Archives for posts with tag: multi-cultural casting

The Fairy Princess actually thought she was going to have a good day….after all, one of her old bosses is up to be an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) Award winner today, and she has EVERYTHING crossed for Kristen Anderson Lopez and Bobby Lopez to win for Best Song – LET IT GO, from the film, FROZEN

Bobby Lopez & Kristen Anderson-Lopez

Bobby Lopez & Kristen Anderson-Lopez

The Pasadena Playhouse has announced that under the direction of new Associate Artistic Director, Seema Sueko, they are going to produce a workshop of playwright, Philip C. Chung’s play, COME DOWN IN TIME, as part of their Hothouse series. They will co-produce with East West Players, and it will take place on March 20 & 21, 2014 at  8:00 PM at The Vault, 60 Los Robles Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101.

The HOTHOUSE Series is designed to highlight and develop plays that ‘authentically align with the Playhouse’s commitment to Diversity’ and will be focusing on playwrights whose representation in American theater are traditionally under-represented.

The Fairy Princess has known Philip C. Chung for a long time, and she is absolutely thrilled that his work is getting the recognition by two venerable Los Angeles Arts Institutions. Philip has been working on his You Offend Me, You Offend My Family Website and it’s accompanying YouTube Channel, as well as his career as a screenwriter, but I knew that he missed writing for theater.

So there you have it – a hit! A palpable hit!

And…as good news comes in threes – she found out that Philip Anthony Rodriguez is going to have a cool story arc on the NBC Show, GRIMM! He’s going to be a Henchman for the Royals!

New Royal Henchman on GRIMM

New Royal Henchman on GRIMM

Three good things in the past few days!  Thus the Fairy Princess was unprepared for her emails this morning about…well, for a moment let’s go back…remember this guy?

Gregory Doran, Artistic Director RSC aka The Great Conqueror

Gregory Doran, Artistic Director RSC
aka The Great Conqueror

He was the chappie who brought us that production of The Orphan of Zhao, which was the oldest play from China, about a Chinese subject, and has been called The Chinese “Hamlet’, and he did THIS to it –

The Orphan of Zhao...by way of Exeter.

The Orphan of Zhao…by way of
Exeter.

All coming back to you? Sounding familiar? The Fairy Princess gave him a bit of a trouncing in her blog, and the past year has been fairly quiet on the Western Imperial Front from RSC. In fact, the British East Asians celebrated/… the year anniversary of that controversial show, and we were kind of thinking everyone had learned their lesson.

Because it is damn tiring to have to keep teaching it.

The White Privilege in that rock is REALLY heavy

And honestly, isn’t everyone tired of reading it yet?

Well, they have not gotten the message at The Wooster Group yet, and THAT is lying heavy on the head that wears my tiara. The Fairy Princess has long been an admirer of The Wooster Group, and in general, she believes that they are a fairly sensitive, arty crowd, who do their utmost with their liberal political underpinnings to do groundbreaking work. After all they were founded by Spaulding Gray!

He's got stories, right here in New York City

He’s got stories, right here in New York City

Or that is what she thought they did.

Then, they decided to team up with the RSC for a production of Troilus & Cressida, and examine, how did they put it? I’d better just pull the quote:


CRY, TROJANS! originated as a co-production with the Royal Shakespeare Company of Troilus and Cressida at the World Shakespeare Festival in conjunction with the London 2012 Olympics. In that collaboration, the two companies took opposite sides in the Trojan War: the Wooster Group staged the Trojan scenes while the RSC staged the Greek ones. Scenes with both Greeks and Trojans were staged by both, each side developing its own version. The companies worked separately and without consultation until they met a few weeks before performances to sew the two halves of the show together. The seam was intentionally left rough so that the contrast of artistic approaches remained a foreground feature of the production, accenting the face-off of warring cultures in the play.

Seeking a decidedly American angle from which to encounter the RSC and the language of Shakespeare, the Wooster Group reimagined the Trojans as a pastiche fictional tribe of early Americans struggling to assert its dignity as doom closes in.

