It is part of my (not-so-secret) ploy to give more visibility to the Asian-American theater artist plight. A plight that was given more flames this week when the Royal Shakespeare Company across the Atlantic pond decided to mount "The Orphan of Zhao," a classic Chinese tale with, you-guessed-it, Asians in minor rules. In fact, out of the 17 castmembers, only 3 are Asians and they are playing servants and a pet. Gregory Boyd, the artistic director of the RSC, calls the backlash against this decision "sour grapes," giving credence to the backlash, and proof that even when you are leading one of the most famous theater companies in the world, you can still be majorly insensitive to race.
Erin Quill writes a more proper, and passionate, summation on her blog.
This comes out in the same week where Bruce Norris, who wrote the Pulitzer-winning play Clybourne Park (about racial interactions and real estate), pulled the rights to his play from a Staatstheatre Mainz in Germany. The reason: they wanted to cast white actors in blackface to play African-American roles.
So in totality, not the best week in the world of race relations and casting. But tomorrow I'll be reporting on a panel at East West Players about the lack of Asians and Asian-Americans onstage. EWP was kind enough to invite me to it (and even had to go through the wrong Diep Tran in order to get to me). So the fight continues and I'm here to report on it. And hopefully not criticize too much afterwards.
But in other non-racial news, I wrote a blog post for "TCG Circle" this week about what I think is the new age of American musicals: the age of the small musicals. Or as I titled it (and I'm quite proud of this headline): Go Small or Go Home.
A snippet here:
Are we entering a new age of the American musical, where the imperative is not to go big, but to go small? And is folk a new musical genre? I can’t remember the last new musical I’d seen where there were chorus lines; bombastic, every-piece-in-the-orchestra-at-attention showtunes; or glory notes. Instead, it’s been character-driven stories where the actors sang their feelings, not belted them, and were accompanied by a piano and/or a guitar. Sometimes even a violin (the imperative word being a violin, not many violins).
These are all musicals that “whisper rather than shout.”
The example that sparked off this train of thought was from a PigPen Theatre Company, a troupe of five Carnegie Mellon graduates who have a penchant for folk tunes, shadow puppets and a dose of whimsicality. A video here to end the week (or to start the week, depending on when you are reading this post):
Have a good rest of the week. I'll be back in NYC on Wednesday.