Word wright/Square Eyes/Procrastinator/Geek. Dudette at Reflector Films. 'Best Cheerleader' 1992. Eurasian Daisy Steiner.

The Orphans of Theatre

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I was fortunate enough to be given a place on a Royal Court writers’ course after leaving university. It was there I met fellow writers of East Asian-descent. It was like Christmas, albeit a rather red-faced one and, as our course came to a close, we began to ask ourselves what place our carefully-crafted masterpieces would have in theatre.

The summer had seen a celebration of the diversity in the UK and one of the most popular (and one of the largest publicly-funded) theatres, The RSC produce an all-Black Julius Caesar and an all-South Asian Much Ado About Nothing for their World Shakespeare Festival last year. Now that is an exciting step in theatre. They went about finding actors for the parts and by no means was it an easy task. Casting for Caesar had been difficult but they managed it. Then along came Orphan of Zhao.

Check out the poster:


Oh joy unconfined!!

They were even kind enough to translate the marketing information into Mandarin. We have finally arrived! They hadn’t forgotten that a significant portion of the population is East Asian or of East Asian descent and we will get to see our faces on the big stage. Or maybe not. The casting was “colour blind”. This term does rankle somewhat. It seems frequently used to continue casting white actors in main roles, and as an excuse to not cast ethnic minority actors and it turns out that the orphan is not Zhao: it’s the East Asians living in Britain. Left out of their own story with Greg Doran, Artistic Director of the heavily publicly funded RSC, was quoted by Matt Trueman stating actors were suffering from “sour grapes“.

This is such a shame to hear. It’s not about sour grapes over not getting a part. It’s not even sour grapes about not making an effort to meet with and audition many East Asian actors. It is about being overlooked and excluded. It’s a generalisation of course, but East Asians are not well known for speaking out and defying the voice of authority. But this is how bad it has got now. Excluded from modern “colour-blind” casting, we’re now excluded from our own stories that use our own image and identity to publicise it. It’s not sour grapes, and for me it is most definitely hurt feelings at having something I hold dear taken and manipulated for marketing purposes and to see my talented friends, frequently excluded because of the way they look, overlooked once again. I understand that the RSC are unlikely to issue an apology over casting whilst the 3-play run is still in motion but I do hope there is some humility in the end and that we can move on and work together, showing how wonderful our heritage is but also, that we are not foreigners in our own country.

In regards to this debate, I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who got involved across the globe but particularly playwright David Henry Hwang, Aapac – Asian American Performers Action Coalition, Victor Wong and the Chinese Canadian National Council the members of the British East Asian Artists and in particular Daniel York who put his career on the line to speak out and highlight this injustice. For the purposes of documentation, below are some of the comments that both the RSC and regular Joes made about their feelings on The RSC Facebook page.

There’s some Twitter debate about the casting for The Orphan of Zhao – we would like to share some background info for clarification. The Orphan of Zhao is an ancient morality tale that originally came from China and has since been revived, adapted and explored by many writers across the world. This new version has been adapted by James Fenton, and is one of three plays in our Swan Theatre season this winter, alongside new adaptations of Pushkin and Brecht. A single company of actors are cross-cast in a number of roles across all three plays. We are always aiming to reflect the diverse population of the UK on our stages and we make considerable efforts to audition actors from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds. On this occasion, we cast an ethnically diverse company, including several actors of Chinese and East Asian heritage. We also met other actors who choose to similarly represent themselves on Spotlight – some turned us down and some were felt not to be right for all three plays. We cast the best people available for the range of roles required The multi-cultural make-up of our winter season company reflects British society. To say the East Asian actors we’ve cast are playing a maid and a dog is a distortion of their roles in The Orphan of Zhao. “The Maid” is one of the key roles in the play. She stands up to tyranny and is executed. Two actors participate in a spectacular piece of puppetry, performing the Demon Mastiff – a highly skilled piece of work, as well as taking on a variety of key roles in the production. The RSC, 18 October 2012

There were over 400 comments posted to this…

C. Amanda Maud Mimimizing it by calling it “some Twitter debate” is a bit much. Asian-American and British East Asian Theatre artists have been actively discussing it numerous arenas and are shocked and enraged by the casting decisions of this production. Three actors of East Asian descent out of 17 is not “several”. The argument that actors were needed for three plays seems weak in that the RSC just produced an all- African “Julius Caesar”. Why didn’t cross-casting present a problem then. The RSC’s statement above does not address the concerns expressed by the British East Asian and Asian American theatre communities adequately. 18 October 2012 at 17:05 via mobile · Like · 22
Josh Marotti People will just have to get over it. I mean seriously do they really think that you guys had bad intentions? 18 October 2012 at 17:21 via mobile · Like
Nathanael Kent C. Amanda Maud: I’m not defending the RSC here, but their production of Julius Caesar was standalone and so the situation is different- ie the cast were not in any other RSC productions, since after the RST, it went on a tour and to the West End. It’s wasn’t an ensemble system like it is for the Zhao/Galileo/Godunov season in the Swan. 18 October 2012 at 17:54 · Like · 2
Michael Bott How anyone can take the RSC to task about racial equality is quite beyond me. Anyone who has been paying any attention at all to the way this aspect of casting has been addressed by the RSC over the last 40 years will know that they really don’t have a case to answer. They have been consistently pioneering and audacious over the years in this respect – and have often taken criticism for it. What Nathaniel says is quite true – The Orphan of Zhao is part of the ensemble season and cross-casting must take place. It’s simple logistics. Perhaps C. Amanda Maud would like to think twice about using the all-black Julius Caesar as a stick to beat the RSC with on this issue? 18 October 2012 at 18:36 · Like · 3
Melody Brown Here’s a comment from our Asian American friends. Man, here’s me watching them bridges burn: Pucker UP #RSC, cuz I am bending over….
The Fairy Princess was sitting, all snug in her bed, while visions of Equality d…See more 18 October 2012 at 18:48 · Like · 10
Doug Atkins I’ve always trusted the casting from RSC. As a company who has been around for quite some time, why don’t we give this production a chance? Just like the countless other productions we’ve given chances to… 18 October 2012 at 18:51 via mobile · Like
Edward Hong Asians can’t play Asians, once again? How shocking. 18 October 2012 at 18:54 · Like · 13
Edward Hong Everybody here is harping on about cross-casting but funny how the problem is that it’s all a one-way traffic. 18 October 2012 at 18:55 · Like · 12
Daniel York It’s interesting the reaction East Asians always get when they complain about this stuff – exactly the same stuff that black actors were complaing about 40 years ago. One almost suspects that some people think enough “concessions” have been granted to minorities already. Yes, there was cross casting demands. But why is “British Caucasian” the default setting in every instance? 18 October 2012 at 18:55 · Like · 20
C. Amanda Maud @Nathanael Then make Zhao a stand alone production. @Michael An all African production does not somehow make up for the whitewashing of a traditional Chinese play. And I can applaud the recent JC but still vehemently question the casting. They are in no way mutually exclusive. Racism isn’t just about black and white. Let me do a quick straw poll of my East Asian actor friends and are how many of them have had an audition for the RSC lately, let alone a contract. 18 October 2012 at 18:57 via mobile · Like · 11
C. Amanda Maud “See” as opposed to “are”, obviously. 18 October 2012 at 18:59 via mobile · Like · 2
Melody Brown You know what it feels like, every time a white person tells you to stop complaining? A double slap in the face. Check your privilege, white people. Check your privilege. 18 October 2012 at 19:01 · Like · 20
Daniel York Melody Brown Yes, that and the sheer incredulity that we would actually want to fight for our opportunities. As if anything ever got changed in ths world by “not making a fuss”! 18 October 2012 at 19:04 · Like · 11
Sally-Ann Fleet Gatrell Moan moan moan…you can never please all the people all the time – thank goodness the moaners don’t have any real problems in their lives! I’m all for artistic licence, suspending belief, using my imagination and trusting those with the skills to get on with casting whilst I get on with enjoying the show! Curtain up RSC I applaud you! 18 October 2012 at 19:11 · Like
Edward Hong I love how all the white people are telling us that we’re whining and complaining. Man, how easy it must be to be a white person with all the delicious white privilege! 18 October 2012 at 19:14 · Like · 6
Daniel York Michael Bott Whilst I would agree that the RSC is nowadays far more diverse than it ever has been in the past (barring East Asians naturally) your “40 year” time span is woefully fanciful exaggeration. I was there in 1992 and there was myself and three black actors in the entire company (the canteen ladies used to get us all confused!) . Like the rest of the industry they’ve been dragged kicking and screaming on this issue. 18 October 2012 at 19:14 · Like · 5
Daniel York Sally-Ann Fleet Gatrell And thank goodness people like yourself don’t have any real problems in their lives so that they’re free to pounce on other people for having the temerity to fight for their place in this world. 18 October 2012 at 19:18 · Like · 13
Michael Bott I have no doubt that had the RSC created Zhao as a standalone, there wouldn’t be this conversation now. However, I doubt that the audience is there for this work in the larger world where a standalone production must be viable in commercial terms. If it wasn’t in the ensemble season I don’t think it would be getting an airing at all. Should it not be performed because it cannot be cast appropriately?Let me do quick straw poll of ALL my actor friends and how many of them have had an audition for the RSC lately, let alone a contract. Really. 18 October 2012 at 19:21 · Like · 1
Daniel York It’s a bogus argument, Mciheal. None of your (white) actor friends are excluded by dint of their race. East Asians ARE. Constantly throughout the entire industry. 18 October 2012 at 19:23 · Like · 14
Melody Brown All I’m seeing on this page is a lot of white people telling the East Asians to stop moaning. We really should know our place, right? 18 October 2012 at 19:24 · Like · 11
Daniel York I wonder what the reaction would be to seeing white actors portraying AFRICAN princes and princesses? 18 October 2012 at 19:27 · Like · 9
Michael Bott We are talking about the RSC Daniel. If we were talking about the entire industry I would be agreeing with you. It seems that a larger frustration is being taken out on an inappropriate target. 18 October 2012 at 19:30 · Like
Melody Brown How inappropriate is it that out of a creative team of 23, when public money has been spent researching a production in the COUNTRY OF ORIGIN, only THREE cast members are East Asian? I’d say the RSC is an entirely appropriate target. 18 October 2012 at 19:35 · Like · 12
Daniel York No, Michael. You would have a point if the RSC had a previously good track record with casting East Asians but they don’t. It’s frankly appalling and that’s a fact. With the very greatest respect you’ve not beein in our position so how can you comment? The RSC IS a large (argueably the single largest) part of the UK theatrre industry.They have to take responsibility for that. They spend tax payers money taking “research trips” to China and they’re actively courtng the Chinese tourist market. It’s having the cake and eating it frankly. 18 October 2012 at 19:35 · Like · 13
Paul Hyu Michael, Daniel York mentioned in passing a point, that I simply have to make more strongly. Its A FACT that there has not been a single Chinese actor employed at Stratford since Daniel in 1992, which is rather a long time and therefore, Michael, THE RSC DOES INDEED have a case to answer. The case starts with the question, “Why not”? East Asians have not been afforded the same, as you say, very good, opportunities the RSC have handed to other racial groups. ITS A FACT that their enlightenment did not extend to East Asians.
In light of this oversight (and shameful) FACT, the casting of Zhao has caused enormous hurt and anger among your East Asian actor colleagues to the extent that some are now, at last, willing to openly criticise the RSC and burn whatever bridges they may have thought they have. Would you have the courage to criticise the RSC for not employing a Chinese Actor for 20 years? Since you are no doubt pro ethnic diversity in casting, then surely this revelation comes as a terrible shock to you? I hope this backlash comes as a terrible shock not only to you but to Greg Doran and that we start to see a change in policy regarding East Asian actors under his tenureship. It will only be about bloody time.
I truly hope that this Zhao casting debacle becomes a watershed in East Asian UK theatre casting and that British East Asian actors finally realise that to be heard we have to be prepared to make waves. And be more like other ethnic minorities and our transatlantic counterparts. Bravo to the brave actors willing to burn their bridges and put their names to this protest. I am inspired by you and am happy to add mine to yours. 18 October 2012 at 19:58 · Like · 22
Edward Hong First we have “The Nightingale” in the US and now this in the UK. Ayya, who would’ve thought that I had to struggle so hard to play myself in a mainstream production about Asians? 18 October 2012 at 20:00 · Like · 11
Adrian Lochhead To the poo-p ractors… I can not think of/remember an actor of east asian origin in a lead role, can anyone else? i think the ‘east asian moaning’ is entirely valid and should be heard and appreciated rather than argued with. i am casting an ensemble featuring a Chinese classic and i cant cast at least one if not two of the major roles by ethnicity? (might be fun to do that with all three plays!) do you know why i would want to…because it would make the show better and more intriguing, i might learn something, because i would WANT to. why is this the first chinese play that the RSC have ever done – after all it is only a poxy little country with no culture! why cant it be a standalone production (with all eurasian actors for a change!). this is one of the major institutions in our culture – its lead MEANS SOMETHING, this is not about actors moaning about lack of job opportunities. 18 October 2012 at 20:00 · Like · 22
C. Amanda Maud Bravo, Paul, Dan, Melody, Edward et al. Let’s keep it going. Good to know I’m not alone. 18 October 2012 at 20:01 · Like · 4
Adrian Lochhead poo-poo reactors *obviously*! 18 October 2012 at 20:03 · Like · 2
Melody Brown What a dilemma, eh? Not East Asian enough to be cast as one, not white enough to be cast as one either. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had colourblind casting in this country? If we were mature enough to cope with it? And Sally-Ann, hello? Are you from Kenya in the 1950’s? 18 October 2012 at 20:07 · Like · 8
Daniel York Adrian Lochhead Bless you and thank you for your solidarity. We are a TINY minority in this industry who are treated akin to some sub species, only able to auiditon for pitifully poor TV roles which you have to be a walking cliche to land and shut out of the “equal opportunities” theatre landscape virtually altogether. Those who try and browbeat and bully us down for speaking out need to have a very hard look at themselves. 18 October 2012 at 20:13 · Like · 9
Michael Bott Well, I take your facts on the chin and frankly, I am surprised. I hope that if that is the case then a fruitful dialogue can ensue. The question then becomes: how could the RSC show it was doing better? What could be a measurable positive outcome 18 October 2012 at 20:14 · Like · 7
Melody Brown “I took a bow, I bound my feet for you, I did some kung fu too, and it was all Yellow”… 18 October 2012 at 20:14 · Like · 3
Daniel York To add to Paul Hyu’s excellent point above it’s worth pointing out that of the Company I was a part of in 1992 virtually ALL (bar, I think 3 or 4 who stopped acting very soon afterwards) have been back there since. The RSC have shown no inclination whatsoever to consider employing me again. 18 October 2012 at 20:16 · Like · 4
Maggi Davis RSC cannot be accused of not being diverse. Whatever happened to willing suspension of disbelief? Some would seem to want plays that don’t challenge. 18 October 2012 at 20:16 · Like
C. Amanda Maud I would hardly call speaking up and sharing my opinion moaning. Being told to “get over it”, “stop moaning” and that I haven’t been paying attention aren’t going to keep me from saying what I have to say. 18 October 2012 at 20:17 · Like · 3
Daniel York Thanks for taking the points Michael. They’re little known facts because (and this is what some of the knockers on this page need to realise) we’ve been silent so LONG! 18 October 2012 at 20:18 · Like · 3
Edward Hong coming as an actor in LA, while it’s a blessing to be working, it’s humorous (and sad) at the same time that many of the series regular/leading roles i get from breakdowns are not very Asian (hell, non-white) friendly. Many of the parts that are even open to me are only co-stars and good lord, after a while, auditioning for parts where you just say only 2 lines can get rather aggravating.
So when opportunities come where it’s about Asians, put up by a prestigious theater company, I would get excited. But when I see that they decide to cast a smidgen of Asians to play very minor roles? That’s upsetting. That’s highly upsetting. That makes me go “why the fuck am I even doing this again?”
Obviously we must trek along but I think it is ESSENTIAL that we point out what’s wrong with this picture.
can you imagine a production of August Wilson’s Fences being put up but 90% of the parts are played by white people? That shit would be unheard of. So why is it that Asian roles get the “colorblind” treatment? Is it because the mainstream can only handle so much of the black-white binary that they can’t fit in other colors? 18 October 2012 at 20:20 · Like · 15
Daniel York Maggi Davis And a stage full of caucasians is challenging?? 18 October 2012 at 20:20 · Edited · Like · 4
C. Amanda Maud @Maggi the RSC cannot be called truly diverse if the last East Asian actor was employed 20 year ago. 18 October 2012 at 20:21 · Like · 7
Michael Bott Matter of interest, what is the proportion of East Asian actors in this country? 18 October 2012 at 20:21 · Like
Daniel York Michael We made a list of around 100. The fact that that bare few find it so difficult to difficult to get decent (in any way) roles is surely a massive indictment. Year on year out East Asians are being sent a conclsuive message that a career on the stage is not for them. 18 October 2012 at 20:25 · Like · 1
C. Amanda Maud @Michael Re:what can the RSC do? I realise that the process of planning and casting a season takes months and months and I certainly wouldn’t ask any actor to be replaced (God knows, work is scarce at the moment) so “Zhao” will probably go ahead, in any case. An acknowledgement of insensitivity or even an apology would be a start. 18 October 2012 at 20:25 · Like · 5
Melody Brown I’m not sure but judging by the castings I go to, there’s a lot of them out of work right now. 18 October 2012 at 20:25 · Like · 2
Melody Brown Oh and I forgot to add a word there. Before castings it should have read “rare”. 18 October 2012 at 20:25 · Like · 1
Daniel YorkMelody Brown “Rare” and terrible (mostly)! 18 October 2012 at 20:27 · Like · 1
Edward Hong You know who put in the effort to get the casting right recently? Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi”. They conducted an exhaustive search for 3,000 Indian boys across the world to find the perfect one. 3,000 INDIAN BOYS. If they can do that, NOBODY HAS AN EXCUSE. 18 October 2012 at 20:27 · Like · 8
Paul Hyu One positive to come from this would be if we could agree an answer to Michael’s questions. I also thank him for seeing that we are not just moaning for the sake of it. In fact, this has been so long in coming I feel like this could be our Rosa Parkes moment.