Following the special engagement with the RSC, the Wooster Group returned to New York and converted the collaboration into an independent piece. The spirit of the absent collaborator/enemy still manifests in various ways, but CRY, TROJANS! concentrates on the Trojan side of the story: the corruption of sincere love and the downfall of a noble hero.”


Ah yes they are going to examine ‘the corruption of sincere love and the downfall of a noble hero”.

Yet it winds up seeming to The Fairy Princess to be a corruption of Culture exchange and the downfall of  Compassion. It seems odd that in the spirit of the Olympics, which is supposed to be all nations coming together and sharing and learning, the Wooster Group has fallen back artistically – perhaps with encouragement from RSC, perhaps on their own. Who knows how they came up with their concept, but it allowed the British to remain Caucasian and the Americans to don ‘war paint’ and ape the Native American experience – with no Native Americans seemingly visible on stage or in the artistic planning.

This is the issue – and it’s long enough that we actually have a subscription, but here it goes – Native Americans are not a pastiche to be bandied about with when you think you have run out of ideas as to how to play cultures at war with one another.

Does this look ‘right’ to anyone?

Photo by Paula Court from CRY TROJANS!

Photo by Paula Court from CRY TROJANS!

Probably to Gregory Doran, because, after all, he pulled one of these:

Still from RSC's Orphan of Zhao

Still from RSC’s Orphan of Zhao

Well, I guess he told The Wooster Group to bang a gong and get it on, because….

Photo by Steven Gunther

Photo by Steven Gunther

I mean, SERIOUSLY?

I had to learn about this on Oscar Sunday? Hmmmm why does Oscar Night and Native Americans seem so aligned in my head already? There must be a reason….

Oh right, who stuck up for Native Americans once upon a time on Oscar Sunday?

Marlon Brando

Marlon Brando

He was awarded an Oscar, but instead, he sent this message:

Now, tis true, that perhaps The Brits do not ‘get’ the long, bloody and shameful history that America has with it’s Native Peoples – although WHY they would not, I have no idea, as they set the ball in motionbut Americans know. Though Americans are not taught the history of most minority groups in their classrooms, they are taught of our shocking and bloody, full scale war upon the Native Americans. We are. Every one of us.

Not to mention dozens of other ways we decimated Native American tribes – blankets from people who died of smallpox, anyone? Putting them in camps? Creating and then taking back Reservations?

Bury your heart at Wounded Knee?

General rape and pillage for absolutely no reason at all except a desire to push West?

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Yep, those were covered in our classrooms.

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But if one needs to catch up, one merely needs to go on the world wide interweb and do a search on American Genocide and you can find THIS documentary which I first saw at a film festival many years ago:

We also know that Native Americans are not one peoples – there are 566 listed Federally Recognized Tribes in America!

566!

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That is not a ‘pastiche’!

What is a pastiche? Technically? It’s a pie filling.

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It is from the Italian word pasticcio, which is pie filling mixed from diverse ingredients. It is also an piece of work that imitates the style or character of the work of one or more artists. It is not a parody – which mocks others.

Imitation or Parody?

Imitation or Parody?

The Fairy Princess is very, very sad about this new production from The Wooster Group – and she is even sadder that they are running it again in Los Angeles at REDCAT – without RSC.

How, in the City of Los Angeles, the City of Angels, where we have been swimming in Diversity panels like they are pools in a Beverly Hills mansion, could they have invited THIS production to perform in LA? Did no one say “Hey wait a minute, we are under fire here for bad casting decisions in the past which highlight our apathy and cultural insensitivity, so perhaps we should not invite a production where all the Native Americans are being portrayed by Caucasians?

Ya Think?

As a country, we cannot – can not – apologize to certain groups ENOUGH for what we, as a country, have done to their people. We all know who those groups are – African Americans, Native Americans, Japanese Americans.

Unless The Wooster Group is comfortable doing this:

Yeah, remember when people thought THIS was ok? (TOTALLY NOT OK!)

Yeah, remember when people thought THIS was ok? (TOTALLY NOT OK!)

Then they should NOT be doing this:

Still from the Production they did with RSC

Still from the Production they did with RSC

Because IT. IS. THE. SAME. THING! Get it? GET IT?

