcontinental railroad, that’s what.

Ok, so here I am yelling about Diversity and you are all ‘blah, blah, blah what can it matter anyway?”

After the big blowup on The Nightingale, La Jolla Playhouse cast it’s next big show, Glengarry Glenn Ross with a multi-ethnic, multi-aged cast – that dirty talking real estate office looked like any and every real estate office in this country today.

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The Old Globe chose to do the new Asian American musical, Allegiance. It broke box office records.

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Both shows were nominated in several categories for San Diego Critic Circle Awards – and the individuals nominated for their performances included the names Manu Narayan, Lea Salonga, Michael K. Lee, Stafford Arima … Currently the disco musical about Imelda Marcos HERE LIES LOVE is selling out at NY Public Theater

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and has been extended and also picked up several Drama Desk nominations – .I think you get my point, Diversity is Awards and Dollars that make you holler, Honey Boo Boo child…..

The one, the only Honey Boo Boo

The one, the only Honey Boo Boo

Here is a thought – Put in the breakdowns that you are looking for Asian Americans in your cast, see what happens. You don’t have to hire us, but invite us to the party. Do the outreach because we have so long been pushed aside, we don’t believe you when you use the word ‘multi-cultural’ casting.

Let’s talk about the Art for just a second…why do people go to the theater? Yes, beyond being entertained? They go to see themselves. Well, they go to see themselves suffer, choose foolish love, and sing ballads, but what they are connecting to is reflections of themselves. That is the power of theater. Theater is affirmation.

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Why would Asian American audiences, which have the highest disposable income of any group in America – why would they go to theater If they cannot even go to a play set in China or Japan and see Asian America performers? As theater artists, we need them IN the building. We need butts in seats. If people see themselves, they will buy a ticket – and if Asian people see their relatives in shows – they will buy all the damn tickets! And probably cater opening! Trust!

Finally, let’s address our biggest issue in the last year – exclusion from plays and musicals where the shows were set in China –- I am speaking about La Jolla Playhouse, to the Royal Shakespeare Company, The Roundabout, and anyone who has ever staged The Mikado

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– except Eric Idle, his was great.

Here is the thing about CHINA –– there are Chinese people in it. Oh and Japan has people – people who need people…people who are in fact, Japanese people. Same goes for Thailand and Korea and India and Sri Lanka.

If you can go to a map – and PLEASE, please go TO a map

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– if you can go to a map and see where your show is set, you should know enough to not erase our faces from our history! We can help!

You cannot erase us because you didn’t like that in your last workshop, your Asian American cast told you that a song about a Geisha in a play set in China was inaccurate. images-7

You cannot grab all the beautiful costumes and colors and fabrics of India, and leave out South Asians who can tell you that the colors you picked for the saris are those of mourning.

And you definitely cannot go TO China, grab their oldest play, their best loved work, their “Hamlet’, keep the Chinese names, costumes and then cast everyone except British East Asians, because you say in a repertory season of ‘classic’ plays, no one would ‘buy into’ their faces in a Brecht piece.

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When you do that not only do you lose all artistic integrity, but everyone who leaves your show has turned into FogHorn LegHorn….

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“What, I say What, What, What was that?”

Diversity, the rallying cry of Diversity is supposed to make us all smarter. It is supposed to make us look at our world and see each other. it is not a stick to beat us with when you would rather Caucasian faces in an Asian story.

And to have it done out of neglect, out of indifference, by several members of a community who we have stood alongside in their fight for recognition, for marriage equality, for health care?

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That was not just a slap in the face, that was a Joan Collins/Linda Evans tumble into the fish pond bitch slap! Grab me some shoulder pads, because I was PISSED OFF!

This is the theater! We don’t do that to each other.

There are positive things happening for Asian Americans in theater – ACT in San Francisco is staging The Orphan of Zhao

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ACT just finished another original production with an Asian American creative team and cast- Stuck Elevator.

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New workshops are going forward for Allegiance

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and Heading East, but you don’t want other folks to get all the awards, do you? What are you going to do?

I asked my API pals who are Actors what were their best and worse moments – best was hands down, being on stage, doing the thing they do best and love – their worst moments were always, always when people had an idea of ‘what’ they were, but no idea ‘who’ they were. We had all been told at certain points to ‘act more Asian’ , “be more submissive’ , ‘be less bold’, ‘change their base to gray so they would look less yellow, less Asian’ and it was never, ever from another Asian American.

