The Fairy Princess loves Canada, been there several times.

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She has relatives there, she skis (badly), she loves the film industry there – she enjoys the orca whales…and they have the hottest Prime Minister ever.

Justin Trudeau

You gotta just…anyway, take a moment to drool over Justin Trudeau.

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Now, the issue with Canada and it’s Prime Minster being so friggin’ cool, is that we, the people, believe that Canada in general, is much like the man they elected – very ‘woke’ (as the kids say), very much in favor of human rights and dignity. They have a diverse population, national health care that pays for almost everything, and it has wide open spaces that are unreal – all that is true.

The Fairy Princess would consider that most Canadians are like Justin Trudeau – just not all of them. She is now going to tell you about two of the ‘not quite as deserving to be in Trudeau’s Canada as we thought’…

Like the ones who run Calgary Opera.

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Calgary Opera has decided to do SOUTH PACIFIC by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and they decided to cast Mezzo Soprano Megan Latham.

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She is to play the character of Bloody Mary. She is not of Asian descent.

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In the original novel, the island in question (the name is fictional) is off the coast of Vietnam. On Broadway, National Tour, and regionally, in the last decade, that role has been filled by Actresses of Color.

For example, Loretta Ables Sayre who was TONY Nominated for her Broadway Debut in this role in 2007. She is from Hawaii.

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TFP could name a whole slew of Asian American Pacific Islander Actresses that have played this role in the past – Lori Tann Chinn won the Helen Hayes Award for this role at the Arena Stage and played it in the TV film version with Glenn Close.

(photo by Mark Garvin)

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Marlene Sai played the role at Hawaii Opera Theater

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There are many more, but one gets the idea. Yes, there are Actors out there who are both Asian Pacific Islander descent, and able to sing. South Asian is also another way to go, or First Nation – but you get the idea?

Performers of Color. Always.

One must actually grasp and hold on to the idea that Vietnam is an actual place and though the Isle of Tonka is fictional – Vietnam is still a place where people look Asian descended.

Everyone understands this, TFP is not going to pull a map…oh wait, she is…

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TFP is a gal who loves her maps.

Ah, Vietnam, you can see it boarders the countries of Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and is a water trip away from the Philippines, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, India, and Bangladesh. In other words – though fictional – it is based on reality – and in reality, Bloody Mary should look somewhat similar to those peoples. There is a range of course, because in any place where there are ports and ship travel, people cross pollinate – but within the realm of that area of the world.

According to Board Chair of Calgary Opera, Michael Brown:

“Calgary Opera has been searching for a person of ethnic background to fulfill the role, and will soon be casting an appropriate Bloody Mary,” says Brown in the statement.Every effort is being made to present this socially important production of South Pacific, and we intend to do the production justice in all aspects.

Whilst that may happen, (but likely will not as the only person of Asian descent they find acceptable is a soprano), emails from the original director of the piece, Mark Bellamy demonstrate that when he, the Director of the piece, objected to a Caucasian being cast as a native of a Vietnamese island, he was sent this in an email by Interim Artistic Director, Taras Kullish:

I know you’re not going to like that decision, however I feel we did our due diligence in trying to find an Asian person to sing the role, however none of the options were vocally appropriate. For the opera world, the quality of voice is of utmost importance.”

Did Kullish just say there are no Asian or Asian descended Opera Singers that were acceptable to sing in Calgary?

That a Canadian mezzo soprano cannot be found?

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The Fairy Princess is not amused.

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What was not said was – ‘We have offered it to this person, this person, this person who are all Canadian and none are available, so we are going to invite appropriate artists from the United States and see if someone is available.

What was not said was, “We know this show is a musical, though we are doing it for our season, and we understand that in 2017 it is not appropriate to paint people yellow.

No.

What Calgary Opera said was they did their ‘due diligence.’

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TFP decided she would do HER ‘due diligence‘ and see if she can find a Bloody Mary that would be in keeping both with where Canada is today, and honor the vocal traditions of the company and the piece.

