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!)
that I was asked to speak today on Diversity, and he said to me,
“What are you going to say after you yell “Kill Whitey”?
My name is Erin Quill
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 .
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,
which prompted East West Players to have a conference on the subject,
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
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.
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
…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.
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!
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….
– 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.
It’s culturally irresponsible…
and you look like idiots.
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
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.
The Old Globe chose to do the new Asian American musical, Allegiance. It broke box office records.
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
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…..
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.
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
– 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
– 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 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.
When you do that not only do you lose all artistic integrity, but everyone who leaves your show has turned into FogHorn LegHorn….
“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?
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
ACT just finished another original production with an Asian American creative team and cast- Stuck Elevator.
New workshops are going forward for Allegiance
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.