Archives for posts with tag: Sheldon Epps

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…

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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…

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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!

The Fairy Princess had a pretty busy few weeks – she helped raise funds for The Actors Fund, &  Desert AIDS Project, via the concert series, SPARKLE.

Yes, I was a Sparkly Triple Threat

Yes, I was a Sparkly Triple Threat

The Fairy Princess went to Candy Cane Lane with friends…

Every year, just us nuts!

Every year, just us nuts! (60 degrees in LA, fyi)

She was invited to do an interview with Entertainment Guru and Advocate, Jimmy Nguyen on his show “Speak UP with Jimmy”

(This is not The Fairy Princess, her interview is not up yet, but keep checking back)

The Fairy Princess talked about Diversity on Television, specifically about Asian Americans on Television with Jimmy, and when asked, forgot to mention some people, because she was going off the top of her head, and she has “Mommy Brain” which IS a totally real thing….let’s face it, when you spend most of the day saying “No, don’t touch that” or “Did you poop?” you may be a bit slow on the uptake.

Photo by Dr. Michelle Ko

Photo by Dr. Michelle Ko

Frank apologies to Reggie Lee (Grimm), Maggie Q (Nikita), Deborah S. Craig (The Blacklist), Ellen Wong (The Carrie Diaries), Liza Lapira (Super Fun Night), and any other Asian American Actor that she was asked to name and totally blanked on….I should be able to rattle names off like the alphabet, and sadly, I blanked. I am so sorry, I apologize.

You know I love all of you and am big fan!

Great work y’all!

All combined, this trip to Los Angeles has been delightfully exhausting and nothing more so than this final activity attending the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers “Diversity through Directing” Panel Discussion at The Pasadena Playhouse.

Or as I like to think of it, when I see Panel discussions:

On the panel were Christopher Ashely ( La Jolla Playhouse), Tim Dang (East West Players), Barry Edelstein (The Old Globe), Sheldon Epps (Outgoing AD The Pasadena Playhouse), Jessica Kubzansky (Boston Court), Marc Masterson (South Coast Rep), Michael Ritchie (Center Theater Group), and Seema Sueko (Incoming Assoc AD The Pasadena Playhouse)

Here is what the “Panel” said – not quoting, just summing up:

1. If they have been successful with Diverse casting – such as South Coast Rep, The Old Globe, East West Players and The Pasadena Playhouse – they gently chided the other theaters – and, justifiably so. If one theater can garner Awards and increase sales by casting Diversely, then ALL theaters can.

The Cast of Allegiance from The Old Globe - they had hella nominations, y'all

The Cast of Allegiance from The Old Globe – they had hella nominations, y’all

2. Some ‘blamed” the lack of diversity in their productions on the Director’s vision and/or The Playwright – but if the Playwright or Director in question is not told that Diversity is a goal of the Artistic Director, or something that the company stands for – then they do not really HAVE to open their mind TO Diversity, do they?

Kinda Chicken Vs. The Egg

They will commit to Diversity, but they cannot find Diverse people to hire, so they hire all the same people,  and when they hire them , the same people that they always hire, they will not instruct them that their mission statement includes Diversity, because that would impede the Director in their vision, so consequently there is no Diversity on their stages – but they have a mission statement.

Did I get that right? Is YOUR head spinning too?

When people do not have to look at Diversity, it’s like when a teenager has to do a term paper and their Parent decides to do the weekend out of town – yeah, it doesn’t happen.

You know what happens? Stuff like this:

Clearly not the most diverse of thinking here...

Clearly not the most diverse of thinking here…

3. Some said they were open to Diversity, both using Diverse Directors and Actors, but said in that they have problems finding directors of Diverse background who have the resume for them to invest in a full scale production.

May I suggest looking harder?

In this day and age there is a wonderful thing called THE INTERNET and it is available to do ALL sorts of things.

You can look up a video of a Director’s work –

You could search their name and find a resume!

Asian American Directors of Theater – GO!

You could look around at The Ovation Awards,see what productions are winners & go from there:

4. Some said to find Directors with Diverse Background is a growing thing, that they are planting the seeds in Universities local to where they are in California.

This, I am sure, will be news to the Directors of Diverse backgrounds graduating from Yale, Carnegie Mellon, Julliard, Northwestern, etc, etc, etc – but guess WHAT Diverse Directors? You now know that some California based theater companies do not know how to FIND you, so how’s about you send them a resume and a head shot and they will call you….

5. Some of the Panel did not know that when they post “All Minorities Welcome” on their Castings, that it means little to nothing to Actors of Color, because though they are seen – as per Union guidelines and general human decency – they are so rarely cast, they do not bother going.