Because you never tell people how to act more like people, do you? We’re just people.

My dear friend who is long gone now, Anderson Jones,

used to say to me, when we would have these conversations – conversations about invisibility, about non –representation, he would say, “IF THEY KNEW BETTER, THEY WOULD DO BETTER”

My wish for Los Angeles theater is simple – now that you KNOW, I challenge you to be more inclusive. It will make us all better.”

NOTE: The Fairy Princess did not stick to her text – she did ‘improv’ in certain moments, and therefore did not want to ‘let it stand’ in regards to The Nightingale, that the Actress pictured, was the only Asian American in the production – there were 2 out of 12 in that production. One played a Spoiled Princess and the other was a bird.

Erin Quill - The Fairy Princess

Erin Quill – The Fairy Princess

Last Saturday, The Fairy Princess took a coach and four horses (of the theatrical Apocalypse) to LA Stage Day, which was hosted by LA Stage Alliance, and she just wanted to reflect on a few thoughts from the day.

The Fairy Princess was extraordinarily touched to have been asked to be a Keynote Speaker – particularly because no one has ever asked her to comment on what she, in fact, wrote about…nor has she been asked to be on Panel Discussions or anything of that nature in regards to her thoughts on Diversity in theater.

She needs to thank the CEO of the LA Stage Alliance, Mr. Terence McFarland, someone that she has known for a long time, and admired, for inviting her to attend and be provocative.

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The Fairy Princess knew exactly what she was going to say, and how she was going to say it, which was why she had hoped that there would be more Asian American faces in the audience…to say that my blood pressure was under control as I watched the audience file in, would be a lie. When she did not see that many API faces attending, it just resonated how far removed most API Actors and Actresses feel from the mainstream Los Angeles theater crowd, I hope most of them missed it because they had a matinee to attend.

However, I was grateful to see Michael Seel, Exec. Dir of The Boston Court Theater,

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Drama Desk Winner (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) Deborah S. Craig,

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Andy Lowe, Production Manager at East West Players,

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and of course, Chil Kong of The Ovation Awards Nominating Committee,

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out in the audience, looking at their faces calmed me down.

There was a comment made in a review of the day by Don Shirley, that I was ‘visibly choked by her fervor’, and  The Fairy Princess just wanted to comment on that – it was not the ‘fervor’, it was looking out at the crowd and seeing Deborah S. Craig tearing up and Andy Lowe nodding yes, yes, yes at what I was saying, that had her a bit shaken.

Because she knew that they were representative of the friends who had gone through similar experiences that were named towards the end of the talk – being asked to be ‘more submissive’, told that they were ‘too bold’, told to “act more Asian”, and finally, one friend was told to change her makeup’s base color to gray, so that she would appear less ‘yellow’, and seeing them nod and agree, made her very emotional.

The Fairy Princess has been told all those things – well, not the makeup thing, but the other stuff for sure – and when you are repeatedly told those kind of negative things, it takes a toll on you. So as she looked at Deborah and Andy, and by their reactions ‘knew’ that they too, had had those experiences, the emotional response was overwhelming. Through her mind ran all the messages from friends who, throughout their careers, had had some really amazingly awful things said and done to them, in an attempt to ‘make them more Asian’ for theatrical purposes…and a moment had to be taken.

So…’fervor’…I don’t know…maybe?

The Fairy Princess could take a huge professional ‘hit’ for her comments, but if this was the one and only time she was to speak – she wanted it to count. Many people, after reading the blog, will tell her that “you are just saying what everyone else is thinking’, but it is one thing to blog, and it is quite another to stand in front of a few hundred people who may or may not choose to hear what you are saying with an open mind.

The Fairy Princess came to LA Stage Day a bundle of nerves, a bit nauseated, and she was truly humbled by the reception that she received. So many hugs, so many well wishes, so much was overwhelming…who would have thought?

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The other Keynote Speakers were engaging and all spoke in their own way, about changing the way theater and the practitioners of theater, think. On inclusion, on fundraising, on innovation, on staying true to their own mission – it was a great group of speakers and I congratulate them all.

The text of the speech has not yet been posted – yes, it was recorded, perhaps it will be released in parts, at this point, The Fairy Princess is waiting to hear about it.

