Archives for posts with tag: Orphan of Zhao

As you know…The Fairy Princess has had some things to say about casting, particularly theatrical casting – both in the USA and abroad.

I'm thinking...I'm thinking

I’m thinking…I’m thinking

Ahem.

Just a few things (thing 1, thing 2, thing 3). We’ve gone from Chinese people being eliminated in Mythical China, to Chinese people being eliminated from a Chinese play that is set in real, actual China but shown onstage in the UK, to South Asian people being mocked on Broadway…it’s been a busy year for neglect racism.

Or as I call it in terms that render it more a medical condition, and therefore treatable – Lazydirectitum aka Castingidiotum aka Artisticdirectorless

There have been several theater conferences on the issue – a forum hosted by the venerable East West Players in Los Angeles, “Open Door” in the UK hosted by British Equity, and most recently one held in Chicago hosted by Silk Road Rising Theater Company.

There was also a ‘talk back‘ at La Jolla Playhouse, and an upcoming March ‘closed door’ meeting at The Roundabout theater company, and now, FINALLY there has been some real, definitive action – a Master stroke has been dealt and it is a doozy.

A.C.T. – the American Conservatory Theater has taken aim at that pesky windmill of neglectful racism and in two, bold and daring moves, they have put the theater community on notice.

What is this you say? Wait, could it BE? Could there be a light at the end of the railroad tunnel? Is it possible?

The light shines brighter in San Francisco

The light shines brighter in San Francisco

YES, my Children, they have done it.

ACT is doing 2 shows with…wait for it….Asian people.

SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!

President George W. Bush can't believe it EITHER

President George W. Bush can’t believe it EITHER

Boldly going where few have gone before in recent memory, ACT is doing Stuck Elevator in April 2013 – a new work based on a real undocumented Chinese Delivery Man in New York, who was stuck in an elevator for 81 hours. Poor guy.

(The Fairy Princess was stuck in an elevator once, in New York City, but it was only for forty five minutes and no one wrote a musical about it because all it would have entailed was The Fairy Princess sitting her butt on the elevator floor waiting for someone to realize she was missing, so it is good that no one ever optioned that particular story from her life.)

The Fairy Princess is gobsmacked! She even knows two of the folks in the cast – Raymond J. Lee (He’s in The Mikado Project trailer, rapping A Wandering Minstrel )

and Joseph Anthony Foronda.

Joseph Anthony Foronda & Erin Quill in 50th Anniversary Production of Flower Drum Song at AMTSJ

Joseph Anthony Foronda & Erin Quill in 50th Anniversary Production of Flower Drum Song at AMTSJ

Both of whom are exceptionally talented, and with whom The Fairy Princess is very honored to have shared the stage and screen with.

BUT WAIT THERE IS MORE!

ACT is not done!

What? What you say? I KNOW, I know…you are very excited.

DANCE BREAK!

Ok that’s enough. Stop now. Because you will never, ever, never ever EVAH guess what ACT has planned!

They are going to take that same translation of The Orphan of Zha0, yes, the VERY one that The Royal Shakespeare Company had commissioned from James Fenton –

RSC's Poster

RSC’s Poster

and….AND.…They are going to put a Chinese American Actor in the lead role!

DROP MIC! Grab a towel and let a peon wipe your brow, ACT, THIS is Victoria Beckham ‘MAH-JOR’!

Gregory Doran must be so pissed! (And not in the British ‘pissed’ = ‘drunk’ way, but pissed off)

He’s saying “What, what? The Colonies? They’ve done what? And who is in the Cast? Who? Shown me up, have they? Made legitimate casting decisions based on text, have they? Upstarts! Well I NEVER!”

Yes. We know that, Mr. Doran.

You never. Because you did not feel that British East Asians should be in a repertory season, so you just thought it was better to not bother with them at all in a show set in China, that you went over to China to do research on. Because even though there are conservatory trained Actors in the UK, no one would ‘buy’ them in a Brecht play, in your opinion, so you just felt…eh, why bother?

Oh, you are back Mr. Doran, sorry I was doing a gig of happiness – well, I’m Irish, sometimes you have to…

Do you want to know who they cast Mr. Doran?

