The Fairy Princess was in a good mood. She totes was. After all we are, what…three days into the new annus (no, not what you are thinking, it’s Latin) and she had obtained a much desired ticket to say farewell to the Freaks on what will be their last day as Freaks…aka closing performance of Sideshow on Broadway.
Farewell to the Freak Show…may it one day rise again
That’s right THREE ‘effin days into the New Year and guess what she was sent?
This ad for performers from Playbill.com for Dallas Summer Musicals.
Screenshot of an EPA Announcement for Casting of King and I at Dallas Summer Musicals
Read that last line please….The King and Mrs. Anna are already cast.
Rachel York and Paul Schoeffler.
Here is Rachel York in a past performance with Mel Sagrado Maghuyop as The King…
At the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia
This time, however, she is performing the role at Dallas Summer Musicals and they have chosen to go a different way entirely with The King….
Official Headshot of Paul Schoeffler
Now, The Fairy Princess wants to be clear, again, that the Actor hired to portray The King of Siam (ahem) is not responsible for his own hiring. Mr. Schoeffler was hired on the basis of having worked several times previously with Director, Glenn Casale, and on his extensive resume which includes Broadway and Regional Theater. The Fairy Princess would also like the disclose that Mr. Schoeffler and she attended the same university, Carnegie Mellon, in Pittsburgh, and that she has no doubt that he is an abled and thrilling performer.
However, he is not of Asian heritage (and yes, TFP checked, because he originally hails from Canada and there is a large amount of Eurasians in Canada) – according to Mr. Schoeffler himself, he is not, in point of fact, Asian or Asian heritaged.
Not at all.
Emailed him directly.
He graciously answered.
TFP thanks him for that. This is not his issue.
Now for the folks who should be…
Yeah, TFP picked a BIG one, and yeah, it’s a SCHOOL BUS because it seems SOME have to go back there….
First, TFP wants you to meet the head of Dallas Summer Musicals…
Mr. Michael Jenkins, head of Dallas Summer Musicals
This is Mr. Michael Jenkins, and he is ultimately responsible for “Bringing the Best of Broadway To Ft. Worth/Dallas” as the President and Managing Director.
Now, to be fair, the shows that DSM has lined up to come in, Kinky Boots, Cinderella, Dirty Dancing, and Pippin, are all shows that have diverse casts, so it is puzzling to TFP why he would approve of a King of Siam that is not of Asian descent.
Because you see, Mr. Jenkins, just as TFP is aware that this ‘famous’ Asian American hails from Texas…
Tila Tequila…raised in Houston, TX
The Fairy Princess is also aware that The King of Siam, who is supposedly portrayed in this musical, was an actual and real person, and he looked like this:
Phra Bat Somdet Phra Poramenthra Maha Mongkut Phra Chom Klao Chao Yu Hua, 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.
Then again, TFP knows quite a bit about Asian Americans who live their lives ‘out loud’ as it were, but even if she does not know an enormous amount about a particular individual, or where they come from, if she is curious, she can go to the world wide internet thingy and find out where they hail from…ah Siam is now Thailand, you say?
A Thai Dancer
Whatever could it look like? Wherever could it be?
This is what a map of Thailand looks like:
See where it is? Right next to China and India? Not outrageously far either from South Korea or Japan? So odds are, if there was a King of Siam, now Thailand to be had, they would likely resemble an Asian or Asian Americans.
Lincoln Center is gonna go with this guy, Ken Watanabe….on Broadway…just sayin’
Or, let me put it to you another way – because you are a Managing Director, and those folks have to deal with numbers…you have chosen to portray a story that deals with an Asian history. You want an audience. Did you know that according to the 2010 Census, Asian and Asian American population in Dallas (which is where your theater lives) has risen by 35% to around 120,000 in Dallas County?
120,000 is a lot of potential ticket buyers.
Seems to The Fairy Princess that you would not want to insult the intelligence of those potential theater goers by showing them a Casting that they will, quite literally, not buy. As in, they will not purchase tickets.
Now, you may say, “that group does not purchase many tickets anyway’, but here is the thing – you have to cultivate an audience.
If you need tips, you could read this article outlining what Seema Sueko and the folks at The Pasadena Playhouse are doing, or you could read this article from TCG on Diversity and Inclusion or if you are unaware, ahem, take a look at this speech that TFP gave at the first LA Stage Day which deals with the issue of representation of Asian Americans on our stages:
You say right now you may not have many Asian American theater ticket buyers? Yet there is a pool of 120,000 that you could tap into? Come on Mr. Jenkins, You have to invite them by advertising to them. You have to show them that you are being sensitive, that you are embracing the new era of Broadway and the diversity of America, indeed, the diversity of Dallas County in particular.
But that is not what you did here. There is a name for what you did here, we call it “Yellowface”, and it looks, oftimes, like this:
You see, not even John Wayne can pull off Yellowface
Given the casting of an Non- Asian King in this musical, The Fairy Princess would venture to guess that you will not be getting much of the revenue from that 120,000 strong group.
