The Fairy Princess is enjoying her summer – she has done several workshops (NOT LABS) and has another one coming up for a musical she has seen through 2 years of development called I SPY A SPY, which is pretty brilliant (Contact Producer Eric Krebs if you are interested in investing), and her kid is in this new short film, BALANCING ACT
as part of the YOMYOMF short film competition.
The interesting part of the film competition for TFP is that the dialogue was four lines written by David Henry Hwang, who is also having a pretty good couple of months – his new play, “Soft Power” is premiering at CTG in Los Angeles, AND…there is an AND…he was named the chair of the American Theater Wing!
Wait – there is MORE good stuff of note for the API Theatrical Community – we have EJ Zimmerman holding down as an alternate Eponine in Les Miserables, Ali Ewoldt as Christine in Phantom of the Opera, Aaron J. Albano and Gina Pazcoguin in CATS for the foreseable future, Jenna Ushkowitz coming in to replace Kimiko Glenn in WAITRESS, Ari Afsar is playing Eliza in the Chicago cast of HAMILTON…little Isabella Russo holding it down at SCHOOL OF ROCK along with Jaygee Macapuguay who plays her Mom…and our stalwarts at ALADDIN – Adam Jacobs and Courtney Reed.
That makes it 10!
Out of 29 Broadway shows currently running.
The incoming Broadway season looks to be brought to you by Clorox – even shows that would seemingly incorporate diversity – you know, ones that have international story lines about planes landing in a small town during 9/11, do not include APIs in the cast.
Guess Asians and Asian Americans don’t take planes.
HAMILTON did not fix anything in terms of casting. It’s an amazing show, but it is a one off, and we all have to realize that essentially, while last year was a great season, this next one coming up…kinda not.
TFP attended the Opening Night of the Asian American International Film Festival last night in New York City, and the whole film festival is devoted to opening people’s minds and eyes to ‘see’ API people and their stories – and TFP suggests you check out their roster of films.
THE OPPOSITE OF A FAIRY TALE, which is about Elder Abuse will play Sat night at 8pm.
You should totally try and go see some of the films and their API faces and varying points of view, because you are not going to see too many on The Broadway any time soon.
Anyway, into the fray of the unbearable whiteness of theater comes another entry – and this one is definitely taking their cue from Hollywood and it is…wait for it…PRINCE OF EGYPT.
Now, this is a Dreamworks concert project based on one of their Animated films from years past, and it is being made free to the good people of Sag Harbor, NY. by Artistic Director Scott Schwartz of the Bay Street Theater.
He is the son of TONY Winning composer, Stephen Schwartz. Stephen Schwartz wrote the songs for the film and some other shows you may have heard tell of like, oh…WICKED and GODSPELL and PIPPIN.
It is part of their stage reading series, and ostensibly, they hope to present it free to the public in Mashashimuet Park both for their enjoyment and for the Producers to see if the show has the legs they think it has. Truthfully, TFP thinks more Producers should do this – have large public presentations and see if shows ‘work’ sans multi-million dollar sets – more often. It would probably save a lot of money. And sequins.
However here is the issue. The show takes place in Egypt.
Egypt is in Northern Africa. It is super close to Saudi Arabia. It has one boarder on the Mediterranean Sea. It had port cities for trading, and was not far from Greece, not even that far from Italy.
THE PRINCE OF EGYPT is the story of Moses and how he began life as a pampered Prince of Egyptian nobility which he was adopted into and who led the Jewish slaves out of Egypt as an adult.
This show takes place in the time of Ramses the Great. Ramses was born in or about 1305 B.C. and died in or about 1213 B.C. This is an Artist rendering from the time of Ramses.
There are many, many theories about what race Ancient Egypt was – TFP is not going to break it down except to say – they have tested a lot of Mummies, and there is DNA evidence of origins in North Africa and then, as one proceeds onwards in time, after invasions and such, more diversity in the DNA that includes other races as we classify them today.
Here is an example of Ancient Egyptian artwork that was found in a tomb to carry the pharaoh to the next life, you can see there are a variety of skin tones – which is not surprising. Port cities tend to have diversity, and Egypt if you look at the map above, was really quite close to many countries all of which would have had a variety of shades of people.
In general, while there is HUGE debate over what ‘race’ Ancient Egyptians were, specifically – it is safe to say that they were “People of Color”, with all the range of skin tones and features that roots in Northern Africa and a general diaspora that included trade with foreign peoples, would lend itself to.
None of the information listed above is surprising if one has, at all, studied, even casually, the history of Egypt.