Those pesky people at ACT?

THIS GUY:

BD Wong, Actor

BD Wong, Actor

You know what? When The Fairy Princess puts them one under the other, the photos, doesn’t that little boy seem like he could possibly grow up and be TONY Winner BD Wong?

OH.

OH.

You see, Mr. Doran, That’s the point. The point is – is that there is going to be an Asian American Actor portraying an Asian person!

He’s not going to be a dog puppet….

Joan Iyolia & Chris Lew Kum Hoi in rehearsalPlaying the dog, sorry, dog puppet at The RSC's Production of The Orphan of Zhao

Joan Iyolia & Chris Lew Kum Hoi in rehearsal
Playing the dog, sorry, dog puppet at The RSC’s Production of The Orphan of Zhao

He is not going to have to ‘learn’ how to tape his eyes…..

Saigoned, So wrong

Or use a terrible accent…..

ImageCache

He is just going to get to be the Lead, in a production that is set in a country, where, historically, his Family may have been from.

It is mind-bogglingly simple. It is the Casting that need not speak it’s name. It’s a home run.

So what, Dear Reader can we do to support this bold and brave casting choices?

We can all buy tickets and go. That’s how you vote in theater, with your dollars and common sense.

Look, you may be reading this as an Asian American Actor, or you may be reading this as a theater fan, or you may be reading this because you are going to post on the comments how awful I am and how I know nothing (opinions are indeed like a**holes, everyone has one) but for whatever reason, you are here. Don’t waste this beautiful opportunity to be part of the change of American theater. Buy at ticket to these productions – and you know what?

KEEP BUYING TICKETS – go to the theater, go to film festivals – GO, GO, GO! Even if you don’t like the first thing you see, or the second – when you see that the theater community is reaching out, reach back.

One of the biggest obstacles in including Asian American performers more into our Theater culture is that ‘no one‘ will buy tickets to see an Asian American as a lead. Prove them wrong. You’re someone, aren’t you?

I don’t have a crystal ball

Ok I lied, I have a crystal ball (Photo by Dr. Michelle Ko)

I borrowed it.
(Photo by Dr. Michelle Ko)

But if I did, I would tell you to keep your eyes open because this is a very encouraging and exciting thing.

Which is great, because recent reports have been upsetting.

Although, I must admit, if American Theater is going to keep this up – The Fairy Princess may never ‘have‘ to blog again – and wouldn’t it be loverly?

Clang, Clang, Clang San Francisco – well done!

 

TEN Waves of the Wand to ACT – and the Artistic Director, Carey Perloff.

The Fairy Princess was sitting, all snug in her bed, while visions of Equality dancing in her head…when from across the Pond, there arose such a clatter, she sprang from invitations to Conferences to see what was the matter….

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water….

Gregory-Doran_avatar_1412690540

This is Gregory Doran, and he is British. He is not ONLY British, he is ‘veddy, veddy’ British, and has been acting and directing with the esteemed Royal Shakespeare Company since 1987.

He is more British than Downtown Abbey, he is more British than Dames Maggie, Judi, and Peggy ! (Though he is in fact Nothing Like a Dame.) What he IS, is a conqueror.

William-the-Conquerer

Whoops, that is William the Conqueror!

In the great tradition of the sun never setting on the British Empire, he has helped make England once again an Invading nation! Not just of hemlines and great butts….

Pippa-Middleton-garticle-2

…but of theater, no wait, I have to spell it their way – Theatre!

Gregory Doran, the Lord Dudley of Dialogue, the Wolsingham of Words, the Essex of Iambic Pentameter, he has DONE IT!

He has conquered CHINA!

Not even MYTHIC China, but actual, true, Yuan period China!

Just to catch you up,  the Yuan period  was founded by the great Kublai Khan, (who was the Grandson of a little guy with an attitude problem called Ghengis. Yes, Ghengis Khan. Who was Mongolian. Which, is Asian.).

This is John Wayne as Ghengis Khan
Maybe he can get a job in The Orphan of Zhao?