In fact, they may go the other way entirely, and picket the production. Who knows? TFP has only ever been in the Dallas Airport, so she does not have her finger on the pulse there, but someone may decide that…
and then you might get some static.
The Fairy Princess does not know if this blog will reach you, but she knows that emails will, so if any of her readers would like to share their thoughts on Diversity in Casting with Mr. Jenkins, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org – an email that is publicly listed on their website and the sharing of which is in no way a violation of personal privacy.
What was that, Heather?
On to Mr. Casale…
Director Glenn Casale
Oh Sir, The Fairy Princess is perhaps most disappointed in you, in this scenario.
Perhaps it is because she attended a rather swanky party around the Holidays and met a (recently) TONY Nominated Director who shall remain nameless at this point, but who also directed The King and I regionally to great acclaim, and TFP and this Director spoke…at length. At friendly length. (Actually, that was particularly suprising to TFP given the strife she causes upon occasion)
Now, upon doing their research, that Director happened to come across this post by TFP, and between reading it, and the uproar over The Nightingale at La Jolla Playhouse, decided if they were to do The King and I, it had to be as close to authentic in the casting as possible – right down to the children.
Thus, that Director, when told by the local Casting folk that no API kids came in to audition, replied with “There is a Thai restaurant across the street from the theater, go in there and get the word out!”
The leads were cast out of New York City. The Asian American leads were found in New York City and then flown to the large regional theater in question. Imagine!
That Director was particularly happy with the Cast that they wound up with – it had Asian American faces in roles that were supposed to have Asian faces. It told a story that was set in an Asian country, about an Asian King, about, in fact, this King:
King Mongkut of Siam, now Thailand
Perhaps that is not a big deal to you, after all….you are best known for your Broadway Production of Peter Pan, and Peter Pan has that troublesome role of Tiger Lily and…wait….who did you go with for Tiger Lily….
Dana Solimando played Tiger Lily in the Broadway Production of PETER PAN directed by Glenn Casale
Well, that was years ago…things are different now…or at least the internet makes it a bit harder to get away with that kind of thing…unless you are working for Dallas Summer Musicals, apparently.
Mr. Casale, you may get annoyed or mad, even, or feel like…
but here’s the thing – what you are doing, by casting a Caucasian of European heritage as the King of Siam is called YELLOWFACE and it is by NO stretch of ANY imagination, ok to do.
Also, it looks stupid.
The King and I – Susan Graham (Anna Leonowens) / Lambert Wilson (The King) © Marie-Noëlle Robert – Théâtre du Châtelet – SEE HOW STUPID THIS LOOKS?
TFP realizes that you have worked with your friend, Paul Schoeffler, before, in fact, several times and you like working with him. That is great! Seriously, that kind of relationship is a beautiful thing. Working with friends when we are able is one of the great gifts of theater, it makes things easier, it makes the experience fun. TFP understands and appreciates wanting to work with friends, especially when the rehearsal schedule is down and dirty and the show runs a month.
However, working with friends just so you can sacrifice authenticity on the altar of Yellowface, held up by pillars of racism and white privilege, while burning candles of laziness and indifference, is not what theater is about.
Perhaps you were unaware of this.
OH BUDDHA, GIVE ME THE AID OF YOUR STRENGTH AND WISDOM…and a stick to whack everyone with…OHMMMMMM
TFP realizes that her point of view, and the growing view of Diversity on our stages is one that not everyone shares, but you have, unfortunately, put yourself in this situation, and what we want you to consider is that you have an obligation to the legacy of R&H to try and get this ‘right’.
Like this –
Christiane Noll and Paul Nakauchi as Anna & The King
Mr. Casale, would it be too much to ask you to broaden your scope and try and represent the story as intended by Hammerstein, a story that depicts not only racism, and privilege, and sexism, but also one of expanding one’s notions of what it is that they ‘absolutely know’, oh?
Perhaps you do not have a friend who is a a brilliant performer who also happens to be Asian American that would be right in the role, to you…
But if that is the case, perhaps you could remember one of the lessons of the show, which is there is pleasure in meeting new people…
Or you could just….you know…audition people in New York City. There are well over 780 AEA members who self identify as Asian American, according to Union numbers, surely within that number there is someone available who would be thrilled, in fact, journey to Texas for about 2 months.
The Cast of Fresh Off The Boat may be a bit young for The King, but who doesn’t love a road trip?
Just a thought.
It is hard, in this day of hyper awareness via internet, that ‘we’ are able to comment on upcoming productions and call people out, to a certain degree, on what some would call ‘micro-aggressions’, but to us are examples of
But come on, this is not a little thing –
So under the bus…
ya go Mr. Casale.
Cuz if you wouldn’t cast a white guy as the King of Africa….don’t cast one as the King of Siam.
For the casting of a Caucasian Actor as an Asian Male, The Fairy Princess awards 30 wacks of the wand to be distributed equally between Dallas Summer Musicals and Director, Glenn Casale.
The buck stops with y’all.
Your decision is wrong, and you totally wrecked my groove for Sideshow tomorrow…
Three DAYS into the NEW YEAR…
The Fairy Princess has only ONE last thing to say….
KISS MY FAN TAN FANNIE…Y’all!