Archives for posts with tag: Pasadena Playhouse

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

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

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

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

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.

Nope.

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....

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

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

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 (Thai: พระบาทสมเด็จพระปรเมนทรมหามงกุฎ พระจอมเกล้าเจ้าอยู่หัว), 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.

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

A Thai Dancer

Whatever could it look like? Wherever could it be?

This is what a map of Thailand looks like:

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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'

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.

make-it-rain

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

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…

3owbta

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 mjenkins@dallassummermusicals.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?

under-the-bus-o

On to Mr. Casale…

Director Glenn 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!

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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

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

Dana Solimando played Tiger Lily in the Broadway Production of PETER PAN directed by Glenn Casale

Hmph.

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…

tumblr_nb16gltPDa1shhuxzo1_400

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?

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.

Ever.

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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

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

Christiane Noll and Paul Nakauchi as Anna & The King

Not this:

anna_and_the_king_of_siam

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

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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?

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

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But come on, this is not a little thing –

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So under the bus…

under-the-bus-o

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.

And…

tumblr_n2ys9zbBY31qlvwnco1_500

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…

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Three DAYS into the NEW YEAR

The Fairy Princess has only ONE last thing to say….

 KISS MY FAN TAN FANNIE…Y’all!

After the Panel: Stop talking. Start doing.

by Erin Quill

in Diversity & Inclusion

Post image for After the Panel: Stop talking. Start doing.

(Ed. note: The following interview series builds on Seema Sueko’s report on the Diversity: Through the Director’s Eye panel, “Jump into the Gaps.” Diversity & Inclusion online curator Jacqueline E. Lawton shared a series of questions with attendees of the panel to expand and continue the conversation.) 


JACQUELINE LAWTON: First, tell me about the work you do as a theatre artist or administrator.

ERIN QUILL: Primarily I am a Performer – I hold a BFA from Carnegie Mellon in Vocal Performance. I was in the Original Broadway Company of Avenue Q, the 50th Anniversary production of Flower Drum Song, toured as Lady Thiang in King & I, your general musical theater resume… On Los Angeles stages, I am known for my work with Lodestone Theatre Ensemble’s productions of The Mikado Project and Closer Than Ever. I have been a sketch comedy performer in New York and in LA, and have studied quite a lot of improv. I have had recurring roles on two television shows that shoot in NY – Damages and NYC 22, and appeared in the film, Man on a Ledge.

As a writer, I have a blog that I started right before my son was born, called www.fairyprincessdiaries.com where I write about Diversity in theater and anything else that tickles my fancy. In 18 months, I have over 50,000 views from all across the globe.

I have produced, worked in casting, written screenplays turn into features – I have done just about everything I could do to maintain life as a theater artist. As Sondheim wrote – Art isn’t easy…

JL: In a conversation about Diversity, identity and representation is important. How do you identify? How has this identity influenced the work that you do?

EQ: Ethnically, I am Chinese, Irish & Welsh, and am a dual citizen of the United States and Australia. My Parents strived to make sure that I understood both the joys and the burdens that being multiracial encompassed – we celebrated Chinese New Year and St. Patrick’s Day with equal fervor. I studied the histories of my diverse heritages, as well as the fairy tales, the music, things that were cultural touchstones.

As my Mother is Chinese Australian, we spent a great deal of time traveling back and forth to Australia in order to maintain family relationships – so I would say that I feel I am a world citizen.

Everywhere I travel, I try to visit a museum and grab a sense of where I am in that city’s timeline. I read histories, biographies, I hang at the ‘local’s’ spot – I look for differences and similarities no matter where I go.

I think that travel and study open your mind, and in terms of being an actor, to be exposed to various accents and ways of viewing the world – it all helps. In my writing, I pull from my world view, which is perhaps the reason my blog has hit such a nerve in the international scene.

JL: Why was it important for you to attend the Diversity: Through the Director’s Eye panel discussion?