Right after Khan decided ‘if you like it better stick a flag in it‘ – which was in the 13th Century, there came a playwright –  Ji Junxiang.  He wrote, they believe 6 plays, but this, The Orphan of Zhao has survived the ravages of time AND was the first zaju (Chinese “Mixed Drama or Play) to be translated into a Western Language! Go Ji Junxiang! Author, Author!

OK, so it’s translated. Now what do we do with it?

If I was looking for a British company to take a new spin on a  Chinese classic, which many give the same weight to as a little forget me not called HAMLET, I would likely pick The Royal Shakespeare Company.

And not just because I have dual citizenship with Australia and am therefore under the realm of

keep-calm-and-carry-on

And not just because my Mum happens to be an Advanced Teacher in the British Royal Ballet System and was the youngest to ever achieve that, and then they raised the age limit and it will never, ever be done again. (My Mom kicks ass and takes names en pointe!)

No, I would pick RSC because they are known for great work, and a play that has stood the test of time like The Orphan of Zhao, deserves that. Who would do a better job at a centuries old play with a new translation?

Why NO ONE! No one could do a great play better than the Royal Shakespeare Company – they have swords, they have training, they have accents, and they have cheeky bits they throw in for the commoners. They even went to China – real, actual, modern China, to find the right look for the show. All of which I applaud.

Research is a key ingredient to theatrical success, and after doing all that research, they decided upon this image to promote the show:

orphan-zhao

Look at that PUNIM!

Ah, but does it look like THIS punim?

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Yeah…uh…not so much…..

If you have read me before, you know from past posts how much I love it when they put Emperors of China into plays and guess what – there IS an Emperor of China in this play! I wasn’t sure what an Emperor of China from this period was going to look like, but not to worry, not to worry –Gregory Doran knows, because when he wrote about going to China for research, he used this picture of an Emperor of China on his blog:

AAM_Ming_Prince_Zhu_Youyuan

So of course, when casting his play he went with this guy:

large

Steven Ventura, Emperor of China

Because that just  made sense.

Oh ALSO in this show is a Chinese Princess! Perhaps they are going to try harder with this one, because the Princess is a pivotal character and kills herself and all that kind of stuff. This time I am going to find my OWN image of a Chinese Princess – I mean, I cannot keep relying on Gregory Doran, he’s busy!

182aafe10ae0e4208acbd380985eafff

So…how did I do, Mr. Doran? Am I close?

2CB53A6CE-D086-AF2C-16C160E695DDC441

Lucy Briggs Owen, Princess of China

Apparently not.

Let’s throw it to Lady Grantham

In fact, there are 17 Actors in this show, The Orphan of Zhao, and  out of those 17….3 are of Asian Heritage. Which explains this Cast Photo:

AN_11624474-Read-Only

And this one:

A rehearsal for the Royal Shakespeare Company's The Orphan of Zhao. Photograph: Kwame Lestrade

Out of the three Asian heritaged actors 2 of them play dogs, and one plays a maid.

Holy Nanking, Batman!

So lemme get this straight – this is a Chinese play, the setting is China, they went to China to get the technical aspects right, but what they did not bring back from China was the notion that there are CHINESE PEOPLE IN CHINA!

What? They went and saw La Jolla’s Nightingale and thought “Oh, the Colonies, they always get it wrong, I know exactly how to fix this!”

This is not a male Swan Lake,

this is not a Sondheim musical where people sing and dance during patter songs while playing a tuba

– this is a play SET IN CHINA!

n-SILK-ROAD-MAP-628x314

How many times do we have to talk about Diversity in China during the 13th Century?

I repeat, there WAS NO DIVERSITY AMONG THE EMPERORS IN 13th CENTURY CHINA!!!!

WHY?

BECAUSE IT IS GD CHINA, WHITE PEOPLE!

If you set a show in Africa, Mr. Doran, would you cast the Emperor of Africa as a Caucasian Man?

anigif_enhanced-20100-1396482706-3

I’m thinking, probably not.