Thank you to all who contacted The Fairy Princess via Twitter and otherwise to let me know you were still thinking about what was said the next day – hope it will keep us all thinking the day after that. And the day after the day after that….

Thank you for listening. The most overwhelming part of the day was being able to say what I have thought in the past – and have it seemed to have been heard, it is an extraordinary feeling.

The Fairy Princess is pleased to announce that she will be a Keynote Speaker at the LA Stage Alliance’s Stage Day Conference on May 18, 2013!

Wait, I have to do a speech? Awww nuts....

Wait, I have to do a speech? Awww nuts….

This is SO exciting! I mean, we will get to shoot the breeze and talk about all those silly kerfuffles that happened with Asian American representation in Theater over the last year, and oh MY will we laugh because it was all so….

Sorry, wait a minute – what’s that you have there?

Ah yes, Drama Desk nominations – so exciting, The Fairy Princess knows so many on this list, let’s take a look:

Billy Porter for KINKY BOOTS – well, naturally – he is amazing in that show. Christiane Noll for CHAPLIN – she’s so talented, remember her turn in RAGTIME as Mother? Oh, I loved it so much…

The Cast of WORKING is getting recognized! Nice!

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Oh look, HERE LIES LOVE which is now at The Public is getting quite a few nods – Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Director of a Musical, Outstanding Lighting Design, Outstanding Lyrics and Outstanding Music – oh they must be so pleased!

Yeah, they look pretty happy

Yeah, they look pretty happy

Ok, going down the list and going down the list and….ummmm – hold please….let me look at this list for Best Featured Actor and Actress in a Musical….oh dear.

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NO!

NO!

THIS CANNOT HAPPEN AGAIN!!!!!!!

I thought we agreed!

I mean AAPAC made a statement!

The Roundabout Theater agreed to a close door meeting to discuss this…this…the…’Brownface’ and the faux Bollywood accents and the…I feel like I am Foghorn Leghorn and all the Award Committees are trying to prove they are chicken hawks!

Lemme get this straight Drama Desk Awards – in a musical about Asians, played by Asian Americans, there are no Individual Nominations (And btw, that is totally fine and happens a lot and it is not the reason for the following outburst).

But the people wearing heavy makeup and using crazy Bollywood gestures have Nominations for Best Featured Actor and Actress in A Musical!

For being directed to inhabit their roles with what the The New York Times said was “…silly imitation exoticism …in absurd burnt-umber makeup”

(The Fairy Princess wants to be quite clear, that no Actor or Actress takes the stage and gives any sort of performance in a Broadway revival without direction, so she is fairly certain that the choices made to portray Neville and Helena Landless were not from the Actors. This is not about the talent or a personal attack on these particular actors)

(Obviously the Actors do not go around their daily lives striking these kinds of poses – that would be RIDICULOUS)

THE MYSTERY! OF! BROADWAY BROWN!

Those two have the nominations, not these two…

Mr & Mrs. Ferdinand Marcos as played by Jose Llana & Ruthie Ann Miles

Mr & Mrs. Ferdinand Marcos as played by Jose Llana & Ruthie Ann Miles

Again, so we are clear…these two

Rather unfortunate photo

Hmm, -Rather unfortunate photo

And NOT any of the people pictured here

HERE LIES LOVE...and Asian Americans...er...Asian American Love

HERE LIES LOVE…and Asian Americans…er…Asian American Love

The Fairy Princess has a question for the Drama Desk Nominating Committee – If you nominate Caucasians made up to resemble what is a stereotype of an Asian person, isn’t that, well…endorsing the use of stuff like….oh, I don’t know….

THIS?

THIS?

Or, well….

THIS?

THIS?

Oh Drama Desk Committee, you have many, many things to worry about, so I will give you the answer…it’s not B.

THE ANSWER IS YES!

Because you see, the makeup is only a few kick ball changes away from..(.and I so hesitate to use this photo because, well, it’s AWFUL), but you see, by endorsing those kinds of performances with such a distinguished award, oh Drama Desk Nominating Committee, you are only a few shades away from endorsing…uh…THIS

Yeah, remember when people thought THIS was ok? (TOTALLY NOT OK!)

Yeah, remember when people thought THIS was ok? (TOTALLY NOT OK!)

