She hopes she never has to write about the slaughtering of young men again, she is hoping America will figure out how to come together and end senseless violence towards one another.
She hopes. Always, there is hope.
She also noted that two television shows starring Asian Americans were cancelled in the last weeks – SELFIE, starring, of course, the fantastic John Cho…
And TBS cancelled Sullivan and Son, with the always hilarious Jodi Long….
However….in every cloud there is a silver lining, so the saying goes, and here is one – HULU is going to be broadcasting the rest of the season of SELFIE, which means if you fell in love with John Cho as Henry, you are going to get some manner of resolution. And who knows? If the numbers are fantastic, maybe they will pick it up again – stranger things have happened.
Also, with Pilot season approaching in January, and perhaps sooner, it is likely that those Actors will book another show, The Fairy Princess is hoping the odds will be ever in their favor.
However, as TFP went about her day, she found a letter addressed to Playbill.com ‘s advice column, aka “Hey Johnny”. Every week “Hey Johnny’ is answered by a different person, so TFP is going to retype the letter here in case you have missed it.
I go to a high school with a really great arts program (we do three shows a year) but I’ve noticed a problem. Our (white) director keeps making slightly racist comments towards the Asian students (during Avenue Q he referred to our Christmas Eve as “that Asian girl”). Even though a good number of Asian students auditioned for our next show, he didn’t even let most of them into the ensemble. We’re planning to do Miss Saigon in the spring and he’s been heavily implying that he’s going to cast white student in the leads, because that’s what they did last time they did it. It’s been like this all four years, and it’s really been making me and the other Asian students feel awful, and we’ve been doubting if we have a future in the theatre. I’ve tried to keep positive for us, but even I’ve fallen into a gloom. Please, what should we do?
That Asian Kid
Now, whoever answered that letter, that week, did a wonderful job responding to That Asian Kid, but did not seem to be Asian American. Who cares? Totally fine! The response was thoughtful and caring, and one does not need to share a skin tone to have empathy or give encouragement or wisdom.
However, The Fairy Princess thought that That Asian Kid and his classmates could use some words from someone who has ALSO been, ahem, That Asian Kid.
Dear That Asian Kid,
That Director is out of line. The Fairy Princess could use many other words, but if she was in the room with him, this would be the mildest thing she could come up with:
Here is what you are going to do, and you have to be brave. You have to be ok with whatever happens, because you are challenging the status quo and that is always, always difficult. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not.
Either way, it is ok, the Asian Americans of “The Broadway” have got your back.
1. Gather a brief written (typed and signed) statement from any student, but particularly of course, the Asian American students, who have been addressed by only their race, or who have been recipients of racial toned remarks from this Director. I would imagine if he has said things to the Asian students, he has likely said things to the African American and Latino students as well, so ask around.
2. After you have these statements, you are to ask those who wrote them if they are willing to go to the Principal and present them with you. Some will, some won’t. I agree with “Hey Johnny”, that a multicultural group is best, do what you can. I would encourage you to take someone on the Student Council, and if you can, a member of the PTA to present these circumstances to your Principal. This is too big just for the ‘kids’, you need a Parent with some clout to back you up.
3. When you present to the Principal, tell he or she that should this issue not be dealt with in some manner, you are going to present the same statements at a local town government meeting, where minutes are recorded – so that it is on record that your school is choosing to ignore issues of microagression towards Asian Americans and racial bias.
That is what you are dealing with – microagressions from this Director.
You should outline your issues in one ‘master letter’, and you should also present in that letter, your concerns about the casting of the upcoming MISS SAIGON.
That should get the ball rolling…to say the least.
Now, in terms of Casting, what you are dealing with, with this Director is called “White Washing”.
White Washing is very prevalent in our Society, and you are not the first to have suffered from it, and you will not be the last. It sucks. What it means is they take characters or stories that are linked to an ethnic group, and when they Cast the musical or the film or the television show – they cast Caucasian Actors.
However, casting a Caucasian Actress as Kim in MISS SAIGON would be a serious breach of theatrical ethics, as well as horribly bad historical rewriting. The part of Kim is, as everyone knows, a young woman coming of age in Vietnam.