How can we measure improvement?
May I suggest that compulsory ethnic monitoring of all auditionees be a simple solution / starting point. Whatever the answer, it would be best if it started with the RSC acknowledging the problem in the first instance. 18 October 2012 at 20:31 · Like · 7
Michael Bott Well – here’s something – a little back-of-the-envelope calculation. Daniel’s 100 approximates to .25% of Equity membership. I reckon that very roughly 3,000 actors have been employed by RSC in last 20 years. That means if the RSC had been completely even handed, they would have employed 7.5 East Asian actors in the last 20 years. My math may be questionable – please double check – but that’s an interesting place to start from. 18 October 2012 at 20:50 · Like
Jennifer Holman It should always be the best actor for the role whatever their ethnicity! And I’m sure that is what the RSC does! 18 October 2012 at 20:54 · Like · 1
Daniel York So, where does equal opportunities come into it, Micheal? Do we have to wait our turn until there are more of us? And then how does that stack up when they actually do a Chinese play? 18 October 2012 at 20:55 · Like · 3
Daniel York Jennifer Holman how do you quantify what is the “best actor”? You can only be a “good actor” if you’re given opportunities. You try maing your mark as “Heavily Accented Chinese Take Away Man” 18 October 2012 at 20:59 · Like · 10
Daniel York In fact Michael’s argument seems to suggest some sort of “limit” on us. Why not go the whole hog and calculate how many Equity members have ginger hair or pimply noses and impose a “quota” on them as well? 18 October 2012 at 21:04 · Like · 3
Adrian Lochhead Hmmm. with full respect to Mike Bott and his decent engagement with this i dont think its a maths issue, art isn’t mathematical, it should be about comment, challenge, subversion of our every day thought, helping us to not be Stepford people. I for one don’t want proportional representation in casting by rule (that would be weird!). i would like to see thought and understanding, and in subsidised theatre there must be challenge – that what the subsidy is for! i wholeheartedly agree with Paul Hyu’s comment that it could start with the RSC addressing that there is a problem. there is a problem! here’s how i would express that problem. if i have a job available i have absolutely no right in law to judge you by race. in theatre this happens all the time; it just does, we need to admit it. that is a problem. i say this as a white ex-actor (but still involved in the arts). i never had to worry about my race at an audition. non-white friends of mine do all of the time. that is a problem. eg why cant Juliet be Japanese origin? really? and yet we all know that such a casting would be most likely *to make a point* in many shows or because its a community production. we need to get past this crap…It starts when major institutions grasp this nettle. 18 October 2012 at 21:06 · Like · 15
Michael Bott Trying to be constructive Daniel. I don’t understand your argument. I’ve given you ammunition. It seems you haven’t a clear idea of what a fair casting policy would look like. What outcome do you wish for, realistically? 18 October 2012 at 21:12 · Like
Daniel York The outcome I would wish for is one where people ARE judged on their talent and their talent alone. I appreciate your efforts there, Michael, and I apologise if I took it the wrong way but they may well argue that as there are 3 East Asians in this particualr production they could get away with having 4.5 over the next 20 years! 18 October 2012 at 21:15 · Like · 3
Michelle Lee This is the reality that a director from the RSC put to me when I was at an accredited drama school 20 years ago. He came to give an audition class to the year and singled out my ‘audition’ as being particularly strong. However, in the interview section he said ‘you do know that you won’t get any work because you are Chinese. Are you sure you want to carry on acting?’ There was one other non-Caucasian student in my year of Afro Caribbean origin but this question was not put to her. I’m sure he felt his intentions were meant to be good – somehow hoping to steel me for reality. My naive reply was that if I and others like myself didn’t carry on, then there never would be Chinese actors doing anything of merit in the UK. I am sad to say that nothing seems to have changed as far as E Asians are concerned. Opportunities are very rare for us to show what we can do – even at the audition stage, let alone being cast in a role of any substance. As Daniel York says, there’s only so much you can do when all you are ever seen for is Maid, Prostitute, Triad Boss or Take Away Owner with broken English of varying degrees. I might as well have never trained at all. 18 October 2012 at 21:22 via mobile · Like · 29
Daniel York In addition to Adrian’s point. It should be illegal, in an ideal world, for anyone to be judged on their race but we all know that isn’t the case. Surveys have been done recently when it was found that an awful lot of people with foreign sounding surnames are being automatically excluded from jobs in the “normal” world. And do people imagine the theatre is any fairer than that? This is why Jennifer Homan’s ludicrously glib and lazy argument just doesn’t stand up. We can judge tge “best actor” when we ALLl get the same opportunities. 18 October 2012 at 21:23 · Like · 12
Babs Knickers-knackers That point could be a little moot Michael, as there is lower retention of BME actors in the business – particularly East Asians. The work just ain’t there. 18 October 2012 at 21:56 · Edited · Like · 3
Michelle Lee From the RSC website – We are also publicly funded and receive grants from Arts Council England. Our ACE grant in 2010-2011 was £15.6m, representing 48% of our total income.18 October 2012 at 21:26 via mobile · Like · 5
Babs Knickers-knackers It’s a bit like saying there are enough female MP’s because …% put themselves forward as candidates. The playing field isn’t attactive to women.. Why isn’t the acting profession attracting East Asians? Duh! 18 October 2012 at 21:28 · Like · 8
Daniel York Nikki Smith. Tommy rot and shame on you. They’re subsidised to the gills with tax payers money. 18 October 2012 at 21:30 · Like · 3
Babs Knickers-knackers (solidarity from us black folks!) 18 October 2012 at 21:31 · Like · 14
My Asian Planet Quite unbelievable how the RSC is out of touch with the modern world!! One word to the director – have some balls to put on a vision and cast Asians in the lead roles – I don’t care how skilled your puppeteer is! Tsk tsk the RSC is meant to be VISIONARY – think about what you are doing with your art, reinvent, break down boundaries, because you know spending one week in a flea market in Beijing will just not cut it as your homework!!! 18 October 2012 at 21:33 · Like · 10
Daniel York Babs You too. Thanks so much! 18 October 2012 at 21:35 · Like · 1
Adrian Lochhead not naive reply Michelle, it was a strong one. we should all stand beside you, racism is institutional, i have way too many more committed and better performer friends who have been left to play stereotypes by lazy casting. we are a multicultural society, too often it feels like white directors are indulging in trendy tokenism – or even worse..not employing skin colour and ethnicity at all… 18 October 2012 at 21:35 · Like · 9
My Asian Planet If you are choosing to put on a Chinese play based in ancient China it seems clear to me that you have a SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY. There should be no rich pickings – have some balls to put on a play that really means something – pioneer and innovate! Reminds me of the time The US TV chiefs cast David Carradine in Kung Fu – which was Bruce Lee’s own show that he came up with – because they thought Bruce Lee was ‘too asian’ to play the role of an Asian Kung Fu master! I mean really how ridiculous is that! Please tell us you have moved on from those days!…. 18 October 2012 at 21:44 · Like · 12
Adrian Lochhead @ Nikki Smith wow! jaw dropping lack of knowledge! RSC not funded by tax payer whatsoever…oh dear. We fund it HUGELY, that’s why we have a right and obligation to comment and ask that it listens to perfectly reasonable comment.18 October 2012 at 21:49 · Like · 5
Daniel York Nikki you need to get your facts very straught before you wade in with things like that. 18 October 2012 at 21:56 · Like · 1
Nikki Smith Its not the major contention here, and is just adding to the anger so I retract my comments and I’ll leave you to it. Best of luck! 18 October 2012 at 21:58 · Like
Alison Finch about half the RSC’s funding comes from you and me, the British tax payer, which I imagine includes quite a few East Asian tax payers. Lots of Chinese tourists visiting Stratford…might be a plan to stage the odd play or two they might like. If you can do an all Asian Much Ado, and an all African Julius Ceasar it seems pretty….unimaginative to stage an actual Chinese play with only 3 Chinese actors. Or maybe I’m naive. 18 October 2012 at 21:59 · Like · 14
Adrian Lochhead actually, that it is publicly funded IS the major contention here. but thanks Nikki for retracting 18 October 2012 at 22:05 · Like · 2
Amanda Bear @Alison finch – this is what I find so unbelievable – I am used to weak arguments about settings, characters, creative freedom, lack of actors, lack of audiences, different cultural contexts, arguments over numbers. Yet they’ve done JC and MA but with this, the Chinese Hamlet, there is a total lack of foresight. Even AFTER going on a research trip to China. The website courts Chinese audiences, with a Chinese boy on the poster but there are three actors only (all of whom I support). Do it properly and take it out of a 3 play system. 18 October 2012 at 22:07 · Like · 9
Melody Brown Or, shock horror, do the play as cast and have some East Asian folks play white people. We can do that, too. Some of us are a bit white anyway. 18 October 2012 at 22:15 · Like · 9
Adrian Lochhead the thing is it sounds great as a play! (though Nazi Germany is not the most recent example of people v ‘evil’ i would have referenced!). come on RSC, get with the programme PLEASE! you could be great, you could influence the world…ps note the chinese characters in the show model…(which again looks cool!) 18 October 2012 at 22:19 · Like · 2
Ramona K Silipo I have been to most RSC productions for the past 10 years or so, and they are the most assiduous and expert company at colour-blind casting that I’ve ever seen. Coming from the USA, where colour-blind casting is SUPPOSED to be in place, and where I worked in theatre for 40 years, I can assure you that the RSC casting directors are expert at their job, and cast the best actors, male and female, available for the parts–regardless of colour or ethnicity. When the acting is sublime, colour fades away and the mind’s eye takes over; the viewer is transported and physical colour means nothing. 18 October 2012 at 22:26 · Like · 5
My Asian Planet I mean if it is going to be an all white cast why not just rename the film and redo the setting. This has been done countless times as different nations adopt the same story but change the model for their own country eg The Departed and Infernal Affairs… 18 October 2012 at 22:30 · Like · 4
Daniel York Ramona K Silipo And I can assure you that the RSC’s “colour blindness” stops with an abrupt bump when it comes to East Asians. The facts speak for themselves. 18 October 2012 at 22:32 · Like · 7
Daniel York My Asian Planet This is a very good point and completely negates the RSC’s arguments that it’s an adaptation. Earlier this year I saw The National Theatre Of China’s production of Richard III at the Globe. The production was performed in Chinese costumes with with Chinese music and utilised Chinese theatre practices. They certainly weren’t wandering around in “doublet and hose” pretending to be English which is the equivalent of what the RSC are doing with Zhao. It’s a very “colonial” approach in many ways as, rather than be inspired by something from another culture which is then adapted, in this instance it’s being “appropriated” and used as a veichle. 18 October 2012 at 22:43 · Like · 6
C. Amanda Maud On a side note, anyone going to the Equity march on Saturday? Might be a good chance to talk and organise. 18 October 2012 at 22:45 via mobile · Like · 1
Adrian Lochhead I dont want to be colour blind! because we don’t live in a colour-less world! we must relish and revel in our ‘colours’, i think that all that is being asked for here is that ALL of those ‘colours’ are respected and cherished and valued 18 October 2012 at 22:46 · Like · 7
Daniel York I’ve got to work that day because I had to swap my acting class because I’m doing a radio interview about this the Saturday after. 18 October 2012 at 22:46 · Like · 2
Melody Brown Am shovelling horse shit for less than minimum wage, otherwise I’d totally be there, Amanda. 18 October 2012 at 22:48 · Like · 3
Daniel York At least there’s equal opps in the horse shit shovelling world! 18 October 2012 at 22:51 · Like · 3
Melody Brown Horses are pretty much colourblind. 18 October 2012 at 23:01 · Like · 4
Daniel York I’ve never been discriminated against by a horse or any animal for that matter. 18 October 2012 at 23:02 · Like · 3
Melody Brown Is there a chance we’ve gone off topic? 18 October 2012 at 23:05 · Like · 3
C. Amanda Maud We’ll set the world to rights on Monday, anyway. 18 October 2012 at 23:07 via mobile · Like · 2
Daniel York I think I can get there for the first part of it actually 18 October 2012 at 23:08 · Like
Michael Bott Several people still have not grasped the problems of casting for a range of plays in an ensemble company. This particular section of the company must also cover plays set in 16th century Russia and 16th century Italy. The whole point of the season is to expose plays that were set at the same time Shakespeare was writing. That was the context for choosing these plays – and probably the only context in which the RSC would be likely to stage it anyway. Like it or not, the RSC’s audience is a western one and to suggest that it could have had legs as a standalone production is not realistic. The RSC has to have one eye on commerce and attracting the largest audience it can – if it doesn’t, it becomes in danger of losing funding too. 18 October 2012 at 23:19 · Like · 1
Mike Skupin Michael, did you not get to see the Cantonese performance of Titus Andronicus at The Globe? Fantastic – full house when I was there. And the audience was mixed with Cantonese speakers and non-Cantonese speakers. Completely different language, completely Asian cast, and it still got bums in seats. 18 October 2012 at 23:42 · Like · 6
Melody Brown @Michael, “The RSC’s audience is a western one”. Cool. I’m western. So are most of my fellow British East Asians. And if we’ve got a white guy playing the Emperor of China, how about we have an East Asian guy playing a 16th C Russian? Chances are he’ll look a lot more Russian than most of the white cast members. Why can’t non-white people play white people? Why can’t it work both ways? 18 October 2012 at 23:52 · Like · 21
Melody Brown And, Michael, if the RSC are so bothered about tailoring their work to represent their “Western” audience, why, oh why have they deliberately marketed The Orphan to Chinese tourists? God I need to go to bed. This whole debate is breaking my spirit. N’night. Check your privilege, white men. Check your privilege. 18 October 2012 at 23:55 · Like · 3
Adrian Lochhead do you know, i think that the RSC could sell a quality Chinese play with a quality Eurasian cast…if it really wanted to…don’t you? 19 October 2012 at 00:00 · Like · 8
Natalie Lebert Commandeering an Asian story and then only using 3 Eurasians in a cast of 17 is shameful. If you don’t want to use Eurasion actors then don’t bother to tell their stories. If you want to tell the story, then at least use actors best suited to tell their own story. As an African American actor, I have too often heard the excuse of using “the best we could find” as an explanation for *not* using an actor of color. Trust me, it’s transparent and ridiculous. You couldn’t find them because you never looked. Again, shame on you. 19 October 2012 at 00:36 · Like · 13
David Tse Ka-Shing See also Chinese Britons have put up with racism for too long Elizabeth Chan: Many people are shocked to hear the extent of prejudice against the Chinese – is it so surprising when stereotypes still flourish? 19 October 2012 at 01:50 · Like · 5
Bron Lim East Asian performers in Western countries have been dealing with this sort of thing for a very, very long time. I would have hoped that a company as esteemed as the RSC would have been less ignorant of theatre history, and would at least have the decency to acknowledge that there is a problem. 19 October 2012 at 03:10 · Like · 7
Daniel York The RSC’s statement describes the Maid’s role as “key” as she “stands up to tyranny and is executed”. I’d be interested to see at what stage of the play this occurs and how much she speaks BEFORE this event. I don’t recall that character when I read it. I’m willing to bet she’s not as “key” as The Princess. As both actresses are in a similar age demographic it’s interesting that the East Asian is playing the “maid”.
Regarding the now infamous Demon Maistiff. Yes, I’m sure the RSC’s dog puppet is extremely impressive and I’m pleased to see the actors in question being so highly commended for their skill in operating this no doubt state of the art stage prop. However the RSC’s brand tag is “world class classical theatre” as opposed to “world class puppet theatre”. It’s interesting that this is their line of defence. Minority ethnic actors are often called upon to display a range of physical “skills” their Caucasian counterparts are rarely asked for. The RSC say they are committed to “equal opportunities”. Perhaps when East Asian performers are allowed simply to be dextrous with classical text they will have fulfilled that noble ambition.
Again one wonders why neither of the two young East Asian actors are playing the titular Orphan? Besides these two I can think of at least 2 or 3 young East Asian actors who would’ve been very good for this role. One of them I know for a fact wasn’t even seen (and he has a very good agent).
They say the make up of the cast “reflects British society”. Are they therefore arguing that East Asians in positions of subservience and portraying animals is an accurate reflection?
The statement also makes great play of the fact that they were “turned down” by East Asian actors. Naturally they won’t go into detail about this but unless we know the exact nature of the offers that were declined I would contest that it’s difficult for that to be used as mitigation. Perhaps the actors in question felt the offers were derisory?
The other argument used is that “some were felt not to be right for all three plays”. Well, I can talk with authority here as this I believe was the case with myself. I was recalled and met the director of one of the other plays so they evidently considered me fairly seriously. Having worked at the RSC I can absolutely attest to the “hierarchical” nature of the casting there. There are exceptions but generally people play a range of similar sized parts across the range of plays they’re cast in. I’ll be honest here I would never have accepted an offer where I was playing minor roles in the other plays. The assertion that they had to cast one company for all three plays is regularly repeated. As if these other play were somehow “not for us”. Personally speaking, as a BIG Brecht fan, I was just as excited by the prospect of being in The Life Of Galileo but I think, in their mindset, “Caucasian British” is the default setting in these circumstances (though I would’ve thought some form of “Asiatic” look would work very well in Pushkin).