If you are so artistically bankrupt that you need to go and paint your actors because you cannot come up with a new concept for a Shakespearean drama – then quit. Seriously. Time to go. You cannot think of anything better than Rome-pan or Rome-many Nations – you are done.

Not because the concepts do not work – but because you are letting down your concept.

You cannot continue to mine the cultures of other peoples and then refuse to cast people that represent that culture. If you want to make a statement about Native Americans and your support of them and their journey in a Shakespearean way – go ahead – BUT CAST NATIVE AMERICANS!

I spy with my little eye...

I spy with my little eye…

If you want to set a show in a Rome that has been conquered by Japan, then you better have some Asian American faces in that cast. If you try to find members of that group and insist that you just cannot or that you have not found talent that you are excited to work with… change the concept. Set it in Norway, set it in France, set it in Russia, set it in Ukraine, set it in South Africa, set it in New Zealand, set it in Australia, set it in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, there are lots and lots of places one can possibly set a Shakespearean play where the actors will not have to actually paint themselves. (Unless you want them to paint Celtic Blue – because you know, the Celtic Warriors did actually paint themselves for battle – and there you go – one interesting concept, go ahead and take it)

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Why? Why? Because you, the Director, look more intelligent. Because you, the Director, look more educated. Because you, the Director will then look like you know more about the world – both the one you are trying to create and the one we all live in.

Now, there have already been reviews of this production – and one of my favorites was reading that this production is “Wooster-lite“. The reviewer did not feel this play lived up to the reputation of The Wooster Group.  Which means what? Here is a quote: The result is an uncharacteristically tame production, one that left me time to ponder the awkward politics of an overwhelmingly white ensemble horsing around with cultural caricatures of race.”

It means that it is no longer acceptable to critics, or to audience members, or to the theater community to continue to insist that Caucasian actors can paint or clothe themselves to portray other ethnicities. You know that when theater critics start talking about the the casting versus the concept, as opposed to the casting working with the concept that this is a problem.

The argument for Diversity is ongoing, and it is uphill, even with Critics like Wendy Rosenfeld speaking up.

The thing that gets to The Fairy Princess, is the theater establishments resistance to using full mental capacity to notice that the world has changed, is changing, will continue to change. The reason that The Wooster Group’s production is so shocking is that they were considered the cultural elitists in New York City for a very long time – melding acting, concept, technology, and new ideas.

And now, I guess I would consider them…well…behind.

I actually consider them a Horse's...er...zebra's behind!

I actually consider them a Horse’s…er…zebra’s behind!

Far, far behind – behind The Pasadena Playhouse, behind East West Players, behind NY’s Public Theater, and part of me thinks “my goodness, how very sad that is.” It is like seeing Dorian Gray’s portrait hidden in the attic when you have been having a delightful sherry with him in the parlor all evening.

So 10 smacks of the wand to The Wooster Group – you went to London to share, and you came back with the worst kind of Imperialism running rampant in your production. What, precisely did you ‘learn’? How to totally ignore what you know to be right, and walk all over the culture of Peoples of Color – well, you seem to be an excellent student.

Next time they ask you to do something like that, just say

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Even if you think they are the totally fancy, culturally elite, Royal Shakespeare Company and you want them to be impressed by you.

Just remember, they did this:

Yes, a Princess of China for sure

Yes, a Princess of China for sure

Because once you put a production out there….

Werd!

Werd!

The Fairy Princess has been doing a lot of reading lately….for example she is absolutely obsessed with this book

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SO obsessed with it that she has done her OWN Casting Breakdown for it, in case, you know, big Hollywood Producers who changed Katniss into a Caucasian should get confused and need some help remembering that ASIAN in in the title of the book, and that it is not supposed to be a book about whatever K-Pop star is hot right now, it is supposed to be a book about 30-somethings and their Parents, in SINGAPORE!

Dear Hollywood Producers should you get STUCK and think this would be a way better film called CRAZY, RICH because you think it is going to be too hard to cast – I double dog dare you to call The Fairy Princess -she will have the Casting Breakdown and options at the ready!