I will state, for the record – I have NO, count it zippo, nada, nunca, no problem with Diversity. I LOVE DIVERSITY. But here’s the thing, translate the play – go ahead, fine, Bravi for doing it, but do not set it in CHINA! Put it somewhere ELSE. Or, here’s a thought…crazy but it might work – CAST ASIAN ACTORS IN A PLAY SET IN ASIA.

Because to Chinese people, the title of EMPEROR OF CHINA, or PRINCESS OF CHINA means something. For heavens sake, would you cast Joan Chen as Princess Diana? Could she play it? OF COURSE – would British people believe it? No. This is not just bursting through The Great Fourth Wall, this is using dynamite and boiling pitch so the fire can be seen from space!

Here is the kicker RSC, and bloody hell is it ballsy- you take a CHINESE play, take OUT the Chinese people, and then you  have a link to order the tickets & get play information IN CHINESE- IN CASE CHINESE HERITAGED PEOPLE WANT TO GO? Hooker say what?

I’ll tell you what I would say: cào nǐ zǔzōng shíbā dài (肏你祖宗十八代) = screw your ancestors to the eighteenth generation!

Actually, RSC, you are quite behind, here in the Colonies we went through this months ago. There was a retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s fable, The Nightingale, the leads were Caucasian, and of the two APIs in it, one was a BIRD (sound familiar?) and the other was a spoiled Princess.

Which offended my eye, so I plucked it out and wrote about it.

Then you see, over 25,000 people across the globe read my blog post about The Nightingale, and it set off a giant ruckus. Which led to a ‘talkback’ with the Asian American Theatrical Community at La Jolla Playhouse. The next time their AD was directing a show, Glengarry Glen Ross he did THIS:

Diversity, in an appropriate way, did great things for that show – it had fantastic reviews, because Diversity is how the world looks today. Everyone won. The Fairy Princess has no problem with Diversity. The Fairy Princess has no problem, personally, with the Actors cast in The Orphan of Zhao – I am sure they are amazing, they are after all, with the Royal Shakespeare Company!

The Fairy Princess has a problem with the Artistic Decisions made in Casting this show. Because Asian Actors are completely and totally underrepresented in commercial and public theater. Therefore the ‘argument’ that you are making the cast Diverse by casting Caucasians as Asians is like saying you are starting an All Girls School that will only be attended by the Men of Manchester United. It doesn’t make sense.

And no, crazy Interweb nutjobs -don’t yell at me about once upon a time  ‘there was one black actor in a Shakespeare show, or the second spear holder past Caesar’s epaulets could have maybe been Asian.’

That’s not an excuse to white wash CHINA.

Now, likely, yes, I am not going to work in England, regardless of my passport, because of this post. And likely, Gregory Doran is going to view me as an Upstart Yank who doesn’t know what she is talking about.

Mr. Doran, I want to let you know, that I happen to be Irish, Welsh, and Chinese – with dual citizenship from the USA and Australia. My Family, on both sides, has been under British rule for centuries, so when it comes to Imperialism, the family has had it’s fair share. Why are you hearing from me? Way over here across the pond?

I am pissed off for my fellow British Asian Actors.

This is WORSE than The Nightingale!

(But I bet La Jolla Playhouse will be sending you a muffin basket of thanks)

You have a trailer with accents! Starring a Caucasian baby! Who comes next on the screen?  A Caucasian man in a peasant hat that you likely bought IN CHINA…when you were doing research for this Chinese play you chose to do! You haven’t even tried to ‘escape’ the issue by calling it something stupid like “Mythic China” (Steven Sater, I’m talking to you). You are setting the show in real, actual CHINA!

I am just…I cannot….words have escaped….you are the ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY!

Act Royal!

Fie on you, Sir – FIE! I lay the bulk of responsibility for this fiasco of international relations at the door of Artistic Director Doran – because he is Directing, and wrote a blog about all the research he was doing,  but how could anyone who wrote/adapted a play about China allow this to happen?

JAMES FENTON – wherfore art thou?

Veddy, veddy bad form and five swipes of the wand to you, I beseech thee, m’Lords

Kiss my Fan Tan Fannie!

Oh and PS – MOISES KAUFMAN APOLOGIZED!

Which means I scored a HIT – a VERY PALPABLE HIT! (Ahem)