There’s also a status issue which opens up a whole can of worms. The actors playing the leading roles in all three plays are some of the busiest and most employed in Britain. Despite the fact I have very reasonable classical theatre credentials (especially given my circumstances) I haven’t actually appeared on stage in Britain for four years now (and have had only one theatre audition in that time). The range of opportunities available to Caucasian actors playing the protagonists in Orphan Of Zhao are simply not available to East Asian performers.
When I met him Greg Doran struck me as an intelligent and sincere man. I’m sure he had the very best of intentions but I think he and the Company have badly misjudged on this occasion. 19 October 2012 at 05:51 · Like · 21
Jeniya Marsh Surely it is about casting the best person for the role. Casting should be colour blind and not about filling quotas, an audience will generally forget an actor is a of a certain ethnicity and merely concentrate on how well they play a part.19 October 2012 at 06:44 via mobile · Like · 3
The Fairy Princess was sitting, all snug in her bed, while visions of Equality d…See more 19 October 2012 at 06:46 · Like · 5
Daniel York Jeniya Marsh As I posted above how do you quantify what is the “best actor”? You can only be a “good actor” if you’re given opportunities. You try making your mark as “Heavily Accented Chinese Take Away Man”. It’s not about quotas It’s about equal opposrtunities for TALENT 19 October 2012 at 07:52 · Edited · Like · 5
Daniel York Here’s what a respected playwright thinks about racial impersonation in his plays
Author fury at blackface casting Clybourne Park playwright Bruce Norris refuses permission to a Berlin theatre co…See more 19 October 2012 at 07:54 · Like · 5
Ophelia Bellio Michael, are you saying to see a non white person play a traditionally white role is something western audiences do not like, and will not pay to see
What does that say about western audiences?
If they are representative of our society what does that say?
So much talent is lost because of this Michael, do you understand that talent is free of hatred as should the receiving of talent be free.19 October 2012 at 08:03 via mobile · Like · 8
Daniel York I guess Michael missed Wild Swans at the Young Vic recently which played to raturous sell out audiences. This is so regressive it beggars belief. 19 October 2012 at 08:13 · Like · 8
Alex Hsu Asian American actor here. There may certainly be an ideal future world where the skewed representation of Asians onstage and in media have been rectified to the point that “color-blind” casting of Asian works would not offend and hurt, because there are equal employment opportunities for asian artists otherwise. But that is not the current state of casting in America, which is indicative of a lack of visibility for Asian Americans at large. I’d say things are improving, but we are not there yet
And in this current age, it is not acceptable when the rare opportunity arises for Asian actors to be employed in rich roles portraying themselves, that parts are given to Caucasian and other non-white actors in the name of color-blind casting. “Color-blind” is something only a white person in western culture has the luxury of being. He or she may be able to turn off his or her awareness of another person’s race, but how is a person of color supposed to be blind to their own essence or identity? If you look at me with color-blindness, then I am invisible. And that is exactly how western society at large, views the Asian minority: invisible. You may have the ability to see a Chinese play, set in ancient China, with all Chinese characters and not feel something is missing or awry when only a fraction of the cast is Asian, but that is precisely what you need to call into question. Would you be able to do the same for a production of Raisin in the Sun that only had 3 black actors? This argument may have been made before, but this time make note that attitudes toward all races are not the same! To Daniel’s point, just because RSCs track record is good when it comes to other minorities, it does not mean there is no work to be done in the area of casting Asians. To claim that, is to sweep Asian race issues under the rug and render the minority invisible AGAIN.
Furthermore, to address those who would claim that the RSC can do no wrong in casting and to risk offending Brits in general, I watched the interview with Mr Doran posted earlier, and I am struck by his arrogance and ethnocentricity. Specifically, in marveling that this nationally-treasured Chinese work had “Shakespearean complexity, Shakespearean scale … and some of that extra genius”. As if Shakespeare invented complexity and scale in drama and was the barometer for such things across all cultures. And implying that this work may hope to aspire to Shakespeare’s genius. This may not seem to have a direct correlation to casting but I’d argue that this attitude is what gives him license to appropriate the piece and its cultural references without respect to the asian/chinese people. Im jumping to conclusions of course, but i can see how viewing this piece quaintly allows him to program it in rep rather than a stand-alone production, and allows him to cast without sensitivity to the asian people who not only yearn for employment but yearn to see their own faces represented on stage in a work their own culture produced.
Forgive me if this comment turns out to be nonsensical… 1am here in California! 19 October 2012 at 09:12 via mobile · Like · 20
Alex Hsu I was called to submit a video audition for that production of wild swans.. And while i did not book the show nor do I know anything about who they ended up casting, kudos to the Young Vic for searching FAR and WIDE in their attempt to properly cast the show. If the young Vic can do it, certainly the RSC can?!? 19 October 2012 at 10:03 via mobile · Like · 15
Paul Hyu 108 comments! This should be moved to a place which the RSC dont control! It could easily be deleted. It could be an accident, of course, but even so, I have done that in the past. Moving it somewhere neutral would also open the debate to a wider audience who don’t use Facebook. Is it possible to copy the comments over elsewhere? 19 October 2012 at 10:12 · Like · 4
Andy Lowe I can only speak from my own personal perspective as a person of Asian descent, who was raised in a modern ‘eurocentric” culture, and trained in a western theatrical tradition. with that in mind, I call on my fellow artists around the world to open their mind, and take responsibility for the ramifications of their artistic choices. We live in an international culture of english speaking people that has historically limited human beings of Asian (and other ethnic) descent’s ability to own their own representation of self. Choices such as these, perpetuate notions that people, like myself, have no place in the public discourse. No matter the intention, the effect still results in a commodification, and dehumanization of real people and a real cultural experience. In other words, the message is… ‘we want your stories, we want your pretty design aesthetic, but we dont want you…” Do I think you intended to offend? no. Do I think you intended to exclude? No. but the social impact remains. I ask you, and challenge you, as a leader and internationally respected arts organization to please listen to those of us who have taken the time to reach out to you, take responsibility for the effects of your choices, and acknowledge the ramifications and impact they have. Own up to the mistakes and make the apology! If we cannot acknowledge the mistake, we lose the opportunity for all societies and cultures to learn from it, and we will only continue to to dehumanize, humiliate another generation of real people. 19 October 2012 at 10:19 · Like · 20
Alex Hsu Another similar situation where the playwright objected to the race casting of his play. I wonder what the author of Orphan would say if he were alive today… Perhaps that would settle this debate right quick. Also of note: in this case, the director was black and has worked to promote the casting of minorities in plays. And yet that does not preclude him from making casting mistakes or decisions that may be right for one people group but wrong for another. Many salient points made in this article… Good read for both Playwright Criticizes Casting in Hartford for ‘The ____________ With the Hat’
In a rare attack by a playwright on a professional production of his own work, S…See more 19 October 2012 at 10:20 via mobile · Like · 2
ShzrEe Tan The Chinese boy on the poster really smacks of the lowest insult – yes, cute little scruffy kids from exotic and undeveloped locales sell. Did he know he was going to be in the production? Maybe the RSC might try doing the whole production in Yellowface, including the actors playing the maid and dog? 19 October 2012 at 11:03 · Like · 4
ShzrEe Tan Have you not also seen this? I guess it wasn’t part of the RSC’s thorough research process…
In 2012, theLa Jolla Playhousegenerated nationwide controversy for the casting o…See more 19 October 2012 at 11:27 · Like · 6
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Michael Bott Ophelia – that was definitely not what I was saying. My point was that the play itself (Zhao) would be a hard sell in theatre land without some kind of reputation going before it. Other plays that have been mentioned and that have been successful with an East Asian audience – Titus Andronicus, Wild Swans – have a resonance in terms of marketing which Orphan of Zhao does not. Now just suppose however, that notwithstanding this controversy, Zhao is a massive hit in the Swan with rave reviews – do you seriously think for one moment that if the RSC were to revive it at some time in the future as a touring/standalone production that it WOULDN’T have an East Asian cast? 19 October 2012 at 12:55 · Like
Lobo Chan Well even the open air theatre in Regents Park is more progressive in casting a black actor as a white southern racist in Ragtime. I don’t think audiences stayed away. I’d also like To reiterate the question as to how one gets to be good enough to be employed by the likes of The rsc when meaningful roles are denied east asian actors at every turn. 19 October 2012 at 13:02 via mobile · Like · 6
C. Amanda Maud @ Michael Probably not after reading this thread! 19 October 2012 at 13:18 via mobile · Like
Daniel York @ Michael One would like to think that would be the case. 19 October 2012 at 13:50 · Like
Michael Bott Well – that’s rather my point. Had this been a standalone/touring production I too would have been shocked and horrified if the RSC had not produced it with a wholly East Asian cast. I just don’t believe it wouldn’t have gone that way and that is why I think a lot of the outrage at the RSC in this instance is misplaced and unfair. Unfortunately, I have to admit that’s an hypothetical argument and we shall never know.19 October 2012 at 13:57 · Like
Daniel York Oh Michael, my bad, I thought you meant if it went on now after all this furore. No, I’ll be honest, I’m not entirely convinced by that argument. I thought we’d already established that the RSC (and the industry as a whole) have an appalling record with regards to East Asians. I can’t see how your faith in them in this area is justified. But there’s a still a pertinent question here. Why are East Asians automatically deemed unsuitable for Brecht and Pushkin? 19 October 2012 at 14:09 · Like · 10
Melody Brown Ditto. Can we not play fictional Italians or Russians? Given that our Chinese princess is a white woman? 19 October 2012 at 14:22 via mobile · Like · 5
Melody Brown Can’t listen to whole song as on a rural train station platform, but would just like to highlight the introduction where you say yellowface doesn’t happen so much now… Ouch, huh? 19 October 2012 at 14:34 via mobile · Like · 2
Daniel York I think most Eurasians have a certain “Asiatic” look you find in many East European countries 19 October 2012 at 14:36 · Like · 5
Paul Hyu Michael, I assume you are saying that if it comes to London, you would expect all the non Chinese actors to be re-cast? I hope you are right! Does the case for through casting extend to your feelings about black actors? Indian / Pakistani? If so, I assume you would consider it wrong for a black actor to be cast in Galileo if there were not an African play he was “legitmately” cast in? Or how about a Bangladeshi actor in Boris Godunov? These outcomes could not exist in your model. Sorry for the sarcasm, but I truly find it incredible that you can state your case that this unprecedented outrage is misplaced. If not here and now, then when and where? ! What would have to happen to get you onside? 19 October 2012 at 14:54 · Like · 5
Melody Brown Ever get the feeling you’re being trolled? 19 October 2012 at 14:59 via mobile · Like
Lobo Chan I have a feeling that if it were a hit it would be a case of ‘if it ain’t broke…’…19 October 2012 at 15:05 via mobile · Like · 2
Michelle Lee From the RSC’s website, listing their ensemble cast members, it is apparent that they have seen fit to cast black or South Asian actors in leading and feature roles ranging from Katherina in Taming of the Shrew, title role in Henry V, Lady Montague in Romeo and Juliet and Lysander in A Midsummer’s Night Dream, where the rest of the cast has been predominantly white. There seems to be no issue there of casting non-white actors in leading roles in 16C Padua or Verona, 14C England or ancient Athens. The theory that East Asian actors can’t be cast in decent roles in the other two plays in this season’s repertoire just doesn’t cut the mustard. 19 October 2012 at 15:47 · Like · 11
Adrian Lochhead While this production has been a catalyst, the debate around Zhao/standalone/ensemble/hypothesis was left way behind last night (I thought). The issue that this thread is about is denying people equality of opportunity, and clearly many people here have felt that to be their experience – and this is simply UNACCEPTABLE. It would be really refreshing and progressive for us all if some directors came forward and admitted that when casting say…the dad (or mum) in All My Sons or Jimmy Porter or Hamlet or Ophelia or whatever…that they haven’t gone through their actors files and automatically only considered Caucasian performers. We know it to be true in the majority of cases – so let that nettle be grasped – because until it is nothing will change. This approach to casting is not deliberate racism and you are not hated for admitting to it – we are all products of our society: but it must change, equality of opportunity is not negotiable in a decent society and our liberal arts is the last place where inequality should exist. It is crystal clear that some performers have experienced their race to be akin to a disability. This is an EQUITY (interesting name) issue. I really hope that this can be a Rosa Parkes moment for all of our sakes. 19 October 2012 at 16:00 · Like · 17
Ken Narasaki I guess I’ll just have to share what I put on my FB page about this casting: “Thus proving that theater is NOT a bastion of liberal humanism, nor is it immune to stupid, m*therf*ckin’ racist b*llsh*t” The view from here? Shockingly, transparently racist. 19 October 2012 at 16:05 · Like · 7
Orville Mendoza Just wanted to add my support for my fellow artists of ALL COLORS across the pond who are speaking out and making themselves heard. All of you bring up some wonderful points here and I hope the RSC is paying attention. In my years of training here in America, especially in all things Shakespeare, we always kept one eye on the RSC as to “how contemporary Shakespeare should be done.” The RSC needs to step up once again and be that shining example. We all have mis-steps – it’s how one handles getting out of them that shows one’s true merit. You’re up to bat, RSC. Will you hit it out of the park or will you strike out? 19 October 2012 at 17:06 · Like · 14
Adrian Lochhead British Actors’ Equity Association – what do you think? comment would be good here please? 19 October 2012 at 17:32 · Like · 3
Daniel York Adrian, I’m actually the Vice Chair of the Minoritiy Ethnic Committee at Equity who have been very supprotive of us. I’ll be pushing them fo a public statement next week. In the meantime The Guardian have this Very poor form of Greg to describe it as “sour grapes”. Is he including all the American, non East Asian and non actor people who have protested in that sweeping and rather glib judgement? Is he condemening an entire ethnic groups with that rather grievous slur? I expected better of him. I’m afraid it rather looks like HE’s the one with “sour grapes” because we’ve had the temerity to rain on his parade.