In short – she went looking for Opera Singers of Asian descent who are Mezzos and Canadian.

Guess where you can find them?

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Right there on the world wide web.

It took one internet post about how she was looking and then some research and then…BOOM, BABY!

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Emma CharCanadian. Mezzo Soprano.

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Ms. Char captured her role well, singing with tremendous composure. Her Lucretia was overpowering at times, emotionally terrifying in its final tragic dissolution. But what I appreciated most is that Ms. Char is a very intelligent singer on multiple levels… incorporated the necessary dramatic quality, all the while making you feel as though her musical lines were poetry set to music. That demands a very special kind of performer, one who can sing her lines as though they were speech, yet speak musical prose into song. Those qualities delivered the production securely over the top, and made the horror of Act II live in multiple dimensions. We owe Ms. Char a great deal for the success of the production… a scene in which Ms. Char must give a sparse, gut-wrenching account of Tarquin’s assault. It was a powerful, stomach-twisting performance combining disconsolate mood swings of psychological distress and distraught dissolution leading to a complete collapse into self-abasement and shame… She bemoans to her husband that “Our love was too rare for life to tolerate” — lines Ms. Char seemed to utter as though from direct experience.” – Stephan Bonfield, Calgary Herald, July 2016

 The Calgary Herald. Said. That.
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Repeat after TFP – The Calgary Herald, ostensibly read by people in Calgary, which is the third largest city in Alberta, thought she could sing and act.
How many people in Calgary?
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 1.214, 839 million. It is has more than 240 different types of people and is ranked third highest in visible minorities in any city in Canada.
Of the visible minority population of 28.1% – South Asian makes up 7.1%, Chinese makes up 6.3%, Filipino makes up 4.1 percent, Southeast Asian 1.8% .
No, they are not all Opera Singers, they are the general population – but a company that is trying to build audiences by doing a classic musical would be wise to not whitewash a character of Asian descent in a city where they know good and well what Asians look like!
So how much due diligence was done, really?

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   Grace Chan.
Canadian.
Mezzo Soprano.

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 The word on the street is that Ms. Chan rocks the house, but hard.
Widely praised for her natural voice, dynamic presence and audience rapport, Manila-born Chinese-Canadian Mezzo-soprano Grace Chan has sung with major opera companies in three continents; her strong reputation in the Canadian industry is evident in press reviews in publications such as Opera Canada, The Globe and Mail, Time Magazine, The Toronto Sun, Stratford Festival Theatre, The Vancouver Sun, The Georgia Strait and many other community dailies. A history buff, Grace is passionate about stories of peoples and civilizations. Grace obtained her BMus. (Opera Performance) and MMus. (Voice Performance) at the University of British Columbia, and extensive training in Vienna and New York. Grace is a teacher, clinician, adjudicator, conductor, and mentor with affiliations with Trinity Western University and the BC Conservatory of Music.”

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Mezzo Soprano.

Married to a Canadian.

Nina Nelsen, Santa Barbara, Oct 2012
 Here is a bit about what she has been up to from her website:
Hailed as a “rich voiced, expressive mezzo-soprano” by San Francisco Classical Voice and “appealingly direct and honest in tone and bearing,” by Richard Dyer of the Boston Globe, Nina Yoshida Nelsen recently made her New York City Opera debut as Suzuki in Madama Butterfly, conducted by George Manahan.

In the 2016-2017 season, Nina Yoshida Nelsen returns to the Santa Barbara Symphony as the Alto Soloist in Beethoven Symphony #9 and debuts with the Guelph Symphony Orchestra as the Mezzo Soloist in the Verdi Requiem. In the 2014-2015 season, Nina was thrilled to return to Utah Opera to perform Suzuki in Madama Butterfly. She then made her debut singing the same role with The Atlanta Opera.  She also sang Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the Southwest Florida Symphony. Nina made her Seattle Opera mainstage debut summer 2015 singing the role of Mama in the world premier of  An American Dream

For those following along at home –
That is TFP 3 – Calgary Opera – 0
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 Finally, Dr. Soon Cho. 
Mezzo Soprano.
 NOT Canadian, no one is perfect.
Cho

 

Hailed by Opera News for her “potent presence” as Mrs. Clemm in Argento’s Voyage of Edgar Allan Poe, lyric mezzo-soprano Soon Cho has gained recognition as a versatile performer. 

