The Fairy Princess had a pretty busy few weeks – she helped raise funds for The Actors Fund, & Desert AIDS Project, via the concert series, SPARKLE.
Yes, I was a Sparkly Triple Threat
The Fairy Princess went to Candy Cane Lane with friends…
Every year, just us nuts! (60 degrees in LA, fyi)
She was invited to do an interview with Entertainment Guru and Advocate, Jimmy Nguyen on his show “Speak UP with Jimmy”
(This is not The Fairy Princess, her interview is not up yet, but keep checking back)
The Fairy Princess talked about Diversity on Television, specifically about Asian Americans on Television with Jimmy, and when asked, forgot to mention some people, because she was going off the top of her head, and she has “Mommy Brain” which IS a totally real thing….let’s face it, when you spend most of the day saying “No, don’t touch that” or “Did you poop?” you may be a bit slow on the uptake.
Photo by Dr. Michelle Ko
Frank apologies to Reggie Lee (Grimm), Maggie Q (Nikita), Deborah S. Craig (The Blacklist), Ellen Wong (The Carrie Diaries), Liza Lapira (Super Fun Night), and any other Asian American Actor that she was asked to name and totally blanked on….I should be able to rattle names off like the alphabet, and sadly, I blanked. I am so sorry, I apologize.
You know I love all of you and am big fan!
Great work y’all!
All combined, this trip to Los Angeles has been delightfully exhausting and nothing more so than this final activity attending the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers “Diversity through Directing” Panel Discussion at The Pasadena Playhouse.
Or as I like to think of it, when I see Panel discussions:
On the panel were Christopher Ashely ( La Jolla Playhouse), Tim Dang (East West Players), Barry Edelstein (The Old Globe), Sheldon Epps (Outgoing AD The Pasadena Playhouse), Jessica Kubzansky (Boston Court), Marc Masterson (South Coast Rep), Michael Ritchie (Center Theater Group), and Seema Sueko (Incoming Assoc AD The Pasadena Playhouse)
Here is what the “Panel” said – not quoting, just summing up:
1. If they have been successful with Diverse casting – such as South Coast Rep, The Old Globe, East West Players and The Pasadena Playhouse – they gently chided the other theaters – and, justifiably so. If one theater can garner Awards and increase sales by casting Diversely, then ALL theaters can.
The Cast of Allegiance from The Old Globe – they had hella nominations, y’all
2. Some ‘blamed” the lack of diversity in their productions on the Director’s vision and/or The Playwright – but if the Playwright or Director in question is not told that Diversity is a goal of the Artistic Director, or something that the company stands for – then they do not really HAVE to open their mind TO Diversity, do they?
Kinda Chicken Vs. The Egg
They will commit to Diversity, but they cannot find Diverse people to hire, so they hire all the same people, and when they hire them , the same people that they always hire, they will not instruct them that their mission statement includes Diversity, because that would impede the Director in their vision, so consequently there is no Diversity on their stages – but they have a mission statement.
Did I get that right? Is YOUR head spinning too?
When people do not have to look at Diversity, it’s like when a teenager has to do a term paper and their Parent decides to do the weekend out of town – yeah, it doesn’t happen.
You know what happens? Stuff like this:
Clearly not the most diverse of thinking here…
3. Some said they were open to Diversity, both using Diverse Directors and Actors, but said in that they have problems finding directors of Diverse background who have the resume for them to invest in a full scale production.
May I suggest looking harder?
In this day and age there is a wonderful thing called THE INTERNET and it is available to do ALL sorts of things.
You can look up a video of a Director’s work –
You could search their name and find a resume!
Asian American Directors of Theater – GO!
You could look around at The Ovation Awards,see what productions are winners & go from there:
4. Some said to find Directors with Diverse Background is a growing thing, that they are planting the seeds in Universities local to where they are in California.
This, I am sure, will be news to the Directors of Diverse backgrounds graduating from Yale, Carnegie Mellon, Julliard, Northwestern, etc, etc, etc – but guess WHAT Diverse Directors? You now know that some California based theater companies do not know how to FIND you, so how’s about you send them a resume and a head shot and they will call you….
5. Some of the Panel did not know that when they post “All Minorities Welcome” on their Castings, that it means little to nothing to Actors of Color, because though they are seen – as per Union guidelines and general human decency – they are so rarely cast, they do not bother going.