Royal Shakespeare Company under fire for not casting enough Asian actors RSC criticised for producing The Orphan of Zhao, regarded as Chinese equivalent of Hamlet, with predominantly white cast 19 October 2012 at 17:39 · Like · 9
Melody Brown Wow. He calls it sour grapes and yet admits he needs to do more in the same article. 19 October 2012 at 17:47 · Like · 5
Daniel York I’m frankly scandalised by that remark. As I am with his “we saw lots and lots of East Asian actors”. Trying to imply we’re not good enough. All I can say is that is not what he wrote me in a letter. He’s a white middle class man in a privileged position, how dare he round on people who’s entire careers are defined by their racial backgrounds and describe it as “sour grapes”??? 19 October 2012 at 17:50 · Like · 15
Melody Brown You know when I read that, it reminded me of being told in the ’80s that the racial and sexual abuse I suffered as a kid “wasn’t that bad” and that I should “just get over it”. It’s a blatant denial of someone’s experience. It’s a deeply, deeply painful thing to read and oh, screw him. Sorry if my posts are a bit too confessional. I have nothing to hide but I’m aware sometimes it can be a bit too much for some people. 19 October 2012 at 17:58 · Like · 12
Daniel York That’s exactly what it is though Melody. It’s reeks of a “Have” berating “Have nots” for making a noise. And it’s someone who has no personal experience of it whatsoever. 19 October 2012 at 18:00 · Like · 4
Adrian Lochhead Thanks Daniel for your update on Equity. Well Greg Doran my thoughts ain’t sour grapes (I have no grapes to sour)! It just so happens that one of the most talented, intelligent actors that i ever worked with (and I have worked with some AMAZING people – lucky me) is ‘eurasian’ and finds their career virtually impossible to sustain. people of influence, companies of influence, must use that influence to ensure that such a situation does not continue; it is unjust and we ALL lose out big time! RSC step up, lets see the first all east-asian production of well…take your pick…there are some good plays out there! 19 October 2012 at 18:11 · Like · 10
Broderick Chow For what it’s worth, everyone, I’ve been really enjoying the comments on this rather awful state of affairs, and I’ve written a response. Thanks to Anna Chen for bringing this whole issue to my attention. Let’s make some noise: Two Dogs and A Maid: Theatricality, visibility, and the Royal Shakespeare Company’s The Orphan of Zh In 2005, I played the role of Thuy, a Viet Cong commissar and the betrothed cous…See more 19 October 2012 at 18:22 · Like · 19
Norma Perez-Hernandez Broderick, this is a stunning post. Thank you for making it. 19 October 2012 at 19:04 · Like
Danainan Vin Kridakorn RSCs excuse is completely and utterly insulting. 19 October 2012 at 19:08 via mobile · Like · 6
Lobo Chan Does Doran imply that he would launch a production of FlowerDrumSong to make amends then? Given that we’re not allowed to play anything else? 19 October 2012 at 19:14 via mobile · Like · 5
Howard Ho @Broderick, Since we’re all sharing, I wrote this article for the Asian American blog YOMYOMF originally about Nightingale and musicals, but it also applies here, because lord knows Asians aren’t getting cast as Hamlet at the RSC anytime soon. This is a vicious cycle: Asian people aren’t getting cast in major roles, and when major Asian roles come around, RSC and others can claim Asians aren’t qualified. That damage has been done to generations and generations of artists, and we need to break it somehow, both by becoming louder but also creating our own stories that blow the racist caricatures out of the water. Yellowface, Blue Hairs, and the Challenge to Broaden Broadway | You Offend Me You Offend My Family HOWARD After graduating with a lucrative double major in music history and commu…See more 19 October 2012 at 19:26 · Edited · Like · 11
Melody Brown If you’re near a radio, put Radio 4 on now. Dan York is on. 19 October 2012 at 19:25 · Like · 2
Alex Hsu Michael your assertion that these casting choices would not have happened had this been a stand-alone production and that it was impossible to do so on grounds of commercial viability are unfounded. There is no impossible in theatre… Ideally, there is a vision based on artistry, based on expressing the human experience, based on relevancy, and then there is compromise in seeing that vision come to fruition. If for whatever reason it was not financially feasible to produce Orphan of Zhao as a stand alone play with all/most Asian actors, then a compromise is required. BUT that compromise could have been in other areas.. Maybe to the extent of choosing not to mount that particular production. Not knowing the ins and outs of producing this show, I can’t say what the other options were, but THERE IS ALWAYS A CHOICE. And we contend that the choice to compromise by casting mostly non-Asians in due to the ensemble nature, was the wrong choice. That it was even on the table as an option, let alone defended here is part of what is being addressed. 19 October 2012 at 19:27 via mobile · Like · 9
Broderick Chow @Howard Excellent. I really, really like this. 19 October 2012 at 19:28 · Like · 2
Paul Nakauchi I would love to know what roles the two Asian actors who are part of the company are going to be playing in the Brecht and Pushkin plays. If they were hired just for this one show then, Mr. Doran’s whole argument is a”White Wash..”. 19 October 2012 at 19:37 · Like · 6
Michael Bott Howard has nailed it “This is a vicious cycle: Asian people aren’t getting cast in major roles, and when major Asian roles come around, RSC and others can claim Asians aren’t qualified. That damage has been done to generations and generations of artists, and we need to break it somehow, both by becoming louder but also creating our own stories that blow the racist caricatures out of the water. Fantastic – I like that. 19 October 2012 at 19:44 · Like · 9
Michelle Lee In response to Greg Doran’s comment “I look at as many actors as I can, and choose not on ethnicity but the best actor for that role. That’s the only way to do it,” – So, presumably the two Chinese actors with no prior puppeteering experience as far as I’ve been able to work out (correct me if i’m wrong) playing the dog were the best for that role? I think not. Whilst I am fully supportive of the East Asian actors who are working in this production and very glad they have the opportunity, it just smacks of tokenism to me. And as has been said many times before, why does this ‘open’ view of casting not on ethnicity alone apply only when there seems to be a need to justify casting Caucasians in ‘ethnic’ roles and not vice versa? 19 October 2012 at 19:45 · Like · 10
Paul Hyu A poem in response to the La Jolla Playhouse casting only 2 Asian-Americans in a…See more 19 October 2012 at 19:55 · Like · 3
Alex Hsu A related argument regarding the claim that he ALWAYS casts the best actor in the role… I’d buy that if we saw Asian actors playing other lead parts in other non race specific plays. Surely there are Asian actors who are “better” than some Caucasian actors who play at the RSC? Are we to believe that Doran would beat the bushes when casting Hamlet despite having a white actor who could play the part, to find the “best” in case he is among the non-white pool? Would he even call those actors to audition in the first place? It’s an easy answer with no way to substantiate. Like I said earlier, I got a call from the Young Vic way out here in California… Did RSC really try that hard? 19 October 2012 at 19:57 via mobile · Like · 7
Melody Brown Well done, Daniel York. Nice one. Feels like the beginning of something good. 19 October 2012 at 20:01 · Like · 2
Alex Hsu Furthermore, as others have stated, defining “best” is subjective. Sometimes someone’s racial heritage ought to contribute to their appropriateness for a role. The race of two actors of equal caliber should factor into their casting at times like this. White actors of “better” merit (whatever that means) were excluded from consideration for Julius Caesar because the concept of the play was to cast all-black. Moran did not compromiise there, he did not cast white people because he cast purely based on who was “best”. Why couldn’t the same be done for orphan of Zhao? 19 October 2012 at 20:03 via mobile · Like · 
Melody Brown 161 comments, a Guardian article and a Radio 4 programme, and STILL we East Asians haven’t shut up? Good work. 19 October 2012 at 20:10 · Like · 4
Michael Bott Alex – that last question has been answered over and over. Why pretend it hasn’t? There wasn’t an all East Asian ensemble available to him. 19 October 2012 at 20:16 · Like
Lucy Miller I say …
As an actor, writer who is British-Chinese/East Asian or for want of a better wo…See more 19 October 2012 at 20:25 · Like · 3
Alex Hsu Michael I’m not pretending that question has not been answered. I’m calling that answer you give insulting and hollow. I’ve already stated that I heard from the young Vic in their process of casting wild swans, and surely their resources don’t match those of the RSC. I’m not saying I’m qualified or would have been cast had I the opportunity, I’m just saying that claiming that there are not enough qualified e Asian actors to cast one show, without any material evidence to back it up is insulting. Of course the pool is obviously smaller than the pool of Caucasian actors, but where is the evidence that Moran tried very hard? In light of his lukewarm responses, I’d say the evidence more points toward this not having been a priority of his. Look at the lengths he went to to cast the all black JC. All the evidence points to Moran being able to do better, but chose not to. Don’t sit on a forum full of Asian actors and say they don’t exist.20 October 2012 at 06:23 via mobile · Edited · Like · 6
Alex Hsu Always casts the best actor regardless of race? Or just so long as the race he disregards is Asian? 19 October 2012 at 20:50 via mobile · Like · 2
Alex Hsu He cast non-professionals in JC to stay true to his racial vision of the show, for crying out loud! 19 October 2012 at 20:52 via mobile · Like · 5
Michael Bott Alex – still not addressing the point that this is an ensemble cast. Doran’s job isn’t to show that he tried hard to be ethnically fair, it’s to cast and direct the production as best he can with what’s available to him. Get real. 19 October 2012 at 22:09 · Like
Tuey Mac I remember Clint Eastwood casting some unknown Hmong actors and actresses in the leads in his film in Gran Torino – I dont even think they were actors! Also Ham Tran cast real people in his roles in his Vietnam movie Journey From the Fall which was so incredible. Everyone should go and watch that movie. The acting and direction was incredible! Official Journey from the Fall Trailer
Trailer for Journey from the Fall, directed by Ham Tran. In theaters Spring 2007. 19 October 2012 at 22:11 · Like
Melody Brown But @Michael, the point is he hasn’t addressed the fact that East Asian actors are NEVER allowed to be cast in a colourblind fashion. Why are the pitiful three EA actors not playing Emperors or Princesses? Will one of them be playing Galileo? Or Boris? 19 October 2012 at 22:20 · Like · 3
Mike Skupin Michael, if one of the three pieces was Othello, and they had three black actors on board, and then decided to cast the lead with one of the white actors, would you still be arguing that they did their best with what they were given? 19 October 2012 at 22:35 · Like · 8
Michael Bott Othello would have had precedence casting and the ensemble built around that. Zhao is a different case – to honour it ethnically the full cast would have to be EA – in which case majority of casting in Galileo and Boris becomes EA. Remember, there are three directors with a say in how the casting goes. In the real world, is each one going to agree that his or her production must contain a predominantly ethnic cast? Just to be seen to be fair? 19 October 2012 at 23:04 · Like
Michael Bott Anna – ensemble casting is just a fact of life at the RSC – not something invented in retrospect to cover their arses.19 October 2012 at 23:06 · Like
Lucy Miller @Michael if opportunities such as Zhao come along and East Asian actors or very few of the actors are even considered for parts how is the community to evolve? How does one gain experience, how does one actively learn and hone ones skills if one is not given the opportunity to? 19 October 2012 at 23:17 · Like · 6
Melody Brown Or the opportunity you are given is to be two parts of a three part dog. Or an executed maid. 19 October 2012 at 23:19 · Like · 7
Mike Skupin Michael, if Othello were part of a three-play season then why would it have precedence casting, when Zhao apparently did not? Am I understanding you correctly? I was not suggesting that the whole cast be Asian, if that is not feasible. But when they were casting for three Asian actors, could they really not find any Asian actor that could do justice to the Emperor of China or the Princess of China and cast them in those pivotal roles? There was no Chinese actor good enough to play a Chinese role? Somehow, all these Caucasian actors are able to better portray a Chinese person, than a Chinese person. I don’t believe it. And what does that say to young British Chinese going to see the play – that they are not represented on stage because it is not commercially feasible to cast a minority? The actress playing the Princess and the actress playing the Maid are the same age, build, both have had professional training and credits. And yet the Asian was cast as a Maid, while the Caucasian actress became the Princess of China so that the play was more commercially viable? That is a huge problem. 19 October 2012 at 23:34 · Like · 18
Orville Mendoza An ensemble cast in three very different pieces should be seen as an opportunity to showcase the diversity of the ensemble, not a liability. They had an opportunity to finally let East Asian actors (no matter how few) be leads in one of the pieces. But instead, they took the least creative and least challenging route by casting “yellow face.” 20 October 2012 at 01:27 via mobile · Like · 10
Chil Kong This is a sad statement on the state of artistry and artistic leadership at RSC 20 October 2012 at 01:36 · Like · 8
Orville Mendoza In addition to Facebook, it might be useful to send the RSC a personal email. If they’re not paying attention to this post, we may be able to elicit a more direct response (apology with specific courses of action) if we inundate their inbox with emails. This is from the RSC website:
Q – How do I complain, compliment or comment about the RSC?
A – We welcome your feedback. You can send us an email from the forms on this page, phone or write to us. We aim to respond initially within seven working days. A full response to a complex issue may take longer, but we aim to give everyone a reply within three weeks of receipt. All emails get read immediately and are logged. Our policy is that staff in relevant departments answer the comment personally so you will get a much more informed answer. 20 October 2012 at 01:44 via mobile · Like · 8
Chil Kong Pucker UP #RSC, cuz I am bending over…. The Fairy Princess was sitting, all snug in her bed, while visions of Equality d…See more 20 October 2012 at 01:54 · Like
Michelle Krusiec TWO DOGS AND A MAID? That about says it all. Appalled and disappointed. 20 October 2012 at 01:55 · Like · 5
Chil Kong Gregory Doran’s response? But, they are important DOGS and the maid gets a tragic death… yeah thanks for that. 20 October 2012 at 02:00 · Like · 9
Alex Hsu Casting the 3 Asians as the dog puppet and maid is not color-blind casting, except to say that the director is casting blindly based on his own prejudice. True blind casting would mean equal opportunities for qualified actors of all races. But color blind casting rarely works to the favor of the EA actor, so that implies that his or her race is very much at play. When you look at the cast of the Nightingale, where the emperor was white (both young and old versions mind you… Obvious someone was paying attention enough to race to make that consistent), the aggressive empress dowager was black, the peasants were black and the exotic and sexualized characters were Asian women, the only blindness is that of the casting directors to how susceptible they are to racial stereotypes and how race-based the casting is, subconscious and unintentional as it may be. 20 October 2012 at 02:16 via mobile · Like · 12
Suzen Murakoshi Theatre must reflect the community, otherwise it is a lie. 20 October 2012 at 02:27 via mobile · Like · 5
FangWoei Chan no matter what’s the version is, it must back to the background of the story. why don’t u just a create new story? just spoil our chinese classical ! 20 October 2012 at 03:02 · Like · 4
Pun Bandhu I have to tell you the theatre community here in New York can’t believe that such outright insensitivity is occurring at the RSC. And to dismiss BEA actor’s concerns by calling them ‘sour grapes?’ Now that’s arrogance! It’s not sour grapes, Mr. Doran, it’s offensive and demoralizing and I am outraged. Your actions have brought international shame on your company and your brand. 20 October 2012 at 05:39 · Like · 20
Erin Quill Everyone needs to keep the pressure on the RSC and keep raising their voices in protest – which means that if you know a news outlet – get them to run a story, if you read a blog that you liked and know people who will be moved by reading it, and raise their voices, put it on your FB wall or twitter it – if you know someone who is well placed in the British Theatrical ‘Establishment’, then ask them, seriously ask them, if this is really how theater should act? The truly beautiful thing about theater is that once you create the world, all things are possible – the awful thing about some people who are in charge of RUNNING theater have tunnel vision, and possibly inherent racism within their casting choices. As I am both a US Citizen and an Australian one – as I am both Caucasian AND Asian, specifically Chinese – I am ALL AROUND disapointed in the RSC and PARTICULARLY Mr. Doran 20 October 2012 at 06:00 · Like · 10
Daniel York Michael Why is it automatically assumed that in “ensemble casting” (which I very much appreciate the complexity of) protagonists across all three plays will not be East Asian? 20 October 2012 at 06:14 · Like · 5
Alex Hsu Michael Bott, I HAVE addressed the ensemble casting argument. I’m basically saying if the only way to produce this show is to do it as one of 3 shows where your hands would be tied in casting it with Asians in key roles (which I don’t necessarily buy), consider NOT DOING IT. Ensemble casting is not equivalent to a gun to your head… And the more sensitive director, given the choice between offensive casting choices and saving the piece for when you could viably produce it properly, would choose the latter. 20 October 2012 at 06:18 via mobile · Like · 4
Marcus Ho OK…cast me as Henry V or someone of my likeness (East Asian by your terms) at the RSC and all will be forgiven 20 October 2012 at 07:40 · Edited · Like · 6
Melody Brown Colourblind casting, Trey Parker style: Funny scene from “Cannibal! The Musical” directed by co-creator of Southpark, Trey Parker. 20 October 2012 at 06:48 · Like · 1
Lucy Miller It feels to me more like it is a question of ‘let me have men about me that are …” 20 October 2012 at 06:52 · Like · 2
C. Amanda Maud Good idea, Orville. E-mail directly to RSC as outlined in Orville’s comment above. If we don’t get an adequate response from RSC or Doran soon, let’s go up to Stratford for the opening on the 30th. 20 October 2012 at 07:24 via mobile · Like · 5
Anthony Proctor As an actor I understand that part of my job is to be a symbol on stage. My look plays a very important part in helping me to communicate that symbol. I am mixed race and am blessed with being able to be a symbol for many different races from a variety of cultures from Italian to South American, from middle eastern to North African. Also thanks to the wonderful cultural diversity in this country, I can play the British symbol from many regions of the UK. Actors are cast not only with their talent in mind but also (and sometimes more importantly) it is their ability to communicate the writer and director’s vision on the symbol of the character. To say a EA actor should not play the maid or the dog in a play is ridiculous – also to expect an all BEA company for an entire season at the RSC is impractical. I my view the RSC are bringing a brilliant story to the stage with the best people possible, the fact that the cast in this very important play to the EA community is multicultural should be celebrated. The race of the cast is irrelevant and it is their ability to communicate the story to you, the audience which is the most important thing.