What is surprising is that the cast of THE PRINCE OF EGYPT for this concert appears as though it was cast in the 1800’s. It embodies a Eurocentric vision of what Ancient Egypt was – which encompassed the incredulity that People of Color would have their own nation with their own rulers- their own Kings and Queens.
This view also had with it the refusal to believe that those ruling People of Color would enslave lighter skinned people to help them build pyramids and so on.
Left to right in the following roles – Casey Cott as Moses, Stark Sands as Ramses, Shuler Hensley at Pharoh Seti, Solea Pfeiffer as Tzipporah, and Marin Mazzie as Queen Tuya.
This does not seem to, other than Solea Pfeiffer, to embrace anything other than the Hollywood status quo – which is that Egyptian means Caucasian when it is casting lead roles.
That this is happening post HAMILTON and in light of all the recent troubles that have plagued the nation – Orlando, Philandro Castile, Alton Sterling, the Policemen shot in the line of duty both in Dallas, Texas and in Baton Rouge, the most recent debacle of shooting behavioral therapist, Charles Kinsey while he was with an autistic patient – it seems, how shall TFP put it?
Insensitive to the current climate of our Nation.
To be fair, the last time, in 2015 that Bay Street produced a concert version of this piece, they did use TONY Nominee, Norm Lewis and TONY Winner, Patina Miller.
TFP is not entirely sure what happened with this new concert – perhaps it was due to schedules or friendships… or that there are no People of Color with amazing voices available to come out to Long Island and sing a concert in the middle of the summer for some rehearsals and one performance…
We will likely never know.
Here is the real problem with things like what is going to go down in Sag Harbor – let’s put it in national context.
Sag Harbor, in the summer, is pretty much the dwelling place of ‘the 1 per cent’ – aka, rich people. Now, some will argue that year round residents are not all rolling on their beds awash in hundred dollar bills, and there is some truth to that – but not in the summer.
In the summer, there are high end rentals and there is a lot of money floating around – if TFP had a show that she wanted to go to Broadway, what better way to find investors than ‘give it away’ in the park for a bunch of millionaires sitting on blankets drinking wine?
It is a genius strategy.
However – they are taking the story of two ethnic groups – Jewish and Ancient Egyptian which had Northern African roots,
and they are whitewashing the ethnicity out of the story.
When, in point of fact, we need MORE representations of diversity on our stages than ever before – people need to acknowledge that America is not a one raced nation. We are a melting pot- we do not need walls, we need understanding. We need more conversations about how we train people in high stress positions and we need to openly talk about racism both within America at large and then within smaller ethnic groups.
We also need to reach people who favor an Orange faced racist for President, and remind them that the world does not all look like Sag Harbor in the summer.
Theater is supposed to enlighten as well as entertain. Removing ethnic faces from ethnic stories is not what is going to help America stay on track as a world power – it is going to deepen the divide.
Plus, these are educated people – don’t we think one or two or twenty is going to do a double take when the leads walk out?
Give the crowd some credit – these are the people that buy HAMILTON tickets! Like, they pay ridiculous amounts to a ticket broker without batting an eye, they don’t have friends in the cast that can get them house seats!
TFP really likes Stephen Schwartz, she would probably like his son if she met him, and she very much likes Sag Harbor spent many, many hours of her youth there- but this casting announcement leaves her with a bad taste in her mouth.
Which btw, is NOT a reflection on the performers themselves – they did not cast themselves and they are all brilliantly talented – but, as one FB friend pointed out – didn’t we all skip on the feature film, GODS OF EGYPT because they did the very same thing?
This simply shows that what we all celebrated – the diversity of last season’s Broadway – did not trickle down whatsoever.
Trickle down did not work – again.
No, we cannot ‘solve’ the various theories on what happened in Ancient Egypt to any one ‘expert’ opinion – however we could decide as a friggin’ theater community to have “Hamilton-esque” casting on shows that have their roots in countries other than Europe!
Otherwise what are all these damn panels on diversity and inclusion for?
So the theater companies can all come and apologize AFTER they have done EXACTLY what they wanted to do, but they are annoyed ‘we’ called them on their blindness to diversity?
WHEN IS EVERYONE GOING TO JUST START DOING WHAT THEY HAVE SAID THEY ARE INTERESTED IN DOING?
For whitewashing Egypt – TFP fines The Bay Street Theater 50 whacks of the wand – while we were not in the ‘room where it happened‘, from this casting, we can see what may not be happening at all.
And KISS MY FAN TAN FANNIE!