Even though Cameron MacIntosh did allow Mr. Pryce to play the Engineer (a character that is written as a Eurasian man), he drew the line at casting a Caucasian woman to play the part of Kim. Which gave us our only female Asian TONY Winner, in point of fact. Casting a non-Asian Kim is not acceptable – ever. And over time, casting a Non-Asian Performer as The Engineer has become a theatrical no-no, which is wonderful progress.
Which brings us to “Yellowface“, which is what will happen in your school if Kim is cast as a Caucasian.
Yellowface is not acceptable in our mainstream and certainly not in a high school production. If your Principal does not understand this, explain to her/him that to Asian Americans, it is the same as blackface.
(The Fairy Princess is choosing not to comment on why a high school would be doing MISS SAIGON, but…
she has some thoughts about the appropriateness of it.)
The simple truth is that this Director should not even have suggested MISS SAIGON if he felt that he would be unable to cast Kim or The Engineer with Asian American students. Not in this day and age, and if that has been his intention, then he should be released from his duties as an Educator.
Would he cast DREAMGIRLS with a non-African American cast? No. He likely would not dare, and it would be the same thing.
Meaning that even if you truly love a show, you cannot take an ethnic based story and erase the ethnic faces from that story. It is illogical and ignorant. A point which, btw, you should make both to your Principal and that Director.
Whatever happens with that, TFP wishes you much luck with it, and hopes you have success. You may not, because it is high school, and because no one likes to rock the boat, and they will call you ‘oversensitive’ or accuse you of ‘making it up’ – those things can happen.
But….TFP thinks you may prevail if you all come at it with purpose. (Which is that little thing that lights a fire under your ass)
Finally, That Asian Kid, TFP wants to let you know that you are not the only Asian Kid that has ever had a dream of being on the stage and perhaps eventually, Broadway.
For example, this guy:
And this guy:
And not only did they make it to Broadway, some sang in Six Languages….
Or became renown solo entertainers and do copious amounts of television roles….
Or work, work, work in every medium….
Some go from one show to the next…..
Some were the headliners in their show and went West to try out Hollywoodland
Some have not been to Broadway yet, but are on their way…
Or working on new musicals they hope will head to Broadway
Or got started in musicals and made it to Portland….
Or started on Broadway and then got eaten by Hannibal
Some are singing their tushes off in the Broadway show IF/Then
Some have had long, extensive Broadway careers like Joseph Anthony Foronda….
And Alvin Ing…
Like Lainie Sakakura, who also choreographs….
And of course, you would know this guy from GLEE…
Some are in new Broadway Shows like Raymond J. Lee….
Or cool shows that have ‘buzz’
The Fairy Princess’s point is, oh dear That Asian Kid, is that we have all felt, at one point or another, just as you are feeling now, frustrated, indignant, and powerless because someone somewhere has referred to us only by ethnicity, or categorized us only by ethnicity, or tried to limit what we could do because of our ethnicity – and, That Asian Kid….they failed.
We are ok.
Yes, there could and should be more of us working, particularly in television which is supposed to ‘reflect the American scene’, but there has been progress, and we are OK.
Asian Americans are not being silent about casting and representation.
We protest when things are wrong –
We are voices of change.
We give speeches…
Those of us who are ‘coming before you’ are working on a lot of stuff.
So you worry about school.
We got this.
Do NOT give up because of this Director, That Asian Kid, he is ONE guy and eventually, high school ends, and you graduate. You get to leave. And when you go to college, you can study whatever you want.
Finally, as someone who was in AVENUE Q, to clarify – the point of “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist” is not to identify everyone by their ethnicity, it’s really to show that whatever prejudices we have, we are all the same underneath.
The point of the show is ‘when you help others, you are really helping yourself”, whether it is opening a school for Monsters, or speaking up when something is as far out of line as this situation seems to be from your letter.
The Fairy Princess wishes you and your fellow students much luck in surviving the rest of high school, she was not particularly fond of high school when she went through it herself, but as we say at the Q…
Break a leg, That Asian Kid – and if he still gives you a problem, tell him to
KISS YOUR FAN TAN FANNIE…