to finish, how many of you have complained of an actor who is not from Denmark playing Hamlet, a non-Jewish Shylock, an able bodied actor playing Richard III or a white Othello? I was at a wonderful EA version of Romeo and Juliet and was not offended that neither were they British nor Italian. 20 October 2012 at 07:30 via mobile · Like
Melody Brown Anthony, none of us has a problem with non-East Asians playing Chinese people. Our problem is, I think, that it doesn’t seem to work the other way. And that in our multicultural society, the RSC and many other theatre companies, choose to ignore the contribution of British East Asian people. If at least one of the three EA actors was playing a leading role, we might have celebrated. The fact that two thirds of them aren’t even playing human is a slap in the face and it needs to be addressed without accusations of “sour grapes”. 20 October 2012 at 07:42 · Like · 8
Lucy Miller @Anthony “also to expect an all BEA company for an entire season at the RSC is impractical.” So would you consider the current All Black Julius Caesar or the All South Asian Much Ado in the same light? Yet the RSC still went ahead. We are not saying that BEAs should not play maids or demon dogs you are missing the point. Unlike you Anthony, as you state you are lucky enough to be able “play the British symbol from many regions of the UK. I am mixed race and am blessed with being able to be a symbol for many different races from a variety of cultures from Italian to South American, from middle eastern to North African.” Would that were the same for the BEA actors We are British citizens yet we seldom get the opportunity to represent that symbol or the diversity that you benefit from. Non specified casting when it comes to the BEAs is a rarity it is the exception not the norm. 20 October 2012 at 07:49 · Like · 8
Richard Chang Would Asians be assigned the bulk of the roles in an RSC production of “Animal Farm”, given that we’re particularly expert at “whining” and casting would be species-blind anyway? 20 October 2012 at 07:54 · Like
C. Amanda Maud Wait, did Anthony just slip “white Othello” in there? It’s 2012! 20 October 2012 at 08:00 via mobile · Like
Anthony Proctor Yes I did C. Amanda. 20 October 2012 at 08:02 via mobile · Like
Anthony Proctor And I’m aware of the Christian calendar system thank you very much 20 October 2012 at 08:02 via mobile · Like
Anthony Proctor @Lucy in both cases you are talking about one play, not a whole season at the RSC, is it not correct that the entire company is involved in all the plays of the upcoming season? 20 October 2012 at 08:06 via mobile · Like
Melody Brown The incredulity people who come from a place of privilege feel when accusations of tokenism and racism raise their ugly heads! It’s tough, I guess, to have to acknowledge that we don’t live in a meritocracy and that prejudice and institutional racism are alive and well and thriving, even in the arts. And to have to admit that perhaps your position wasn’t attained because of your hard work or talent but because you were lucky. We’re all too aware, in hindsight, of what a blind eye can do at the BBC. I hope the powers that be at the RSC take a good long look at this thread and see that the common denominator here is not one East Asian has come on this page and defended Greg Doran’s casting decision. And we’re at, what, over 200 comments now? We can’t all be wrong. 20 October 2012 at 08:19 · Like · 8
Melody Brown And by “blind eye” there I meant culture of silence. Clumsy words. Apologies. 20 October 2012 at 08:28 · Like · 1
C. Amanda Maud My point, Anthony, was not to question your knowledge of the calendar as you so sarcastically suggest. It was instead to express disbelief that you would think no one would object to a white Othello in 2012. As evidenced here, a lot of creative, intelligent and artistic people are fed up of lectures about art appreciation and the practicalities of art administration being used as excuses for insensitivity and racism. I don’t buy the idea that we shouldn’t complain because they are doing the play at all. Shouldn’t that have been the starting point for addressing the lack of an East Asian presence at the RSC and in UK theatre in general? Instead we get “sour grapes” and be grateful there’s any East Asians in the cast and you’re lucky we’re doing this play. These reactions are insulting because they presuppose a lack of artistic vision or knowledge on the part of the people speaking up. Many of us have worked (and struggled) in this business for decades. 20 October 2012 at 08:51 via mobile · Like · 10
C. Amanda Maud After a year of unbelievable incidents of yellowface in “Nightingale”and “Cloud Atlas” perhaps “Orphan of Zhao” is the belated final straw for an overlooked, underrepresented, “invisible” minority. RSC and Doran, this is not going away. Someone needs to step up and apologize and address the issue without insults or condescension. 20 October 2012 at 08:58 via mobile · Like · 13
C. Amanda Maud Off to join Equity at the Trade Unions march. Hope to talk more there. Let’s keep this going! 20 October 2012 at 09:00 via mobile · Like · 5
Daniel York Anthony Proctor I think you need to get a broader grasp of what most of us are saying here. I certainly wouldn’t expect to see an entire cast of EA’s in a “repetory play” and some form of “rainbow cast” is entirely appropriate. However, a situation where NONE of the protagonists is from an EA background is shameful and a blatant deniel of opportunity and presence. You may be mixed race but you’re not East Asian. We exist in a state of what I can only describe as artistic apartheid. We do not have the same opprortunities. The playing field is not level. Is that a situation you’re comfortable with? 20 October 2012 at 09:08 · Like · 11
Gemma Lloyd I am a ‘nice’ middle-class white girl that was taken to the RSC from a young age, there was always something that never sat comfortably with me, and that was often and mostly the need to have to wear sunglasses because of the all white casts.. Through the decades a smattering of non white actors appeared and then we saw ‘everyone’ in one go being bunged on stage. Tick the boxes and then we don’t have to use ‘them’ again for a couple of years.. I look back to Midnight’s Children and now Julius Caesar and Much Ado About Nothing. I cast and I produce and I run an organisation that promotes ‘everyone’ into the industry… right now I am selling a lie, I know how hard it is going to be if you happen not to be white and of course it’s still bleedin hard if you are. If you are being judged by your skin colour before your ability as an actor then god help us all. My utopian dream is to cast colour blind, it’s happening in the work I do and it really wasn’t hard. But this latest debacle is beyond appalling.. and I herald everyone that has bought this to the forefront.. The profession is a microcosm of all that is wrong in the UK… we all know it is supremely racist and it takes the brilliance and strength of Daniel York to bring it to the public’s attention.. Call me what you want, I have had everything thrown at me but I will continue to fight until the industry wakes up realises it’s 2012 and not the 1950s. 20 October 2012 at 10:39 · Like · 26
Suet Lee I live in Singapore and often ensure that any trip to London includes a trip to the theatre because I am assured of a world class performance. However, I am utterly dismayed that The RSC, a company who I hold in high regard would put up a classic like The Orphan of Zhao with a limited number of East Asian actors. I find it hard to reconcile that the RSC continues such an outdated and insulting practice in this global age. Frankly, I’m very disappointed. 20 October 2012 at 11:44 · Like · 10
Tuey Mac RSC = Old White Male dinosaurs protecting their own – super sad 20 October 2012 at 11:48 · Like
Melvin Tan This RSC practice is offensive and hurtful. How can they live with themselves? There is nothing royal about it. 20 October 2012 at 12:07 · Like · 7
Lobo Chan Talking of dinosaurs, it’s interesting that opera, often dismissed as an outmoded art form, have been colour-blind for decades. Most companies have ethnically diverse members and stars of every colour bestride the globe. It wasn’t always thus. I remember an interview with a black opera star who broke through in the 70’s who said you had to be twice as good as the white guys to be let in. But at least they were given a chance and they were not even mounting a production of Porgy and Bess! Reading this thread and the patronising and hypocritical defense just makes me sad and angry. 20 October 2012 at 13:34 via mobile · Like · 7
Mike Skupin Anthony, before you immediately go on the defence, perhaps it would be easier if we explained what happened with the La Jolla Playhouse in America. ‘Nightingale’ (set in China) had a Caucasian cast playing the Emperor of China, etc. Out of the whole cast, there was only 1 Asian in a play set in feudal China
The AEA society spoke up very quickly, and Moises Kaufman IMMEDIATELY went on the defence (similar to Greg Doran), saying that he stood by the casting. Only when the story went national, was the company forced to hold a public panel to discuss the issue. One audience member asked him whether he would have cast a white actor in the role of an African monarch, which he refused to answer.
Do you see where I’m going with this? Because of the strength of the Asian acting community, he was forced to not only confront the situation, but his own prejudices. No, he would not have dared to cast a white actor as an African monarch. No, he would never have considered putting on an all-white version of ‘The Colour of Purple’. But he was not opposed to casting a white actor as a Chinese monarch. The prejudice was so ingrained, he was unaware of it. He then realised that he – someone who was always fighting for GLBT rights – had become the person he usually fought against. What others had done to the GLBT community, was what he was doing to the Asian community. And instead of just offering apologies, he actually took the comments into consideration. Result? He auditioned Asian actors for his next play and lo and behold, what would you know, there is actually a strong Asian acting community.
So if the BEA community doesn’t speak up about this, then an opportunity will be missed for major change in the arts scene here. 20 October 2012 at 13:36 · Like · 1Mike Skupin On a side note – worth mentioning that the AEA society said they would picket future productions of The Nightingale if the casting remained unchanged. Something to think about in this instance? 20 October 2012 at 13:37 · Like · 6
Lobo Chan ‘the prejudice was so ingrained, he wasn’t even aware of it.’ I think encapsulates the problem. 20 October 2012 at 13:48 via mobile · Like · 7
Marina Celander Here in the USA Asian performers are following with interest what the outcome of this debate will be. Will it be business as usual, with the caucasian majority sighing and saying “oh, stop being cry babies, we’ve given you sooome work so be grateful and shut up already!”, or will the leadership at the RSC responding in a responsible and mature manner, befitting a well respected theatre company. 20 October 2012 at 14:04 · Like · 6
Erin Quill Just to clarify re: The Nightingale at La Jolla- there were 2 API performers, a 12 year old Child playing a bird so covered with feathers that you could not see her face, and a young Eurasian woman who had been in Spring Awakening (written by Authors of The Nightingale) who played a spoiled Princess. The main leads were Caucasian, in Chinese dress, names, and setting. In the end, there WAS an apology from Mr Kaufman and from the AD, Christopher Ashley- there was no apology from Steven Sater or Duncan Sheik. However next week there is a forum being held at East West Players with most of the ‘Major’ AEA houses to discuss Asians in American Theater. Given this situation, perhaps Mr Doran can SKYPE in- Sandra Oh and Tamlyn Tomita will also be there 20 October 2012 at 14:38 via mobile · Like · 4
Erin Quill Also, while no one here has pointed this out, when Nanking was invaded and decimated, the ‘conditioning’ that the soldiers received in order to be able to carry out the horrific acts, well, they were told that the Chinese people were dogs. That they were lower than dogs, that they should be slaughtered like dogs, etc
So to read that Asians are underrepresented in this production is not surprising to me, but then to read that they are playing dogs? (puppet dogs but dogs nonetheless) When they are, other than a maid’ not shown?
That is an (unintended I am sure) insult that takes it to a whole new level.
And I wonder- is there puppeteering in all three ‘rep’ productions? Because if not – RSC has sunk it’s own justification 20 October 2012 at 14:52 via mobile · Like · 7
Lobo Chan Interesting with all their ‘research’ they ended up with an own goal 20 October 2012 at 15:18 via mobile · Like · 2
Sara Chang I teach Asian students part time, and took them to see Wild Swans. They were amazed. They’d seen theater before, but they’d never truly felt included. It meant so much to them, particularly as adolescents, when they’d found nothing to see on stage except the adventures of white people in white worlds. They’re the future – not us oldies on the RSC Facebook wall – the little kids going to the theater and being influenced. So yes, I understand the people arguing on behalf of the RSC, but I don’t think these people grasp the concept of institutionalized racism. Now, I’m not sure if this is the time for Racism 101, but racism is not random isolated instances. It’s a message we get over and over again in the most insidious possible ways that says that white is the default, white is better. And it happens, all the time. So am I going to take my students to see The Orphan of Zhao? No way, because I don’t want to reinforce that message that the Chinese don’t deserve a place in the arts scene.
On a more positive note, I have respect for them having the guts to undertake such a big project and for being the first company to bring the play over here. Kudos. It’s about time 20 October 2012 at 15:37 · Like · 13
Judy Tan This reminds me of a company in Singapore who practises the same ‘policy’. choosing white people over coloured ones. The irony of e situation in Singapore is of cos white people are ‘the others’ in my country. Suppose I’m sharing this to just bring an awareness that its not only happening in a predominantly white country. But also in a small city like Singapore. It definitely doesn’t happen in same scale as it does over here cos back home our market is much smaller. Personally I do find it shocking that the age old policy is stil being practised here in a place as forward as London…but I think this also reflects me having a sort of bias.. Why should the industry in London be less driscriminatory? Is it because I think they should be leading us towards the future instead of practising old ideologies? Why should the White dominate and show me the way yet again? Ugh…am I even makin myself clear? Just woke up am still in bed but first thing I read was Jennifer’s note so here I am. The point I’d like to make is – it don’t matter what it was like before… Who played what in whichever production in the past isn’t even a good example anymore. Lets just cut it n really move forward and onward. We don’t need to say oh last time it was like this n we need change. Or last time it was like tht and we need to continue. What do u want NOW? That’s e only important thing. So march on my EAST ASIANS haha. Only over here I hear this term. Let me boldly post my half asleep but hopefully pertinaant rant. God bless and good luck  – meek Singaporean haha 20 October 2012 at 15:43 via mobile · Like · 5
Mike Skupin Sara – great comments. ‘It’s a message we get over and over again in the most insidious possible ways that says that white is the default, white is better.’ And the RSC is contributing to the problem and making sure it lasts longer, whether they realise it or not. 20 October 2012 at 16:00 · Like · 5
Martine Niven very dissapointing!!! 20 October 2012 at 17:19 · Like · 1
Anthony Proctor I must admit that I am being flippant in my comments, but it is because I don’t care about ethnicity when casting. IMO the best actor for the part should be cast. I see no problem in a black actor being cast as the Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, I have no problem with a white actor playing the Emperor of China and I have no problem with an Asian actor playing Hamlet. As long as they can act it. Positive discrimination, which you are all asking for, is still discrimination. All minority part actors are in the same boat. I do not believe that we live in an age of artistic apartheid as Mr York so beautifully and emotivley put (a career in politics rather than in acting for you sir) and Mr Skupin I do understand your argument. I take your point in film where naturalist performance is king. But theatre is the art of symbol. It’s the art of taking something that is not and making it an ‘is’. It’s about inviting an audience to imagine that somebody is someone else in a space, in that moment. And denying a white, black, or Asian actor the right to practise this craft because they are not of the correct ethnicity is wrong. I sorry but an Asian actor as no right to play an Asian character just because of their ethnicity. I shall illustrate again, I have seen countless non-Scottish Macbeth’s no one bats an eyelid. The actress playing the maid in this play may give the performance of her career, but be terrible as the Princess. You are judging the character because it is of low status, not due to its importance in the play, of which the RSC is trying to illustrate in it’s explanation. 20 October 2012 at 17:26 via mobile · Like
Mike Skupin Anthony, I would completely agree with you if the statistics worked. It would be great to see a black actor cast as Dorothy, or an Asian playing Hamlet, but this doesn’t happen. The amount of Asians cast as Shakespearean leads, does not come close to the amount of white actors cast in minority roles. In the past twenty years, the RSC has only hired one East Asian actor. The British industry is not giving Asians the opportunity that it has given these white actors – to play a character out of type. Furthermore, I think it’s already been mentioned that the RSC is scrambling – the Maid role is not pivotal. I have absolutely no recollection of a maid in the piece, though I must admit it’s been a while. Unless they’ve changed the script, which I wouldn’t have expected seeing as they have blogged about being true to the original piece. But perhaps they will now change the Maid to become a more pivotal role, taking these arguments into consideration. 20 October 2012 at 17:46 · Like · 9
Mike Skupin Can you name the last time you saw an Asian Hamlet? An Asian Dorothy? An Asian Othello? Excluding the RSC obviously, seeing as the RSC hadn’t hired East Asians since 1992. 20 October 2012 at 17:52 · Like · 7
Paul Hyu I would point out for those of you taken in by the phrase “key role” that all the roles are key roles, or else the play has been overwritten. Does Greg Doran’s response imply that there are some actors in his acting company who have roles that are not key roles?!
On another point of interest, the twenty year no East Asian in Stratford thing is quite a shocking statistic, but it is even worse than that. Prior to Daniel York being in the 1992 season, who was the actor representing East Asian before then? Who was it? And when was it? It is twenty years SINCE they hired an East Asian; and a period of a great many more years during which when they hired JUST THE ONE!
So WHY can no-one from the RSC have the decency to acknowledge there is a problem here? It isn’t all sour grapes. Its institutional. 20 October 2012 at 18:09 · Like · 11
Daniel York Anthony. “The best actor for the part”. This must be the third time I’ve posted this but how do you quantify what is the “best actor”? You can only be a “good actor” if you’re given opportunities. You try making your mark as “Heavily Accented Chinese Take Away Man”
Apartheid was a system of racial segregation where the rights of a certain ethnic group were curtailed. East Asian actors don’t have the same opportunities as white actors. They don’t even the same opportunities as black or (South Asian) ones. This is a fact. How you can accuse me of being “emotive” when you wade in with a hamfisted reactionary trope like “positive discrimination” is quite beyond me. No one’s asked for a positive discrimination. We want a level playing field. Then we can REALLY see who the “best actor for the part” is.
BTW I thank you for your career advice Mr Proctor but you’re perfectly welcome to check my CV. I think you’ll find my professional achievements are reasonably adequate. I was wondering when the first person to get personal would appear and it was you. I do hope you’re proud of yourself. 20 October 2012 at 19:46 · Edited · Like · 17
Daniel York I hope that’s not the case, John 20 October 2012 at 19:45 · Like · 1
Judy Tan I just keep laughing involuntarily each time I read a response to Anthony. I hope he’s not feeling too left out now. He’s doing well contributing to this thread. I bet he’s got a good heart… ‘Cept maybe head in e clouds but good heart nonetheless. U people are awesome… Go on and fight for ur share of e pie!! Nomnomnom 20 October 2012 at 20:10 via mobile · Like · 2
Melody Brown Thanks, Judy. Feeling the love coming off this page! Does anyone else feel like they just took a pill? 20 October 2012 at 20:30 · Like · 3
Orville Mendoza Here is an incredibly thoughtful, and precise explanation, in my humble opinion, as to why the “reverse discrimination” or “positive discrimination” agrgument is completely specious. It was written by Diep Tran during the whole Nightingale debacle. Diep Thought…And Other Things: The (Yellow-ish) Nightingale …And Other Things”I think the problem…is that you’ve never actually known w…See more 20 October 2012 at 20:32 via mobile · Like · 3
Alex Hsu ANTHONY I think it’s so interesting your statement “denying a white black or Asian actor the right to practice this craft because they are not of the correct ethnicity is wrong”. Because it sounds like something we can all agree to. But the problem is, you imply that Morans decisions to not cast Zhao leads with Asians is in adherence to this principle… And the EA acting community here is saying it is in VIOLATION of this principle. (Not to mention that Moran clearly DOES use ethnicity conceptually in casting evidenced by recent productions of Julius Caesar and much Ado… Don’t you think plenty of actors were excluded from those shows for being the “wrong ethnicity”?)
Unless you are claiming that EAs are fundamentally less talented than others, you must consider that EAs are being excluded from opportunities to practice their craft all the time on grounds of their ethnicity. Especially in light of statistical fact regarding frequency of casting in certain types of roles, combined with the anecdotal stories of the many EA actors here who live this fight. Thanks for admitting you are being flippant and don’t care about ethnicity in casting, but if you are to enter the fray of a battle that does not belong to you, I challenge you to open your mind to someone else’s experience rather than try to apply your own experience as a multi-racial actor in the uk. It is NOT the same… We are NOT asking for special treatment… We are taking institutions and society to task that we ARE being viewed and treated differently. If you dig a little deeper you might even find we have the same ideals here. 20 October 2012 at 21:19 via mobile · Edited · Like · 4
Michelle Lee @Alex -did you mean to direct your post at Anthony, rather than Daniel? 20 October 2012 at 21:11 via mobile · Like · 2
Daniel York Yes, I’m sure he meant Anthony. 20 October 2012 at 21:15 · Like · 3
Alex Hsu Oops. Yes Anthony. Will edit now. 20 October 2012 at 21:18 via mobile · Like · 3
Erin Quill I think, given his strenuous objections and desire to completely ignore the points made, we can all agree that Anthony fundamentally finds actors of East Asian heritage LESS talented than Caucasians. There is no point in arguing sense to the willfully stupid 20 October 2012 at 21:20 via mobile · Like · 8
Greg Watanabe I amazed and disheartened that when issues of yellow face like this come up, as they do, again and again, that producers, artistic directors, and directors are so surprised and shocked that Asians in their communities would be offended.