As a recitalist, chamber musician, oratorio and concert soloist, and equally at home on the opera stage, she began her professional singing career under the batons of world-renowned conductors such as Alan Gilbert, Kristjan Järvi, Paavo Järvi, Erich Kunzel, Julius Rudel, Mischa Santora, and David Zinman.

As Dido in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, Cincinnati Post praised her performance as “regal in bearing, with vocal endowments to match. The tears were listener response to her heart-wrenching performance of “When I am laid in earth.”

Hmmmm, and then there were four.

Now look see here, oh Calgary Opera – TFP is going to ‘splain you what you did when you chose – and yes, she said CHOSE to ignore the three employees who quit over this casting when you did it and then you said ‘well maybe a soprano‘, but you still have the Caucasian lady ‘on hold‘.

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What you did was decide that Asian descended people only exist in your Operatic Space when you deem it appropriate.

What you decided with this casting is that Asian descended people or Native Peoples do not ‘have the chops’ to compete with actual Caucasian singers, and therefore are able to be pushed aside.

You did no due diligence.

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This is 2017.

TFP always takes the answer of ‘well there weren’t any” very personally – because these decisions are personal in that they deal with people, and personal in that she is an Asian descended person who works in the performing arts.

Regardless if you believe that you have done your ‘due diligence’ in trying to cast appropriately in a show that deals ENTIRELY with prejudice and racial politics, you have NOT.

You just wanted to work with someone who was not Asian descended.

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If that is the case – pick a different show. There are  3 major shows in the Rodgers and Hammerstein canon that are amenable to opera companies interpretations – OKLAHOMA, KING AND I, and SOUTH PACIFIC.

All deal with prejudice in their own ways.

The reason they do is because Hammerstein was as ‘woke’ as a guy could be who wrote musicals in the 1940’s and onward.

By the way, he also wrote PORGY AND BESS – and so the question then comes to you –

WOULD YOU CAST BESS AS A WHITE LADY CUZ YOU COULD NOT FIND ANYONE?

You damn well would not.

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Exactly.

Now, Megan Latham has gotten a lot of flack for accepting this role. The truth is she should get a lot of flack for accepting this role.

The question to ask prior to taking a role where you are expected to don another ethnicity in a musical is – would I be comfortable playing a role in another musical where I would have to paint myself?

If the answer is no – turn it down.

You are not ready for this jelly.

Yes, it is totally Calgary Opera’s fault for putting you in this position – but they would not have been able to put you in this position if you had not accepted the role.

It was very naive to think that people would not say anything in a city that has the third largest minority population in Canada. Perhaps it was not ill-intentioned, but it was wrong just the same.

At the same time, if a Caucasian does accept the role, they have to accept what comes along with it.

You need the check?

TFP totally gets it. Everyone has bills.

You are going to have to suck it up then, you are going to get checked twice, Boo.

That’s just life.

What should happen is Calgary Opera should pay Ms. Latham out and replace her, similar to what Dallas Summer Musicals did when they had to replace a Caucasian actor who they had hired to play The King in THE KING AND I.

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There is some other sh*t in Canada that is pissing off TFP(maybe she is transferring because of YOMYOMF’s story about the television shows Fresh Off The Boat, Dr. Ken, Quantico and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. all being on the bubble of potentially getting cancelled.) but here it goes…it’s super annoying…still grateful for Sandra Oh and Grace Park and other Canadians on US Television, but…something needs to be said.

Yes, Canada has Kim’s Convenience as an award winning television show and that is cool as hell. However when you are, well Justin Trudeau’s Canada, your television station and it’s representation have to up it’s game.