None of these were new and exciting revelations. The ‘excuse’ for not showing a stage that is representative of America is often “we cannot find the people’. The ‘excuse’ for not finding more Directors of Color is that they cannot find any.

However they have all double pinky swore that they are looking for you.

Well, I guess then, the REALLY mean it - maybe...

Well, I guess then, they REALLY mean it – maybe…

Double Pinky!!!!!! What a relief, I was so worried this was going to be pointless.

The Fairy Princess raised her hand, repeatedly, at the end of the discussion to ask a question. Whether through design or accident, she was pointedly ignored – in fact, no Asian American was given the go ahead to ask a question.

Here was my question: ‘According to AAPAC, Asian American roles on Broadway have grown from 2% to 3% in the last year. While this is not New York and we have not done a study like that here, can you, individually give me a number – because I am Asian and we like numbers – on how much your percentage of casting Asian Americans has risen from last year to this? You may guess or approximate.”

And here is what – if any of the ADs from that panel, with the exception of Tim Dang and Barry Edelstein cannot answer that question with pride, then they must go immediately to a mirror and make a vow to THAT person in the mirror, that

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until it is fixed. Because part of the reason we call you an Artistic Director, is that you Direct Artists.

The Fairy Princess does not buy into the ‘we hired this director and they can cast and do whatever they want.’ because I know, from many years in theater, that that is NOT the way it works. The Artistic Director and their strength and knowledge and sometimes, yes, insistence on a point or two is what shapes a company. Individual ‘guns for hire’ are not allowed to willy nilly run roughshod over the theater and those whose vision helps raise money and standards.

If you cannot talk frankly to a Director or Playwright about the need for Diversity in some works appearing on the stage, on YOUR stage, you are not an Artistic Director – you are Human Resources. You just hire them.

As a DIRECTOR or CHOREOGRAPHER to not be open to seeing people of different backgrounds in the world of ‘your’ play – that is a FAIL.

Yeah, I said it. It is a fail. And the worst/best part? You already KNOW it – no one defends something as staunchly as people who already know that they have missed the boat.

Which Boat, Papa? Can you hear me?

Directors, Can you hear me?

(The reason I made my question Asian American specific, is that the audience was diverse, and other people who represented other minority  groups were allowed to ask questions. I am not myopic enough to believe that only casting Asian Americans makes a show diverse. That would mean I am a cloistered ignoramus…and despite Internet aspersions, I’m not. )

 The Fairy Princess has had enough of talking. The Fairy Princess wants to see some action. The Fairy Princess is EXHAUSTED by the need to have to constantly have panels and explain Diversity – it is pretty clear at this point who is committed to it, and who is not. The Fairy Princess’s spirit animal remains The Honey Badger

Instead of patting ourselves on the back for yet ANOTHER panel – why not just up your game?

Why does a room full of Directors, Choreographers, and Artistic Directors who live and work in California need to learn MORE about Diversity?

Have they not been paying attention?

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Were they at the cheese plate?

Is that cheddar? Delish

Is that cheddar? Delish

Some good points were made at the Panel 

Tim Dang said that to direct a play that is for a particular minority, you do not have to go to a ‘minority’ theater to direct it. In fact, it would be a stronger choice to direct that play with a theater company that services an audience who perhaps has not been to a ‘minority’ theater company. He also said that Southern California is “Ground Zero” for diversification and diversifying theater – good points, Tim.

Sheldon Epps said that he looks forward to LA stages representing America in every production, not just in individual productions. For example, when he directed 12 Angry Men, a fairly famous play, he allowed the murder of Treyvon Martin to influence his choice to cast, and find out what his audience’s reaction was.

Jessica Kubzansky of Boston Court said that because Boston Court is smaller, they are allowed to take more risks, not less – and that the discussion of how to bring more actors and directors of color to their stages is a daily question – one she hopes is answered by actors, at least, at the Open Calls they have.

Seema Sueko, who is the incoming AD at The Pasadena Playhouse said that having a diverse staff and listening to them and what they bring to the table, informs productions across the board if one can listen.

Barry Edelstein said that he wants his stages to look like the city in which his theater company has it’s home – that one should be able to imagine a cast on their stage simply by walking through one of the beautiful parks.

Marc Masterson said some good stuff about how he has managed to diversify his stages dramatically….look, everyone said some good stuff.

The Fairy Princess doesn’t care about stuff.

Stuff is the routine George Carlin used to do.

THEATER is what the people in the audience and on the stage of The Pasadena Playhouse do – so if that’s what you do….get to doing it.

So let it be written, so let it be DONE! Because….

Werd!

Werd!