Reading the director’s response (the one where he calls complaints by British East Asians “sour grapes”), he seems offended BEA’s’s don’t understand him, his position, his difficulties in casting, his constraints with the 3-show company season…while never acknowledging it might be offensive to the people he’s chosen to represent on stage. The most he does is acknowledge RSC underserving Chinese audiences on its stages. In fact, he even says, “it’s important that RSC continue to lead the way [in reference to greater representation of Chinese ].
Yes, “continue to lead the way”.
I suppose if you grow up thinking that the best way to improve a country is to colonize it, then, so too, can you look upon the casting of non-Asians as Asians as “leading the way” in improving the lack of representation of Chinese Brits (I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he would also include other British East Asians as well.)
It saddens me that the one and only BEA theater company has had it’s funding cut. Because, at the end of the day, the issue is not the exact percentage of Asians on stage, but whose stories are being told and by whom. So when large, well funded, prestigious theaters finally tell an Asian story and fail to use Asians, or British East Asians or Asian Pacific Islander Americans to tell that story, they have to try to understand how that feels to us. It feels like orientalism, like a minstrel show, like you think we’re not good enough to tell our own stories, that you would presume to tell our stories for us, dictate to us our culture and identity.
I can see how, from their privileged, entitled, dominant-culture perspective, they come to disregard our communities, us as people…but that doesn’t make it right.
And when we articulate our feelings on the matter and they still refuse to acknowledge their offense, even blame us for being offended…it’s completely fucked up. 20 October 2012 at 23:04 · Like · 24
Judy Tan Yellow face!!! I am a yellow smiley face!!! 20 October 2012 at 23:07 via mobile · Like
Daniel York Great to see you on here Greg and thanks for your support. 20 October 2012 at 23:10 · Edited · Like · 1
Jess Woo From all I’ve heard over the past week, while a level playing field has to be the ultimate end, the first step is being allowed ON the pitch in the first place. I really hope this becomes the full, public discussion that is clearly far too long overdue. RSC, are you listening? Surely you’ll be taking the initiative, yes? 20 October 2012 at 23:16 via mobile · Like · 11
Mike Skupin I wonder whether the people arguing on behalf of the RSC, are the same people saying that women should stop making a fuss over a lack of opportunity as writers and directors – after all, the “best people” are getting the job, are they not? 20 October 2012 at 23:22 · Like · 8
Lobo Chan @judy tan. I have to say I was and wasn’t surprised at the attitude of the company in Singapore. The legacy of cultural imperialism and colonialism is such that it brain washes the colonials themselves into thinking’white is best’.East Asian children born in the west grow up wanting to be white, reinforced by the kind of practice we’re debating here. It’s a struggle for them to appreciate their self-worth when all they see in the media and stage is they’re only good for dog puppeteers and (However pivotal) Maids, even in a story based on their own culture! Why did Doran even say he wants to attract more EA into the profession when he’s probably hoping, by his ‘sour grapes remark, that the whole community would just shut up and disappear? @Anthony, just be thankful that you’re born multi-ethnic looking and talented enough to be working. You have no idea at all what it’s like to be on the other side of the fense! 20 October 2012 at 23:53 via mobile · Like · 9
Alex Hsu Orville, thanks for sharing Diep’s blog post. So good! Articulating much better what I’ve been trying to say in earlier posts as well as in the most recent to Anthony. I think much of the discord between sides can be traced to this concept of the Perfect Artistic World vs the Real Artistic World. We keep hearing the term “color blind casting” overused in justifying insensitive casting decisions when it come to EA actors, as if we were in a PAW. Well, we are not. We are working from a deficit in terms of equal opportunity, and there is catching up to do! It seems the sooner people admit that the status quo is not the ideal casting environment that they claim, the sooner we can put behind us the shushing and dismissing and get to the work of making progress in the RAW. This discussion reminds me of the old Affirmative Action debate here in the US. 21 October 2012 at 00:01 via mobile · Like · 6
Anthony Proctor Erin I DO NOT find Asian actors less talented than Caucasian actors. I am open to talent from all ethnicities. Neither am I stupid. And to dismiss me because I disagree with you is no way to debate. You do not win an argument through trying to belittle your aponant. You win through reason and understanding. I hear the argument. I just don’t agree. 21 October 2012 at 00:30 via mobile · Like
Anthony Proctor Mr York, I apologise if you think that my comment was personal, I was offended the thought of artistic apartheid. You were using political language – in a very tabloid way. Using the word apartheid is sensationalising your argument. My aim was not to be personal, but to try and neutralise this tactic. I did of course take a look at your imbd before posting the comment. Please accept my apology if I did cause offence. 21 October 2012 at 00:40 via mobile · Like
Mack Wei if there is affirmative action in the media, then “artistic license” would never be thrown around to justify “racebending” Asian roles into white ones in many, many Hollywood movies 21 October 2012 at 00:45 · Like · 4
Erin Quill No, I dismiss you because you are willfully ignoring the issue at hand in favor of the ‘established’ way of doing things- and I did not call you stupid in reflection of your intellectual prowess, I called you WILLFULLY stupid, which means you are deliberately misunderstanding or choosing to misunderstand and then incite with your posts. I do not think you are intellectually inferior. I am sure you have advanced learning- it takes immense dedication to ignore the information you have been given. 21 October 2012 at 01:48 via mobile · Like · 14
Cao Yuan this is so typical of multiculturalism in the west that only takes things the west can appropriate and throw away the rest. 21 October 2012 at 03:10 · Like · 2
Mabel Gan This is shameful. East Asian actors are locked out of most roles in the UK because the characters are white. For them to be excluded as much in a play from their own culture is just wrong. The post only confirms that the EA actors are playing a maid and not 2 dogs – but ONE dog. 21 October 2012 at 03:19 · Like · 6
Alex Hsu Greg Watanabe, well put! This colonial mindset is what I found lurking behind Morans comments in his interview video about how nearly “Shakespearean” this Chinese play is. A beloved work from a civilization millenia older than the British empire is reduced to something he sees fit to assess thru his own lens, and grace with his vision of how it should be cast… which happens to “best” done with a majority of non-Asians. Did his extensive research include consulting the Chinese people he sought to depict? Definitely not those in his own backyard as is evidenced here. 21 October 2012 at 03:20 via mobile · Like · 5
Haven Tso I am the organiser of the Diversity Casting Australia group and this issue has come to my attention from a member of our group. I understand that there is a pressure for diversity casting but I think the main issue is that when it is a Chinese tale, would it be fairer to say that Chineses or at least Asian actors should be cast for the roles. I have yet to read the play so I cannot really comment in detail, but this is my initial thoughts; as, I, as an Asian Australian actor, wes being told repeatedly that Asian actors were not cast in productions because the production needs to justify to have an Asian in the cast. But if you look at the “Spring Awakening” production on Broadway, they have a huge diversity of ethnic groups performing in a musical based on a German play. So that’s my thought here so far. I have also written a blog a few weeks ago about this issue: Havenough: The United World of Colour 21 October 2012 at 04:20 · Like · 6
Alex Hsu ‘Walking Dead’ Star Steven Yeun on Resisting Asian Stereotypes Korean-American actor Steven Yeun, who stars as Glenn on AMC’s “The Walking Dead…See more 21 October 2012 at 05:28 via mobile · Like · 3
Daniel York A statement just recieved from Tony Award winning Asian American playwritght David Henry Hwang-
“The ORPHAN OF ZHAO casting controversy says less about Britain’s Asian acting community, than it does about the RSC’s laziness and lack of artistic integrity. Early in my career, when I wrote Asian characters, production teams in America often had to expend extra effort to find Asian actors to play them. Yet they did so, both to maintain artistic authenticity and to provide opportunities for actors who are virtually never allowed to even audition for ‘white’ roles. By producing THE ORPHAN OF ZHAO, the RSC seeks to exploit the public’s growing interest in China; through its casting choices, the company reveals that its commitment to Asia is self-serving, and only skin-deep.”
Michelle Lee @Alex – thanks for posting that article on Steven Yeun. All this anecdotal evidence, from Steven and others above, must demonstrate to those who make casting decisions and who are finding it hard to acknowledge there is an issue that we are not deluded or mistaken in our belief that there is prejudice, even if not consciously deliberate, against East Asians in casting for film and theatre. Some casting directors have even apologised beforehand for asking me to do a reading again with a Chinese accent. It is evident in instances such as these that they know they are being prejudiced and somehow hope to assuage this by apologising. But unless they can counter this by, in turn, including East Asians in castings for non-race specific work the apologies only ring hollow. 21 October 2012 at 06:19 via mobile · Like · 5
Jennifer Lim Not posted on his page, but he wrote it. AAPAC (Asian American Performers Action Coalition) is going to be issuing a statement, if they haven’t already, that will include this. He’s as outraged as the rest of us. 21 October 2012 at 06:24 · Like · 7
Daniel York Anthony I thank you for having the good grace to apologise. However your assertion that I was using “tabloid language” with the terminology “artistic apartheid” is plain wrong. Apartheid is a state of inequality. This clearly exists in UK theatre, film & TV. Leading black actors such as Idris Elba and David Harewood have spoken out on numerous occasions about having to go to the States to find decent roles. With East Asians this inequality borders on the ridiculous.
The “best actor for the role” line (I won’t even call it an argument) simply perpetuates this ludicrous myth the public is sold that auditions are conducted with actors trotting into a room one by one, delivering a little speech with the “panel” deciding who was the “best” at the end of the day. The kind of blatant falsehood that is very much the currency of programmes like The X Factor. But this is not the way the RSC casts their leading roles.
Let’s take the actress playing The Princess for instance. Lucy Briggs Owen. Nothing against her, I’m sure she’s a fantastic actress, but she’s worked for the RSC before. This is what she played- Luscinda in Cardenio, Anne in The City Madam, Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She very much went into the Company as a “leading player”. Cardenio was directed by Greg Doran so, like Lloyd Hutchinson and Joe Dixon (and possibly others) who are “RSC regulars”, she has worked with Greg before. Nothing wrong with this in principle but it totally gives the lie to the director’s rather disingenuous claim that “I just see as many actors as I can and decide who’s the best for the role.
But let’s examine Lucy’s pre RSC CV- Theatre includes: Mrs Warren’s Profession (West End/tour); The Importance of Being Earnest (Regents Park); Widowers Houses (Royal Exchange); Private Lives (Hampstead); Troilus and Cressida (Barbican/International tour); The Pains of Our Youth, Don Juan Comes Back from the War (Belgrade).
Impressive stuff. And she recently finished in Noises Off in the West End. Can anyone point me to an East Asian actress with similar professional credentials? Who was even able to AUDITION for any of these productions? Who are regular names on the casting director’s list for George Bernard Shaw and Noel Coward plays?
The point is that when Lucy goes into a meeting (I won’t call it an audition) with the RSC that’s what she carries with her. That track record. And that’s what makes them inclined to cast her. So, far from “sour grapes” in many ways I was thrilled to be even recalled for The Orphan Of Zhao. Thrilled they actually seriously gave consideration to giving me some reasonably big parts (Greg Doran told me so himself in a letter). Because although I have a fairly decent CV (miraculously fortunate under the circumstances) I simply cannot match that kind of high profile. And so there’s an immense frustration at the sheer unfairness of a situation where East Asians simply have no chance whatsoever to COMPETE (yes, COMPETE, not be “positively discriminated” for) for roles in classical theatre.
To dismiss us with chides of “sour grapes” is to rubbish and belittle an entire race for daring to show aspiration and ambition. For wanting to climb to the very pinnacle of the profession they’ve chosen and love. It’s tantamount to saying “just stick to playing take away owners”. And I don’t see how any person of race can condone that frankly. 21 October 2012 at 08:08 · Like · 20
Judy Tan Did Anthony spell ‘aponent’? Gets me every time a white person spells wrong.. Again, reflecting a bias. N hes very brave to still be participating in this discourse. for that alone i so appreciate him. Any updates from the related authorities or from RSC? 21 October 2012 at 08:14 via mobile · Like · 1
Daniel York Judy. There’s nothing brave about Anthony. Has he ever risked his career by standing up to a HUGE organisation like the RSC? There’s nothing courageous about making flippant and inflammatory comments in an internet discussion. 21 October 2012 at 08:17 · Like · 7
Judy Tan  ok Dan… Suppose I was just being kind.. He is getting his arse kicked here thou and he could very well not respond… Maybe a more accurate word wld be…foolhardy? Foolish?  I’m not e most serious person on earth but this whole saga is really interesting me and triggering my sentiments. I hope to hear a response from RSC or ‘the other side’ soon… Xx 21 October 2012 at 08:23 via mobile · Like · 2
Jennifer Lim Link for Radio 4 Front Row interview: check out Greg Doran’s answer as to whether he’d cast a white actor in a black role?? East Asians are still at the bottom end of the pecking order for integrated casting! Front Row: Ginger & Rosa, Ralph Steadman on birds, the man who lights the Rolling Stones Kirsty Lang reviews Sally Potter’s Ginger & Rosa and talks birds with Ralph Steadman. 21 October 2012 at 08:23 · Like · 2
Michelle Lee One thing I will say is that at least those who have contributed to this discussion are allowing all to see the arguments on both sides and are engaging in dialogue, which is more than apparently the key protagonists at the RSC have deigned to do thus far. 21 October 2012 at 08:42 via mobile · Like · 5
Judy Tan Thanks Michelle.. For putting it that way. As a consumer, all I can say is I really don’t feel like watching any RSC shows anymore.. Least not for the moment. And to be honest RSC don’t always put up the best shows given their resources n clout. I recently caught a freaking a production of SHAKESPEARE by RSC n walked out after half hour. Angry as I recalling it now… Ugh. Shakespeare lei!! RSC!!! How could it have gone wrong??? Alot of complacency is all I got from the show. Coming back to this issue, I have a feeling the people at RSC are sitting in their office having meetings about this. I truly hope they will send a word out soon. God bless. 21 October 2012 at 08:53 via mobile · Like · 4
C. Amanda Maud Just checked @theRSC Twitter feed and there is nothing beyond a RT of the original statement. Tomorrow is Monday, let’s start e-mailing and tweeting them in earnest. Get all the producers, directors, designers, performers and theatregoers you know to do the same. I hear there may be an MP or two writing in about it. See if yours will do the same. If anyone is interested in organising a trip to Stratford on the 30 Oct message me and I’ll friend you and we’ll discuss. This isn’t going away, RSC. Keep it going, folks! 21 October 2012 at 09:46 via mobile · Like · 6
Lucy Miller to add to what Hi Ching has most eloquently written this goes beyond the initial and superficial casting issue this is about attitudes, perceptions and the value that our society, that our institutions view and place upon us British-Chinese/East Asians and how that manifests itself in the way that UK society interacts with us its citizens, us. 21 October 2012 at 11:52 · Like · 8
Paul Nelson Very disappointing behaviour from the RSC. I would expect better!!! 21 October 2012 at 11:57 via mobile · Like · 3
Clarissa Widya Right, it is not often that I comment on these things but I have been following this issue with interest for a couple of days now.
I have no particular chip on my shoulder on race but there is a boulder on equality, which I think has gone out of the window here. I simply do not believe ‘lots and lots’ of SE Asian actors were seen for the parts. There are already not many out there, I know quite a few and none of them were given a chance to audition. With so few roles SE Asian actors could quite naturally be considered for, this is a chance for them to be seen. Agreed – should they not be right for the part, they shouldn’t be given it by default. However, it seems crazy to me that actors from different ethnicities could quite happily flit between different roles and the SE Asian actors aren’t even thought of.
About The Orphan of Zhao being part of a trilogy of plays that would need a mix of ethnicities: would it actually hurt to have a majority of SE Asian actors for a change? If the argument is that Life of Galileo would look strange with a majority of SE Asian actors, than surely the case for The Orphan with a majority of Caucasian actors doesn’t work either.
Someone who used the argument that the RSC has to cater to Western audience and needs to attract the largest audience it can, needs to wake up: the Caucasian audience is not going to shun a production because there are not as many white actors as usual! In fact, more ethnic diverse casts might make the multi-ethnic Western audience grow even larger.
RSC, I imagine you picked a very specific cultural piece to cater to the growing interest in Chinese culture among your Western audience. This was your chance to show leadership worthy of your reputation – don’t forget with power comes responsibility Peter Parker! 21 October 2012 at 12:15 · Like · 14
Margaret E O’Grady I think that I shall boycott the Royal Shakespeare Company until I hear that they have made amends for this clear oversight. Social justice is dear to my heart and it is a great shame to see that that the RSC has made some poor decisions that have so inflamed members of London’s Southeast Asian community who are such an important part of London’s – of OUR- diverse social tapestry. We need to celebrate what we have here! I will need to see some sort of some sort of action – to demonstrate that the RSC serious about change – before I decide to go to a RSC production ever again. 23 October 2012 at 22:19 · Edited · Like · 9
Jonathan Chan-Pensley Please excuse my ineloquence as I hate typing on facebook or on these small touch screens.
Points I wish to make keep appearing before I get a chance to post, which on the one hand is comforting that I am not alone in feeling this but on the other it is deeply disheartening that these feelings are so widespread.
Worse still that the simple argument of just having the opportunity at supposed open castings is anathema to members of the “liberal arts” who will defend such alienating casting actions so blindly that they can not see any offence caused. Unfortunately this is an attitude I have encountered too many times before.