(OMG Hollywood Producers, you should TOTALLY call me – I would knock that Casting OUT OF THE PARK!)

(And when I say PARK, I’m not saying it in a “that is one of the very popular surnames for Korean Americans, way)

Crazy, Rich Asians has provided COPIOUS amounts of hilarity for The Fairy Princess, and she is pretty sure that she and Kevin Kwan should have Kiki’s on a regular basis, because HER OWN GRANDMA was actually a part of this kind of Social Circle in China, and actually gave The Fairy Princess her middle name, after one of the SOONG Sisters. (Kevin Kwan will know what that means).

The Fairy Princess and Kevin Kwan could totes be BFF’s! Or at LEAST we could go some piano bar in the Village and have too many drinks and sing too many showtunes – he mentioned karaoke in the book, Dear Mr. Kwan…The Fairy Princess will ROCK your WORLD with her MAD Karaoke skillz….

But that was not the ONLY thing that she read this week – and now, we are going to get into what is putting a dent in her wand….let’s digress…

As you may know, The Fairy Princess has done the show, FLOWER DRUM SONG.

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Now, in FLOWER DRUM SONG there is a nightclub and it is based on a real nightclub that was in San Francisco where the only performers were Asian and the Customers were…well, they were mainly Caucasian. It was called…The Forbidden City, and it was owned by a businessman, Charlie Low.

1938_Forbidden_City

 

And they had ‘Superstars”

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And they had Fan Dancers….like Noel Toy

NoelToy1

And in general, they were kind of kick ass….and once The Fairy Princess found out about The Forbidden City when she was younger, she found out it was like the Chinese West Coast version of The Cotton Club, she became equally obsessed with both nightclubs. But the Asian performers from The Forbidden City could never seem to jump to any sort of mainstream recognition – even though the novel about the nightclub by C.Y. Lee did very well – the performers themselves did not seem to continue on and get work or recognition in mainstream America.

The Forbidden City was not The Cotton Club.

The Cotton Club began in 1923, during The Harlem Renaissance. (Oh sure, I know ALL about it, I told you I was obsessed!) It was where, as my great friend who has now passed, Anderson Jones, used to tell me, “The 1920’s was where Black Men invented Men’s Fashion, Erin Quill”

Zoot suits and jazz and well…The Cotton Club.

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It predated The Forbidden City and actually launched a heck of a lot of performers whose work we still, to this day, sing, hum, and generally think of when we see a beaded gown. People like…well….

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And who can forget….Ms. Lena Horne? Or Cab Calloway? Or any of the other breathtaking performers that got their start, or made their careers bigger, by singing in The Cotton Club?

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Now, The Fairy Princess does not condone the segregation that either The Forbidden City or The Cotton Club practiced, in terms of it’s audience being Caucasian and it’s performers being…ummmm…non-Caucasian. Because…let’s face it, it was racist. It was clearly racism, and it was clearly…not kosher. Not by today’s standards, but it is part of the history of America, and part of the history of the music of that era.

The best thing that came out of The Cotton Club was the music and the launching of careers for people who became the “game changers’. They became trailblazers – being on stage at The Cotton Club is what helped a lot of people become the legends they are today.

So The Fairy Princess was really, really excited to hear about the NEW Broadway show – AFTER MIDNIGHT – which IS, according to it’s website..

“This thrilling experience puts you at the center of one of Harlem’s legendary nightclubs, in a hotbed of Jazz–its intoxicating rhythms, its innovative style, its unpredictable danger and fun. Award-winning fashion designer Isabel Toledo reinvents the distinctive looks of the era with dazzling, one-of-a-kind costumes. And, as directed and choreographed by Warren CarlyleAFTER MIDNIGHT blurs the line between past and present to prove that Jazz is more than music–it’s a state of mind.”

Well…I mean, they are talking about THE COTTON CLUB! The music OF The Cotton Club!