EQ: I wanted to attend the Diversity Panel, because I was the first one to write about what was going on at La Jolla Playhouse and it’s production of The Nightingale. I wrote a blog post called “Moises Kaufman can Kiss my Ass and here’s why“, and within a few weeks, it was at 25,000 views. And the resulting ‘fallout’ from that blog post caused quite a stir, and a rush to have panels to discuss diversity – none of which I was invited to. People, many many people gave interviews, based on the fervor surrounding that post, but no one asked me to speak on it, or why I wrote it – so…I wanted to attend the Diversity Panel because I wanted to see where the chips had fallen, so to speak, a year later. Did my work have any influence? Were people willing to ‘get it’ in regards to casting Asian Americans on theatrical stages?

JL: Can you share one or two moments of discovery that happened for you during the panel discussion?

EQ: The first is that East West Players theater, and its Artistic Director, Tim Dang, are ahead of the crowd. They really are – here is an ‘ethnic’ theater that decided to broaden its horizons with a multi-racial cast and do the musical, CHESS. They took a leap and the audience was there for it. They are thinking outside of their comfort zone, they are creating space for the next wave of theater goers to feel welcome. Which means, thankfully, that East West Players is going to be here for many years to come, which makes me happy.

The second is that out of the four Caucasian men on the panel – there are two that are actively embracing Diversity, one who seemed to be shamed into having Diversity, and one who does not, absolutely does not give a damn about Diversity. I think we, of the “Diversity’ camp have to look at is as a win – we have 2 out of 4 for sure, perhaps 3 – and let’s face it – you cannot win them all. 2 out of 4 is progress. They know who they are.

JL: What is your biggest take away from the panel discussion?

EQ: My biggest ‘take away’ from the panel was that people who are concerned with Diversity and with building their audience are going to practice Diversity. And then there are those that seem innately satisfied that having a’ liberal upbringing’ and proclaiming it loudly on a panel negates them from any obligation of serving the Diverse community of Los Angeles. You cannot force a horse to drink, and you cannot force people to open their minds when they have been quite comfortable with the status quo.

My biggest question coming away from the panel is ‘Why?’. WHY are we continuing to have panels? Why hasn’t everyone ‘gotten it’ yet? Because they do not want to. They do not SEE Diversity. They will NOT see Diversity and we cannot MAKE them.

How could we sit for 90 or so minutes and hear NY’s Public Theater lauded for Diversity and Art and choose not to see what makes The Public Theater so great? It is the theater of New York City – and it reflects New York City. In Los Angeles, it is equally, if not MORE Diverse than New York – and yet, when we look on our stages, you would think it was 1950′s America. It’s embarrassing. No wonder Los Angeles does not have a National reputation for theater – how can we? We do not reflect the Nation.

Do you know what happened after the panel?

A Director in the crowd, who sat through an entire 90 minutes of talking about diversity approached Chil Kong, and demanded that he give her the ‘go ahead’ to do a show about Chinese history. She was very angry – which both I and Terence McFarland can vouch for – were ‘we’ (and by that I assume she meant ‘we Asians”) going to stand in the way of the play she was intent on producing just because it was a play about China that was going to be performed entirely by Caucasians in Chinese dress and manner?

Because you see, as she told it, this play is ‘allowed’ to be performed by Caucasians in Chinese dress, because this play she is doing, was written by a Caucasian man who adopted his daughter from China and wrote it for her – to help his Chinese born daughter learn the history of China. As performed by Caucasians in Los Angeles.

We had JUST exited the Diversity panel. We were at the reception. In the courtyard of The Pasadena Playhouse!

So my ‘take away’ is that Diversity is only going to happen when Artistic Directors ‘get it’ – it is not going to happen otherwise – what will happen, is that there will be a division of theater in Los Angeles – there will be the ‘white’ houses that will only play to Caucasian audiences, and there will be “ethnic theater’ which will appeal to everyone else. And eventually, one type will die out – and we will then, and ONLY then, know the winner.