I don’t think that using the word apartheid is tabloid language especially within the context used. Apartheid the word means separateness and came to mean separation based on racial grounds and i think it perfectly encapsulates what my erstwhile colleague Dan York was trying to convey. All art should transcend racial barriers but why is it that this universality that supposedly the RSC seeks seems to only work in one direction? 21 October 2012 at 12:31 via mobile · Like · 8
Claire Moor As someone who has long been a supporter of the RSC and worked for them in various guises over the years, I’ve been following this issue with great interest. I’m proud to see good friends of mine powering this debate – friends whose careers are hindered by this very issue of BEA actors not being seen for much other than the colour of their skin – talented actors I trained with or know, whose work has never been given the same opportunities to shine. I am well aware of the RSC cross-casting policy but agree wholeheartedly that that is NOT an excuse for not casting BEA actors in ANY circumstance. I find it mind-boggling, given the info, that the RSC can justify this casting in any terms. They are in a unique position to change this. Theatre is all about change, challenging the status quo. Well done to all of you for raising this issue, for challenging it head on and keep it going!! Too many of you are not able to share your glory with the rest of us because of it. This is the 21st century. 21 October 2012 at 12:34 · Edited · Like · 12
Kunjue Li I am a Chinese actress in London, classically trained, would be nice to be involved in this production, I think a oriental cast could work out positively like the recent production of Julius Caesl, great successes and excellent reviews! X 21 October 2012 at 13:17 via mobile · Like · 6
C. Amanda Maud Margaret, thank you and please make sure the RSC knows your feelings and possible boycott. 21 October 2012 at 13:47 via mobile · Like · 2
Mémé Thorne Clarissa, I beg to differ. Most flagship companies consider the bottom line first and foremost. Bums on seats. Most flagship companies operate with a subscriber base which are generally pandered to. Most subscribers to such companies are predominantly white, educated and rich. It all boils down to the dollar. Until the population at large and audiences to mainstream theatre companies particularly are educated to accept actors on stage that do not support the status quo regarding the ethnicity of the ruling class, not much will change. This situation exists here in Australia as well. I’d be willing to bet that the Board of Directors of the RSC do not include a single person of Asian background. Where are the voices of dissent from RSC subscribers? From any audience members? This conversation is one- sided. The voices we hear are from disenfranchised actors, especially those of us from Asian backgrounds. Only Claire has spoken out to represent that far larger and more powerful section of the community. I say take this argument out on the streets. Boycott the RSC. More, I say picket the Company headquarters. Organise yourselves. If I were in London, I’d do it. Make yourselves seen and heard beyond the confines of FB! Scream out for justice. Make yourselves heard. 21 October 2012 at 13:51 via mobile · Like · 9
Daniel York Meme, we’re certainly looking at that but even like this we’re making big waves. This is unprecedented 21 October 2012 at 14:06 · Like · 6
Claire Moor I don’t think the RSC has ever had to worry about audiences, who come from all over the world and a very large proportion from SE Asia, so I don’t think the commercial argument stands. Bums on seats pretty regardless! And it is STILL no excuse. 21 October 2012 at 14:18 · Like · 3
C. Amanda Maud @ Sarah Chang Please let the RSC directly via e-mail that you don’t plan on bringing your class and why, if you have a chance. Thanks! 21 October 2012 at 14:20 via mobile · Like · 4
Mémé Thorne So good to hear Daniel. The bigger the waves, the better for all of us. Australia looks on with keen interest as well as our brothers and sisters in the US. 21 October 2012 at 14:29 via mobile · Like · 7
C. Amanda Maud Look further back Meme, there are a few Non-Asians and non-actors speaking out here. Thinking of Gemma and Adrian, specifically. 21 October 2012 at 14:45 via mobile · Like · 5
Mémé Thorne Thanks C Amanda. You caught me out generalising! Though the argument still holds. In the main there is silence but perhaps, or rather hopefully, not for long. 21 October 2012 at 14:47 via mobile · Like · 1
Daniel York It’s a big noise about something where there’s only ever been silence. But there are ordinary audience members on here saying they’re going to boycott. It’s not just “a few disgruntled actors” as the RSC would love to have us believe, 21 October 2012 at 14:50 · Like · 4
Melody Brown You are all amazing, what fantastic support. Wow. Xxx 21 October 2012 at 15:05 via mobile · Like · 5
Melody Brown Oh and apologies for unintentional luvvie moment. 21 October 2012 at 15:07 via mobile · Like · 2
Clarissa Widya Mémé I see that Claire already made the argument that non-white doesn’t equal non-educated and poor. I would imagine that there is plenty of dollar in the SE Asian community.
As for rising against the ruling class, I have to confess I don’t have any particular sentiments of oppression. If the SE Asian community hasn’t spoken up before, it cannot blame society for not listening. In that context this silence you perceive is already a slow rolling roar from the quietest of communities. If this seems a one-sided conversation, perhaps it’s because the matter in hand concerns SE Asian actors first and foremost. I have no doubt that the ball will keep rolling and gather momentum. 21 October 2012 at 15:09 · Edited · Like · 3
Jennifer Lim @Meme. The situation here is possibly slightly different from Australia. The RSC is a publicly funded organisation which gets millions of pounds of tax payers’ money every year. With that subsidy comes the responsibility to educate their audience and be inclusive. They can’t and don’t survive by appealing to only their subscribers. In this case they’ve been derelict in their civic and social responsibility. 21 October 2012 at 15:10 · Like · 17
C. Amanda Maud Well said, Jennifer! “Derelict in their civic and social responsibility” That’s the stuff to bring to the MPs! 21 October 2012 at 15:18 · Like · 2
Judy Tan Is anyone else getting their wall posts deleted? 21 October 2012 at 15:35 via mobile · Like
Daniel York No your posts are ther Judy it’s just that this thing’s like a juggernaut! 21 October 2012 at 15:38 · Like · 3
Judy Tan Grazie mille! 21 October 2012 at 15:40 via mobile · Like
Mike Skupin Would be interesting to hear how many Asians they actually auditioned. I’d expect only a handful. 21 October 2012 at 15:47 · Like · 6
Daniel York G Doran says “lots and lots” but then the argument they always make is “there aren’t any” so there you go. I know LOTS of very good ones who weren’t and there were certain roles I’m convinced they didn’t even consider East Asians for. 21 October 2012 at 15:52 · Like · 3
C. Amanda Maud If you’ll forgive the unforgivable pun, a Zhao-ggernaut. 21 October 2012 at 15:55 via mobile · Like · 4
Sara Chang To see characters of East Asian ethnicity on the stage is so much rarer than it should be, that I think white becomes the default in a director’s mind. Sad really, but true. 21 October 2012 at 16:01 · Like · 2
Mike Skupin Does Dr Li actually have a part in the production process? I looked at the list of Creatives on the website and couldn’t see his name. Didn’t look like any of the crew are East Asian, though of course, hard to tell just by looking at the names. 21 October 2012 at 16:13 · Like · 1
Daniel York There’s a Chinese guy who seems to be helping with the movement. Dr. Ri Ri Li is actually a “she” and she’s an academic not a theatre practitioner therefore would be unaware perhaps of the ramifications of what’s happening. We’re trying contact her. 21 October 2012 at 16:20 · Like · 5
Lobo Chan It just gets patronizinger and patronizinger lol, this could be the start of a rope! 21 October 2012 at 16:39 via mobile · Like · 1
Richard Chang And Michelle, I’m so tired of seeing casting calls asking for “a slight Asian accent”! Feel like slapping them! 21 October 2012 at 16:41 · Like · 6
Amanda Bear Someone earlier mentioned about picketing (sorry I have lost track!) When Miss Saigon opened there were huge pickets over Jonathan Pryce – which Cameron MacIntosh dismissed with ‘not enough east asians, not good enough’ ladedah last year in the ‘Story of Musicals’ on BBC4. It is an INSTITUTIONALISED response and in this country, at this moment in time when there have been real steps forward made by East Asians and a lot of new talent, it is a lazy excuse. As an academic I also find this one day workshop slightly surprising unless they intend upon using Chinese movement within the play – it seems somehow at odds, an attempt at ‘contextualising’ the play but in the wrong way. I would also like to hear more from the RSC other than Greg Doran and some faceless publicity machine. They have a public case to answer to. I was also going to say the idea of ‘lots and lots’ East Asians being auditioned is spurious – the only person I have heard of is Daniel in all this. If you were seen for this play it would be useful to know! 21 October 2012 at 18:17 · Like · 8
Amanda Bear The other thing I would really really like to know is: what are the other parts being played by the 3 East Asians in the other 2 plays? Are these central parts? What is the ‘best’ that is on offer here? 21 October 2012 at 18:33 · Like · 1
Adrian Lochhead Rsc is funded by ACE – 45 m over next three years and is required by ACE to have a REAP (race and equality action plan). ACE have goals and priorities, two of which relate to equality and diversity. There is a serious question as to whether this funded body, and many others, are fulfilling their obligations fully. Would say more and post the links but on a phone just now! Great, positive stuff peeps! 21 October 2012 at 18:37 via mobile · Like · 10
Daniel York Amanda Bear It’s on the website. Two of them have names at least in Boris Gudunov but unless anyone’s an expert on Pushkin it’s difficult to say. With the RSC they tend to have a “hierarchical” structure across all the plays. Who know? Maybe one plus to come out of all this is they may have to make their parts bigger? Regarding auditions. I know of one who went in before and one after and that’s it. Hardly anyone’s said they were seen for it. 21 October 2012 at 19:24 · Like · 2
Amanda Bear Well quite. I am sure that all the 160 actors/actresses on spotlight (and others who aren’t) said to their agents, ‘No, no, I think I will pass on the RSC auditions. It just isn’t me.’ If they want to know what casting far and wide is – look at the original production of Pacific Overtures. THAT was effort. They put effort in for Julius Ceasar for black actors. Secondly, if the East Asians have tiny parts elsewhere then for me, it unravels the RSC’s whole multicultural ‘we are giving opportunities’ argument. You are giving minor opportunities. I wish I knew more about Pushkin to judge properly. Otherwise it is just ‘you are tokens’ however good you are, however central the maid and puppets are, you are just tokens. Do not read this as I don’t support the East Asian actors – I really really wish them all the best and I hope we can beef up their parts elsewhere! 21 October 2012 at 19:32 · Like · 6
Michelle Lee This is all I can find for casting of the parts in Boris Godunov – Boy/Citizen/Soldier, Kruschev (drunken boyar), Rozia (chambermaid); and Life of Galileo – Ballad singer’s wife, not confirmed role, unknown. Galileo cast list is not up on the RSC site yet. Anyone know much about these characters? 21 October 2012 at 19:44 via mobile · Like · 1
Victor Wong We’re following the story here in Canada. We’ve had our own controversies ie. Too Asian article, ‘chink’ jokes about Jeremy Lin, Bank of Canada $100 banknote controversy. story of white playwright/director/ensemble cast co-opting a Chinese story (and feigning accents/taping eyelids for extra measure) isn’t new…it speaks to the privilege, institutional racism in the arts, Asian fetishness and most importantly power. The question to friends across the pond is what are you going to do about it To be a platform for discussion about race and racism in the media and to gather… See more 21 October 2012 at 20:40 · Like · 8
Daniel York Thanks for your solidarity and support, Victor 21 October 2012 at 20:57 · Like
C. Amanda Maud We’re doing it now; speaking out as loudly and in as many ways as we can. We’ll keep at it until we get a satisfactory response and plan of from the RSC. This may be a watershed moment where the UK theatre world (and therefore society at large) finally acknowledges our presence and we progress towards a more equal and equitable situation. 21 October 2012 at 21:04 via mobile · Like · 6
Victor Wong This past July, the La Jolla Playhouse (LJP) set off a firestorm when it presented a workshop production of a play entitled “The Nightingale” – set in a mythical China with several Chinese characters including the Emperor – the mixed cast consisted of several white males, no Asian American males and only two Asian Americans in a cast of twelve. Actors Sandra Oh and Tamlyn Tomita to participate in Race Politics Forum ASIAN AMERICAN OPPORTUNITI  East West Players (EWP), the nation’s longest running professional theatre of co…See more 21 October 2012 at 21:52 · Like · 5
Daniel York This is exactly the sort of thing we’re trying to get going here 21 October 2012 at 22:11 · Like · 2
Sharline Liu Preface: I’ve not read 318 comments above me so will admittedly be ignorant of p.o.v.’s articulated above. My quick response simply based on above RSC post is: Consult LaJolla Playhouse re The Nightingale casting. The world does not revolve around RSC, LJP, nor even a single word I type here. I previously posted there that from Harvard business book “Difficult Conversations” (again, business context, not necessarily artistic/creative) – INTENT & IMPACT ARE BOTH VALID
It’s the most frustrating thing when those who feel a negative impact are spoken of condescendingly, as if blaming a victim that it’s our fault we were denigrated. Frustrating also to see those who caused the impact don’t acknowledge the consequences of their choices and simply blameshift or get defensive. (But alas, human pride/ego that falls upon us ALL.)
‘Tis a reflection of our society (sadly) not to accept responsibility for choices, to apologize when offenses have been made (intentional or not), and to seek conciliatory ways to improve conditions. (Ummm… side note, do NOT look to our U.S. politicians and current election CRAZINESS! I’m embarrassed by what is in our own media! Seriously!) Wish that our world would continue to strive for noble qualities, good character, putting others before ourselves, unity amidst disagreement–doing the RIGHT thing regardless of whatever popular culture is/says/does.
Anyways, that all said, to the Brits–had a GREAT time while in England over the summer with the Olympics! Team GB did exceptionally well, and your country shone well in being hosts for the global games! Hope to make it back in the future and make time to support England’s live theater. Have ALWAYS respected the intense mind/body discipline and respect for the craft of British performers, unlike insta-celebrities (what the heck is their gift?!) that America often spotlights.  Blessings! 21 October 2012 at 22:20 · Like · 7
Daniel York Sharline Thanks so much for that. Briiliant to read and undeniably true. So glad you had a great time in England for the Olympics. It truly represented all that is good about this country. Unlike this RSC debacle above! 21 October 2012 at 22:31 · Like · 6
Julie Cheung-Inhin I’ve been constantly checking this thread over the last few days and, while everything I could have added has already been said with much greater articulation and eloquence than I could have done, I do have to say I almost thank the RSC for this casting shenanigan. It’s put the spotlight on a deep-rooted problem that we’ve been under for too long and without it we might not have made such globe-wide waves. I’m excited and proud of the response this situation has created. History is being made! 21 October 2012 at 23:15 · Like · 11
Neith C Juch As a white mother to twin half-Asian child actresses, I sit on the sidelines knowing how hard it can be for them if they continue working in this field. For now, being half-asian and being identical twins can be an advantage if a professional show has ensemble children’s roles available, but they will almost never have opportunities for larger roles and are excluded from many of the most popular children’s roles.
We know that there is talent out there as my daughters have been lucky enough to work with two almost completely professional asian casts! (Wild Swans offered an all asian cast with a non-union all asian community chorus in addition to a professional cast of principal actors and two non-union children, The King and I included a few white children in the non-union child roles and amongst the union adult cast was one white actor and one african american actress.) The King and I gave them a wonderful way to work together, but only two solo lines and ensemble songs. One of the girls was able to perform in Wild Swans in the US. (They were also able to wear Korean hanbok for their 5 minute roles as Uncle Jocko Contestants in Gypsy at a regional theatre near us, where there was so set racial makeup for the group of children in those roles.
For now, they can be worked into minor ensemble roles, but for more than a line or two they have to look to community & school theatre performances. As they get older I worry because once they join the unions they are barred from community theatre and may well be relegated to minor roles again outside of a very few productions with female asian roles, especially if the trend is to continue casting non-asians in many major roles at prestigious theatres. 21 October 2012 at 23:37 · Like · 6
Neith C Juch I still cannot even fathom how a professional theatre can think to put on an ethno-centric performance, retaining the country of origin’s settings, character names, etc and yet not aim for a cast with a similar ethnicity.
Color blindness should be for when a theatre intentionally allows for casting minorities as traditionally white characters. When one country puts on a professional show set in another country with a different racial majority then a majority of the casting should be aimed at actors descended from that race (or some, not all, other minorities/actors of mixed racial descent who can pass for it without the benefit of stage makeup).
Many roles that are traditionally white could be filled by those of other ethnicities without jarring the audience… but there are many roles where the script memorably makes mention of race directly or through describing the character’s hair and eye color… those roles are almost never available to any actor who comes across as a minority, even in wigs. And, unfortunately, many theatres tend not to cast minorities in non-ethnically described roles. So it’s perplexing that two major theatres would put on shows set in Asia, with Asian character names, presumably costuming, etc, yet not fill these rare parts with actors of that ethnicity. (Nightingale and Zhao) 22 October 2012 at 03:24 · Edited · Like · 9
Bron Lim Thank you for posting earlier Mémé. I’ve spent most of my holiday time in beautiful Stratford over the years (not as an actor) and you’re quite right the subscibers are a key part of their funding; in the off-peak season the tourism is there, but not thronging. It’s not London. There is still an awful lot of money to make up the short-fall that ACE doens’t provide. Letters to the board members, SPONSORS, and a physical prescence are needed to see this through. Will post more elsewhere. 22 October 2012 at 00:08 · Like · 2
Andy Lowe same thing I posted about 200 comments up, but worth saying again… To the Royal Shakespeare Company, regarding the casting of your upcoming production of “The Orphan of Zhao” To the Royal Shakespeare Company, regarding the casting of your upcoming produc…See more by: Chinese Pirate Productions 22 October 2012 at 00:14 · Like · 5
Paul Chan Late to the discussion (which, for an on-line one, has been refreshingly sensible, so I commend all contributors). Most points have already been brought up in this ever-expanding thread, so I may be repeating this..