None of these were new and exciting revelations. The ‘excuse’ for not showing a stage that is representative of America is often “we cannot find the people’. The ‘excuse’ for not finding more Directors of Color is that they cannot find any.
However they have all double pinky swore that they are looking for you.
Well, I guess then, they REALLY mean it – maybe…
Double Pinky!!!!!! What a relief, I was so worried this was going to be pointless.
The Fairy Princess raised her hand, repeatedly, at the end of the discussion to ask a question. Whether through design or accident, she was pointedly ignored – in fact, no Asian American was given the go ahead to ask a question.
Here was my question: ‘According to AAPAC, Asian American roles on Broadway have grown from 2% to 3% in the last year. While this is not New York and we have not done a study like that here, can you, individually give me a number – because I am Asian and we like numbers – on how much your percentage of casting Asian Americans has risen from last year to this? You may guess or approximate.”
And here is what – if any of the ADs from that panel, with the exception of Tim Dang and Barry Edelstein cannot answer that question with pride, then they must go immediately to a mirror and make a vow to THAT person in the mirror, that
until it is fixed. Because part of the reason we call you an Artistic Director, is that you Direct Artists.
The Fairy Princess does not buy into the ‘we hired this director and they can cast and do whatever they want.’ because I know, from many years in theater, that that is NOT the way it works. The Artistic Director and their strength and knowledge and sometimes, yes, insistence on a point or two is what shapes a company. Individual ‘guns for hire’ are not allowed to willy nilly run roughshod over the theater and those whose vision helps raise money and standards.
If you cannot talk frankly to a Director or Playwright about the need for Diversity in some works appearing on the stage, on YOUR stage, you are not an Artistic Director – you are Human Resources. You just hire them.
As a DIRECTOR or CHOREOGRAPHER to not be open to seeing people of different backgrounds in the world of ‘your’ play – that is a FAIL.
Yeah, I said it. It is a fail. And the worst/best part? You already KNOW it – no one defends something as staunchly as people who already know that they have missed the boat.
Directors, Can you hear me?
(The reason I made my question Asian American specific, is that the audience was diverse, and other people who represented other minority groups were allowed to ask questions. I am not myopic enough to believe that only casting Asian Americans makes a show diverse. That would mean I am a cloistered ignoramus…and despite Internet aspersions, I’m not. )
The Fairy Princess has had enough of talking. The Fairy Princess wants to see some action. The Fairy Princess is EXHAUSTED by the need to have to constantly have panels and explain Diversity – it is pretty clear at this point who is committed to it, and who is not. The Fairy Princess’s spirit animal remains The Honey Badger
Instead of patting ourselves on the back for yet ANOTHER panel – why not just up your game?
Why does a room full of Directors, Choreographers, and Artistic Directors who live and work in California need to learn MORE about Diversity?
Have they not been paying attention?
Were they at the cheese plate?
Is that cheddar? Delish
Some good points were made at the Panel –
Tim Dang said that to direct a play that is for a particular minority, you do not have to go to a ‘minority’ theater to direct it. In fact, it would be a stronger choice to direct that play with a theater company that services an audience who perhaps has not been to a ‘minority’ theater company. He also said that Southern California is “Ground Zero” for diversification and diversifying theater – good points, Tim.
Sheldon Epps said that he looks forward to LA stages representing America in every production, not just in individual productions. For example, when he directed 12 Angry Men, a fairly famous play, he allowed the murder of Treyvon Martin to influence his choice to cast, and find out what his audience’s reaction was.
Jessica Kubzansky of Boston Court said that because Boston Court is smaller, they are allowed to take more risks, not less – and that the discussion of how to bring more actors and directors of color to their stages is a daily question – one she hopes is answered by actors, at least, at the Open Calls they have.
Seema Sueko, who is the incoming AD at The Pasadena Playhouse said that having a diverse staff and listening to them and what they bring to the table, informs productions across the board if one can listen.
Barry Edelstein said that he wants his stages to look like the city in which his theater company has it’s home – that one should be able to imagine a cast on their stage simply by walking through one of the beautiful parks.
Marc Masterson said some good stuff about how he has managed to diversify his stages dramatically….look, everyone said some good stuff.
The Fairy Princess doesn’t care about stuff.
Stuff is the routine George Carlin used to do.
THEATER is what the people in the audience and on the stage of The Pasadena Playhouse do – so if that’s what you do….get to doing it.
So let it be written, so let it be DONE! Because….