May the odds be ever in our favor.

JL: What areas still need to be addressed in your community? What conversations still need to be hand?

EQ: There have been enough conversations to sink a battleship. There needs to be less conversation. There needs to be action – who cares if people are talking if they are not doing? Actions, as every actor knows, speak louder than words.

JL: What practical action steps would you recommend to local, regional and national theatre companies to address issues of Diversity and Inclusion?

EQ: Begin with your Boards – Diversify your Board of Trustees. Those are the people that raise money for your theater. Oddly, money tends to influence what shows are produced – if your Board is diverse, the theater company tends to incorporate Diversity.

Theater Staff – if your staff is multi-racial, they are going to think in a different way – they are going to suggest different types of plays – because their background will make them open to different kinds of playwrights, directors, actors. Listen to your staff.

If you have a larger theater, then you have to start your own casting files – have ‘meet and greet’ auditions or open calls specifically targeting one group at a time. Look at your season – look at where the play is set, which city, which time period – who would be there? Then go out AHEAD of time and LOOK for those people. Call companies known for having Diversity and ask for recommendations – both for Actors and Directors. Share. Grow. Act.

If you are an Artistic Director, then plot the direction you want your company to travel in. You cannot sit back and say “I’m the AD, the Director I hired is in full charge of this play” – you, as the AD are ultimately responsible for your theater company and every show that you produce. If you, as the AD are not helping guide your guest Director, as to the whys and wherefores of your company – then you are not an AD, you are Human Resources.

Finally – stop being lazy. You know why your company is not Diverse in it’s material or staff or board or casting? Because of laziness. It takes effort to change. You have to want it – you have to want it just as much as when you wanted to be an Artistic Director, or an Actor, or a Set Designer, or a Choreographer. If you want something, you act upon it. If you want change, you make it happen.

Stop “having conversations about diversity every day” – just practice it. Stop talking. Start doing.

If you don’t do anything, I know you are not serious – don’t waste my time. Excuses are so 2013.


ERIN QUILL holds a BFA from Carnegie Mellon. She was on Broadway in the Original Company of AVENUE Q, as Madame Rita Liang in the 50th Anniversary Production of FLOWER DRUM SONG at AMTSJ, toured opposite Debby Boone as Lady Thiang in KING & I, other productions include THE MIKADO PROJECT, CLOSER THAN EVER, ANYTHING GOES and so on. TV Credits: Damages, NYC 22, NYPD Blue, Movie Club w/John Ridley, Bravo pilot DISHIN’, Screening Party, Feature films: Man on a Ledge, The Mikado Project. Her blog www.fairyprincessdiaries.com has had over 50,000 views since it’s ‘birth’ 18 months ago – she has spoken about Diversity at LA Stage Day, on Speak UP with Jimmy, appeared in Network Diversity showcases, and most recently, was a Finalist in the Writer’s Program at NBC for the Diversity Showcase. She has written 2 screenplays that went to feature production, and is exhausted about talking about Diversity. She also has a sense of humor and a toddler.


Jacqueline E. Lawton received her MFA in Playwriting from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a James A. Michener fellow. Her plays include Anna K; Blood-bound and Tongue-tied; Deep Belly Beautiful; The Devil’s Sweet Water; The Hampton Years; Ira Aldridge: Love Brothers Serenade, Mad Breed and Our Man Beverly Snow. She has received commissions from Active Cultures Theater, Discovery Theater, National Portrait Gallery, National Museum of American History, Round House Theatre and Theater J. A 2012 TCG Young Leaders of Color, she has been nominated for the Wendy Wasserstein Prize and a PONY Fellowship from the Lark New Play Development Center. She resides in Washington DC and is a member of Arena Stage’s Playwrights’ Arena. jacquelinelawton.com

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!

Native_American_map[1]

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!