C’mon Canadian Broadcasting Corporation – where are the diversity initiatives that in the United States have actively affected change? Your casts are NOT reflecting the Canadian scene, as we say in the States. That should be a mandate.

Right now for scripted comedies, they have four – Mr. D, Working Moms, Kim’s Convenience, and Schitt’s Creek. Still Standing, is a hybrid comedy/reality series.

(Yes, It’s a super fun show.)

There have not been comedy shows featuring Muslims or South Asian people on since the show, LITTLE MOSQUE ON THE PRAIRIE which ended in 2012.

Of those, only Working Moms has an Asian series regular, who is Jessalyn Wanlim (Yes, she was also amazing in Orphan Black, but…she was killed off). She is excellent, we enjoy her.

However of those four scripted comedies, Ms. Wanlim is the only Series Regular who happens to be of Asian heritage!

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Canada is also the country that gave us the incredible Sandra Oh.  Dance it out!

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Another Canadian Ex-Pat that grace’s US television is…actually, Grace Park.

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(We sort of owe you for those last two, #SorryNotSorry.)

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But again, this is Justin Trudeau’s Canada and we expect more – there needs to be more Series Regulars on their Television shows that are of Asian and South Asian descent – because of course, the CBC serves the country. It is more similar to the British television system than the American one.

A country that has a very visible minority population of 19.1 per cent.

South Asians are the largest visible minority in Canada with 4.9% of the general population, yet…where are they in the scripted comedies?

Yes, Asians are on the news and specific shows that deal with documentaries, travel, they are hosts and reality show contestants, and a few dramas and all – but when on Canadian television are they being funny?

TFP tries to watch television from around the English speaking world, when she can, to keep up with what is going on. Thank goodness for the internet. So imagine TFP‘s surprise when she saw this Vanity Fair photo by Andrew Eccles which announced their three new Series Regulars and…

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NO RAY THE REALTOR!!!!!

HE HAS BEEN THERE SINCE THE BEGINNING!

TFP is upset.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has a low number of scripted comedies, and they have no South Asian series regulars – that is disgraceful.

Also, they have RAY THE REALTOR right there – working every scene hilariously – that he is ‘allowed’ to be in.

Of course TFP is going to be sad that there is not more of Actor, Rizwan Manji on Schitt’s Creek – it is a brilliant show, and he is brilliant in it.  While no one should feel sorry for a guy that has been in as many films  as he has (he has 101 credits on IMDB)  – it is still weird.

Guess we will just have to look for him recurring on the breakout hit, MR. ROBOT on US Television – but here’s the thing many people may not know about Mr. Manji…

He is Canadian.

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Not many people can go toe to comedic toe with Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, and leave you wanting more, but Rizwan Manji can, eh?

However, he’s not in that photo, and he’s not a Series Regular – no wonder all the Asian Actors leave Canada – we may have elected a Cheeto Small Hands Combover Twitler, but at least we embrace more diversity in our comedies.

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With such a large South Asian population…it really is a puzzlement how this kind of thing continues to go on – how we ‘miss’ definitive diversity in a specific genre because we look at the broader picture – television as a whole. However, when you look at the scripted comedies – it’s hilarious but very, very, very Caucasian.

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Here is why TFP is writing about Canada, er…Justin Trudeau’s Canada…we are asking you to be a beacon for the USA right now, eh?

The USA is at war within it’s own boarders – we have racial tension, we have Nazis in the White House – we need some hope, Canada.

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You have some of the funniest people on the planet – for heaven’s sake you give the world brilliant comedians like Russia gives us vodka and wiretapping –  so we need you to show both your own visibly huge minority population, and the rest of us who follow you on the internet that we, one day, will have a real shot at being half as good as Canada.

For two Canadian Companies – one Opera, one Broadcast, who fail to realize the erasure of Asian Canadians…TFP fines them all a hundred lashes with the wand.

You could do something a-fresh-off-the-boat this, so why not do it, eh?

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TFP out.

 

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