Oh. Mah. Goodness, The Fairy Princess is BEYOND excited!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Because the Cotton Club was a launching pad for all kinds of talented folks, and she is hoping that After Midnight will give us a whole new bunch of folks to sing along with and look up to….some we have been missing a bit on The Broadway….like Adriane Lenox…

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Or people we might know more from television at this point in their careers…like Dule Hill

He's going to be The Host

He’s going to be The Host

And, as The Fairy Princess said….people whose work she is excited to get to know, like…let’s look at the cast list:

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This is Monique Smith, she seems nice. Actually there is a whole BUNCH of people in this show whose work The Fairy Princess does not know, and THAT is exciting, because THAT is Broadway…it’s discovering new people!

AND in KEEPING with the tradition OF The Cotton Club, they are going to rotate ‘Celebrities!” What a great gimmick. OK, so the FIRST Celebrity is….

Awesome! How great was she in The Color Purple, the musical?

Awesome! How great was she in The Color Purple, the musical?

But of course, Fantasia has other commitments too, she can’t be the “Celebrity” all the time! I wonder WHO they are going to get to replace her,  you know in case she goes on vacation….Who, could it be? Oh you KNOW who would be GREAT?

Who doesn't love a legend?

Who doesn’t love a legend?

 

Who else could they get? Wait….Toni Braxton has done Broadway –

 

0078 Aida signed toni braxton

Who else…who ELSE is like, SUPER Famous and has done Broadway…..

 

Ushh Usshhh USHER - and he would bring the Kids

Ushh Usshhh USHER – and he would bring the Kids

 

Or you…oh WAIT A MINUTE, THIS would be RIDICULOUS!!!!!!!!!

 

She's even PLAYED Billie Holiday!!!!!!!

She’s even PLAYED Billie Holiday!!!!!!!

But here’s what was just announced….

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Is this when The Fairy Princess yells “Stop the world, I want to get off?”

The Country Singer, KD Lang is going to be in AFTER MIDNIGHT?

Now, granted, there were Caucasian performers who DID perform, as Celebrity Guests on Celebrity Nights, and a small list would include : Jimmy Durante, George Gershwin, Sophie TuckerAl Jolson, Mae West, Richard Rodgers, Irving Berlin, Eddie Cantor, Fanny Brice, Langston Hughes, Judy Garland, Moss Hart, and New York City Mayor Jimmy Walker, among others.

But it was only for a night….it was never, you know….an extended run in a show that celebrates the music of The Harlem Renaissance.

So that is not, technically, in the tradition of “The Celebrity Guest” night now, is it?

I don’t know, I’m guessing The Nicholas Brothers are probably breaking a hip in Heaven about this one….

What would Billie Holiday sing about this particular choice, I wonder –

You know that The Fairy Princess is all for Equality in Casting, but this seems wrong.

It seems wrong to put a Caucasian in this show and here’s why…because it is a celebration of the music and the people of The Cotton Club.

We can all agree to disagree, but WHO WERE the people OF The Cotton Club…..NOT THE AUDIENCE...THE PEOPLE?

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I see.

Of course there WERE Caucasians IN The Cotton Club….you can see them RIGHT THERE….

That's Mary Lou Williams on the ivories

Mary Lou Williams on the ivories

But since I cannot find any photos from those Celebrity Guest Nights….I’m guessing that Caucasians on the stage was not actually the draw AT The Cotton Club.

I’m guessing.

The Fairy Princess finds it….an odd choice.She also finds it a bit insensitive and well…while she respects that KD Lang is a wonderful performer, she is not the type of performer who would have been seen regularly in The Cotton Club.

I mean, it would be different if the entire cast was mixed and it was all peoples performing the music of The Cotton Club – but it’s not.

As The Fairy Princess has said before, multi-racial casting is not supposed to be used because people do not want to expend the effort to cast it in the manner which is most respectful of the struggle and the time period and the tone of the show.

Choosing KD Lang for some reason, (not her talent), is, to me, a ‘low-percentage choice”.

The Fairy Princess is not African American….and she’s not trying to co-opt that experience, but IF I WERE, I would take a video clip that I like to use a lot and tell the Producers of this show that casting KD Lang to represent the music and times of The Cotton Club is wrong and that they should….KISS MY FAN TAN FANNIE!!!!!!!!!!!