Aha! THIS is the part where everyone is going to get mad, and argue that using Brownface or Yellowface is fairly standard in our industry – alive and well since the 1800’s, and that Caucasians wearing exaggerated makeup to resemble Asians is, in no way, comparable to Minstrel performances that characterized and dehumanized African Americans shamefully in this country.

Because… let’s face it – everyone did The Mikado in High School, and they LOVED wearing the Yellowface, they thought it was fun! They did not, and do not think absurd shuffling, and forgetting consonants and wearing eyeliner from the corner of their eye till it nearly touches their ear was bad! They had a good time!…. And then they went and lost their virginity at the Cast Party afterwards – and yeah, they were probably still wearing the makeup because…’that’s hot’.

Cuz to us….

Cindy Cheung & Christine Toy Johnson at La Jolla's talkback...they look so pissed off I feel like I need to go practice piano and bring home an A plus.  TIGER ACTRESSES! RRROOOOWWRRR

Cindy Cheung & Christine Toy Johnson
at La Jolla’s talkback…they look pissed, huh?

Yellowface or Brownface is the SAME as Blackface.

It really, really is.

Because what it says is – and think about this just a bit before everyone flies off the handle and starts bashing me on Broadwayworld.com – (and yes, I have seen the posts – nice grammar, Crackpots) – when you erase Asian faces from roles where they are possible, have them played in heavy makeup by Caucasians whose very portrayals mock their heritage, and then endorse those portrayals with an AWARD, it tells us one thing – loud and clear.

It tells us we don’t count.

And here’s the thing…if there is one thing we are known for, it’s being able to count.

It says “We are so used to not seeing you, that when we do see you, well…you are not as we had imagined, so we’d rather just forget the you that is you, and you know…make it up.”

Etcetera, Etcetera, Etectera….

I mean, if you can see this from space….

FROM SPACE

FROM SPACE

But when you go to the theater where there is a South Asian character and you don’t see this…

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You see this…

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Something is rotten, and we are nowhere near Denmark.

What are ‘we’ supposed to think? What would YOU think?

The Fairy Princess is NOT calling The Drama Desk Awards racist, because that would be absurd!

There have been many past winners of the Drama Desk Awards who are, in fact, Asian American – Francis Jue for David Henry Hwang’s YELLOWFACE

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(In context, a title disturbingly appropriate.)

Deborah S. Craig won for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee for her breakthrough performance as Marcy Park.MV5BMjI4MTA4MDU1M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTExNzQ3Ng@@._V1._SX467_SY700_

So it is NOT that The Drama Desk Awards are racist – and let’s stop throwing that word around like a frisbee – it is that…it is that they are so used to seeing Caucasians play Asian, that it didn’t mean a damn thing to them. And that is the saddest part of all.

Theater is supposed to break the stereotypes, not endorse them.

It’s supposed to lift you up, and by ‘you’, I mean everyone.

The Drama Desk Awards DO have 3 Nominations this year for Asian Americans –

Joel de la Fuente: OUTSTANDING SOLO PERFORMANCE – Hold These Truths

Jane Wang – OUTSTANDING MUSIC IN A PLAY – Strange Tales of Liaozhai

Eugene Ma – OUTSTANDING MUSIC IN A PLAY – The Man who Laughs

The Fairy Princess wishes them well. She actually wishes everyone well – but truthfully what would be great is if the cast of HERE LIES LOVE sits right in front, so no matter WHO wins, they are seen.

We. Are. Seen.

And, scene.

Finally, for all the people who comment, who are sooooo threatened by the ability to see something a different way, I just ask you – why do you like theater? Do you like it because you learn something when you go? Do you like it because it can make the world brighter? Or, do you just like calling me a bitch?

Because the reason I write this is not because I ‘like’ theater, it is because I love theater. I have devoted my life to it. I just want it to be better, for everyone. I want people of all races to be able to GO to the theater and see themselves.

Seeing yourself is powerful. Seeing yourself is empowering. Seeing yourself is halfway to becoming the person you want to be.

I had a friend who is unfortunately gone now, and what he always used to say is “If they knew better, they would do better” – and this blog is to point out that sometimes people do not know, and I just try to explain to them that they need to do better. So simple. I just say it…well….

In a really snarky way.

Because…that’s me.

Anyway, this is a thrilling awards season, and I wish all the Nominees of everything well, besides….

Werd!

Werd!