To me, equal opportunities is exactly that; an opportunity. I didn’t expect to see the majority of the cast being East Asian (how many East Asians were given the opportunity to audition?), but I do wonder how it got to the point where only 3 out of the 17 cast are East Asian and 2 of them play a non-human character, which I’m sure will show-case their acting talents.
One wonders what kind of roles are destined for “The Chosen 3” in the other plays
Having said that, there are no small parts… so I do look forward to the “highly-skilled piece of puppetry” which will be featured in the play. And of course, seeing the performance of the boy in the poster… What? Oh. 22 October 2012 at 01:31 · Like · 7
Lobo Chan The boy was no doubt the fruit of their ‘research’. 22 October 2012 at 02:09 via mobile · Like · 3
Mémé Thorne Jennifer Lim, I agree with your sentiments completely, and just for the record, flagship companies here in Australia are most definitely funded publicly and do not rely solely on their subscriber base. All the more reason why they should be held to fulfilling their civic, social and dare I say it, moral obligations. 22 October 2012 at 02:23 via mobile · Like · 3
Ira Seidenstein We can see Comments from other Anglo/English speaking countries facing the exact same casting dominance in Australia, Canada, USA. Having worked in 14 countries – I would say that the exact same problems are in non-English speaking countries ie in their actor casting limits in their theatres. The heart of the matter is well beyond the RSC and current discussion rightfully focused on casting or non-casting of Asian heritage actors in the current RSC rife. Theatre practitioners particularly directors, producers, artistic directors, boards of directors need to wake up to a new world of possibilities, and, demographic probablities. We live in a multi-cultural world and our theatres generally do not reflect this. It is no ones ‘fault’ but those of us who teach and direct or those who serve in other leadership positions in the theatres, boards, unions need to shift. As mentiioned previously, I see Peter Brook as the singular voice who moved ahead 40 years ago in his casting. Richard Schechner and Eugenio Barba can also be seen as guiding lights in ‘casting’ and viewing theatre as an international and multi-cultural experience. There were numerous examples in the USA as early as the 1950s of casting a wide spectrum of ethnic actors in television – mostly in comedies. The same on occassion, in a few examples, has occurred in recent years on television in England and Australia (Pauly Fenech’s politically incorrect, yet socially accurate TV shows). But the ‘buck stops’ with me as a director when I choose to cast in ethnically, racially, gender blind ways. Regards, Ira Seidenstein 22 October 2012 at 03:05 · Like · 9
Bron Lim Thanks for commenting here also, Ira. As you state, this struggle is reflected internationally, and has been recognised for well over half a century. For our cherished older East Asian in the acting community, it must have been hard to see the progress made by other ethnic groups over the years, and realise that their strides did not apply to them. I love that in your work, you make the ideal real, Ira. Thank you. 22 October 2012 at 03:42 · Like · 5
Bron Lim *should read East Asian actors – there are many, many more than one!! 22 October 2012 at 03:43 · Like · 3
Daniel York Meimango Wood makes a very good point here. It has indeed been hard over the years watching the industry smugly pat itself on the back about how many “black & Asian” faces there were on our stages whilst conveniently forgetting they were excluding a massive chunk of Asia by not including anything east of Pakistan!That complacency is evident from some of the iniitial comments in this discussion where defenders of the RSC were aghast that we could think the Company WASN’T diverse, as if these people had just see a homogeneous mass of “colour” but had completely neglected to check the individual shades! 22 October 2012 at 04:50 · Like · 8
Daniel York One thing I would like to say is that of far more importance (IMHO) than “subscribers” IS the tax payers money they recieve. MILLIONS. And with that comes clear responsibility as Adrian Lochead has already pointed out. 22 October 2012 at 06:17 · Like · 2
Jill Webster It seems to me to be the deepest fallacy to think, for one minute, that there simply aren’t enough good East Asian actors out there. Is it anything other than laziness 22 October 2012 at 06:46 · Like · 5
Jill Webster – where opportunity has been missing, many actors have created their own work. Perhaps directors might get out a bit more? Especially know far in advance (as those involved would have) the plays (and casting challenges) that were on the horizon… 22 October 2012 at 06:48 · Like · 5
Jill Webster *knowING* (and apologies for interrupted comment-trying to multitask and failing!) 22 October 2012 at 06:49 · Like
C. Amanda Maud @Julie I know exactly what you mean. This issue has been simmering for decades over here. When I first arrived in UK it seemed that the Industry was about 20 yrs behind the US in relation to East Asians. Over 15 yrs later it hasn’t changed much. Actually it seems to have gotten worse. 2012 has seen Nightingale, the film Cloud Atlas, and now Zhao. Now is the time to put our foot down and speak out. 22 October 2012 at 08:29 via mobile · Like · 3
C. Amanda Maud @Neith So good to hear of a new generation of East Asian talent coming up. I wish you and your girls the best. For their sake and others like them let’s make this thing count! 22 October 2012 at 08:34 via mobile · Like · 2
Jay Wong I don’t really do politics at the work place but this just takes the absolute piss! I have a brother in the show and I wish him all the best and has my support but its the establishment that I want questions from. 22 October 2012 at 08:54 via mobile · Like · 8
C. Amanda Maud Thanks for speaking out, Jay! I hope it’s clear to your brother and all the members of the cast that there is wholehearted support for them. It’s the powers that be that are guilty of a monumental lack of sensitivity and judgement. 22 October 2012 at 10:00 · Like · 8
Paul Hyu I keep coming back here, hoping that the RSC would have made a comment. With 341 comments and counting, it seems incredible that they have not. They readily reply to their other threads. It sometimes takes only one comment to illicit a reply! I hope that it is because the RSC have been taken aback at the strength of feeling and shocked at the international support we on this board have managed to pull in. This support is growing every day too as more and more high profile East Asians are being lobbied to join in. The RSC should realise that while there is this strength of feeling, there is a very easy way out and that is to acknowledge the problem, admit a mistake, apologise for “sour grapes” remark and undertake to do better with respect to East Asians going forward and to agree a measurable plan with Equity and the community’s artistic representatives, which redressed and makes up for the shocking past twenty years. 22 October 2012 at 10:07 · Like · 6
Paul Hyu *redresses* – ipad typo, sorry! 22 October 2012 at 10:25 · Like
Gemma Lloyd Those that ‘know me’ Daniel York .. know who I talk of. I spoke out over 12 years ago about the racism and the casting policies at the RSC and my partner at the time who happened to be an actor was famously ostracised by them as a result and was never seen by them for anything, although his CV certainly indicated he should have been. I make no apology for my actions and any actor with an agent who is concerned about not being seen by them, then let me do the fighting.. but seriously this has far wider implications and I applaud every actor who is standing up and joining this debate. It’s time to stop quashing actor’s voices, if this happened in any other industry then certain companies would be in front of tribunals right now. Not being sycophantic but actors have the hardest jobs in this very strange industry and by and large treated with very little respect – has never made sense to me. Please at last ‘get it’ powers that be. 22 October 2012 at 11:48 · Like · 8
Adrian Lochhead Hi guys. Some fantastic work being done here, well done to the central voices. Just returning to the Arts Council part of this. It’s really important to broaden the issue here as ACE is the central body that core funds so many of our institutions and therefore has huge influence way beyond the RSC. The RSC is such a bright star in our artistic universe that its behaviour is clearly important to focus on, however there are other funded bodies whose record is poor (probably worse than the RSC), the RSC issue is the tip of the iceburg. The REAP that I mentioned in a previous post is a *requirement* for ACE funded bodies ie their funding is dependent on having one in place. However serious questions should be asked as to how ACE monitor FULFILMENT of these diversity policies. As someone said earlier; is a theatre TRULY diverse if its non-caucasian performers are all playing chorus and back-end of pantomime cow? I think that there is a lazy, institutionalised, assumption of ‘white-ness’ about many characters in plays – one that is really not justified when you stop and think about it. I openly admit to having made those assumptions as a young white performer – I came into theatre when it was still stuck thinking there was only one black part in Shakespeare – but I stopped thinking that way about 25 years ago! Rather like the current fuss about the footballers not wearing their anti-racism t-shirts, the question is ARE EQUAL OPSS AND DIVERSITY POLICIES EFFECTIVE rather than liberal ‘sops’. There is a Senior Diversity Officer at ACE I’ve asked for their email address. ACE needs to be asked about this (don’t assume they will ask themselves!). I think the questions for ACE are:
Does ACE think that equality of opportunity is being applied to all ACE funded projects? – particularly in this instance with regard to performers of East Asian origin.
How do they know? Do they have any statistical evidence to show that East Asian performers are being treated equally in casting?
What happens when ACE funded projects do not demonstrate that they are applying equality of opportunity?
Performers of East Asian backgrounds report that they do not receive equality of opportunity – that they are neither auditioned or cast for many leading roles in ACE funded theatre companies; will ACE look into this serious allegation?
Further to this there is a conference each year in Feb called State of the Arts – organised by ACE. Many senior managers etc are there – it would be good if this issue were discussed. 22 October 2012 at 12:52 · Like · 17
Paul Hyu Great post, Adrian. ACE has to comply with Freedom of Information Requests. These Requests could be asked by Equity under this legislation and they are compelled to respond with the information, though any private individual can also do the same. I feel that Equity would be an appropriate 3rd party to request this information and will ask the Minorities Officer on the Minority Ethnic Members committee that Daniel and I are members of to look into it. It would be fascinating to see the figures / statistics of East Asian artists benefiting from ACE money historically and contextualise it against other ethnic minorities. If no such data exists, they can explain why not when they respond. They could also make a commitment to start keeping such records and to start enforcing all recipients of their (and our) monies to keep such records going forward. 22 October 2012 at 13:33 · Like · 3
Adrian Lochhead absolutely Paul, it is best for the request to come through you and Daniel and Equity. for info the current Director of Diversity and Equality is Tony Panayiotou think he would be a good port of call! there is going to be a tendency towards being defensive, especially with officers who’s jobs are to do with diversity, i’m sure that you don’t need me to say find a positive way to say this stuff so that you don’t get shouted down! i wouldn’t go FOI in the first place, just request info and point out why. there will be some data as all ACE regularly funded orgs have to fill in an annual submission form and ethnic data is on it eh about core and admin staff and board – but what it wont have is details of ethnic casting – i don’t think they actually ask the question, certainly not about what type/level of casting. 22 October 2012 at 13:58 · Like · 1
Melody Brown I emailed the ACE chief exec on Friday about this. I’ll let you know if I get a reply. 22 October 2012 at 14:00 · Like
Jess Woo @Adrian – good points re: ACE. I emailed them the other day to ask some of the questions you raise (not just with respect to the RSC but in general wrt the organisations they fund). I’ve yet to hear back, but I suspect they’re trying to formulate a considered response which probably requires a bit of research. Would encourage others to write/email too… 22 October 2012 at 14:01 · Like · 3
Melody Brown In the meantime, go to the Guardian Comments page, there is some dreadful trolling going on. Must not feed the trolls, must not feed the trolls, must not feed the trolls…. 22 October 2012 at 14:01 · Like · 2
Adrian Lochhead these are the ACE goals and priorities that funded orgs must use when applying for 3 year funding: worth reading!  Our goals and priorities | Arts CounciArts Council England has published Achieving great art for everyone, a 10-year s…See more 22 October 2012 at 14:03 · Like · 2
Lucy Miller Another voice on the subject The Orphan of Zhao: Inequality, Interculturalism and National Abjection in Casting Well, I have been meaning to post about casting again and explain why it is so c…See more 22 October 2012 at 15:27 · Like · 5
Lucy Miller And this is David Henry Hwang’s latest comment on the issues 
David Hwang Artistic Director Doran explains the Royal Shakespeare Company’s casting policy: “So, no, if I was doing a specific Chinese play in a Chinese context the Miss Saigon theory would apply and I wouldn’t necessarily be wanting to cast a white actor if it was a race-specific role.” WTF? Is the man completely inarticulate? 22 October 2012 at 15:29 · Like · 6
Judy Tan Do I dare ask what sort of resolution are we looking for here?  *I come in peace. – Singaporean Chinese who loves London* 22 October 2012 at 15:34 via mobile · Like · 2
Amanda Bear AD of Ma-Yi Theatre Ralph B. Peña has written an amazing statement but it got deleted. How to put it up people, how to get it up here? 22 October 2012 at 15:36 · Like · 2
Cindy Cheung From today’s Los Angeles Times: Royal Shakespeare Co. criticized over casting of Chinese play One of the most prominent theater companies in England has found itself under fi…See more  22 October 2012 at 15:41 · Edited · Like · 10
Ralph B. Peña Dear RSC, You know your Shakespeare. You’re familiar with epic battles of right and wrong. What you’ve done with The Orphan of Zhao is wrong, and like many other companies who claim to be multicultural, you use ethnicity as a mutable marker that can be calibrated to serve your needs. In the case of The Orphan of Zhao, your justifications to limit the number of East Asian actors are: a) the ensemble must fit the requirements of a multi-play season; b) the East Asian actors play “The Maid,” and not “a maid;” c) the play deals with universal themes, and; d) the RSC has done extensive research and hired a culture police to make sure our art and intent are authentic. We’ve heard them all before. These are the very same barriers actors of Asian heritage scale every day in the United States. They are the same excuses we’ve heard again, and again. We can debate the merits of each, but it might be better to cut to the chase. I do, however, want to better understand what Mr. Doran refers to as the “Miss Saigon theory.” When did it become theory? Did it skip hypothesis? Aw, shucks, we can discuss this later. 
So yes, let’s cut to the chase. You’re on the wrong side of history. You had an opportunity to be a true leader on this issue. Instead of traveling to China to imbibe its culture and get the stamp of authenticity, you could have engaged your local community of East Asian actors to see how you can work together. Instead of saying you’re casting for a season that includes non-Asian plays and can’t, therefore, have too many Asians in the company, you could have tapped into your cache of multicultural virtues to say, “Heck, why don’t we do a season that includes ten East Asian actors? If the Emperor can be white, then Hamlet can be Cambodian.” What a statement that would have made. Sadly, you’ve chosen to say that having white actors play Chinese is acceptable because the play has universal themes, but it’s simply too jarring to have an East Asian make an appearance in Elsinore because Hamlet is more specific, and how can audiences possibly wrap their mind around that improbability?
Try to parse out that logic through the eyes of an East Asian. What you’re doing gives permission to many theaters to continue their biased practices by selectively applying your “Miss Saigon theory” as justification for excluding East Asian artists. If the RSC can do it, then by golly, so can they.
Finally, you’re missing the bigger picture. You’re not hearing the pain of a community of artists that continue to be marginalized because of its skin color. You’re not feeling the heartache of listening to one of the most esteemed theaters in the world say, you’re not good enough. I believe in a theater with higher aspirations.
Yours truly,
Ralph B. Pena
Artistic Director, Ma-Yi Theater Co. 
New York City 22 October 2012 at 15:49 · Like · 45
Royal Shakespeare Company We’ve posted a further statement, above and on our website: The Orphan of Zhao casting statement | RSC  Statement outlining our position about casting in The Orphan of Zhao. 22 October 2012 at 15:59 · Like
Keli Garrett Ralph Pena, thank you! 22 October 2012 at 16:16 · Like · 7
Kathryn Golding I have been keeping a keen and watchful eye on this thread since The RSC Press department tweeted it at me the last week in response to my own feelings. I will say now that I don’t not agree with entirely with every BEA comment (racism is still racism whichever race you’re from). I also think that The Royal Shakespeare Company are getting the brunt of what is essentially a world-wide issue that theatres don’t seem to count East Asian (EA) community as part of its programmes to promote and support minority cultures.
To say that I’m disheartened does not begin to cover it and if it feels like “sour grapes” to Mr Doran, perhaps he could show some understanding at how it might feel to have such a prominent EA text such as Zhao be represented in such a way. 22 October 2012 at 16:31 · Like · 5
Nicholas Goh For the record, I was seen for this production, and was not recalled. I have no problem with this – it’s part of life for any actor, big or small. Most of the points that need making have already been made in this thread, and it’s encouraging that there have been few ad hominem or rude remarks on either side. We should, after all, ‘forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.’
To be honest, this isn’t really about the Orphan of Zhao. And it’s not about Greg Doran either, or the RSC. In an ideal world, there shouldn’t be any fuss about this casting because we would be able to point to last year’s wonderful Chinese Malvolio, or the Japanese Hermione the year before that, or the hilarious Korean Lady Bracknell
But we can’t. Because the industry as a whole has a problem with perceptions of colour that is not found in any other area of British society except probably politics. And that is what needs to change. 22 October 2012 at 16:43 · Edited · Like · 24
C. Amanda Maud Thank you, Ralph. Much respect to you as someone who has advanced the cause of Asian American theatre for so many years. 22 October 2012 at 16:39 · Like · 4
C. Amanda Maud And finally, a response! Heartening but no apology for the “sour grapes” comment. Paul Hyu’s clear words of before I think point a direction forward; “The RSC should realise that while there is this strength of feeling, there is a very easy way out and that is to acknowledge the problem, admit a mistake, apologise for “sour grapes” remark and undertake to do better with respect to East Asians going forward and to agree a measurable plan with Equity and the community’s artistic representatives, which redressed and makes up for the shocking past twenty years.” And yes, the RSC has employed Chinese and East Asians in the past 20 yrs, in Nigel Hawthorne’s “King Lear”, for example. But they have not cast British East Asians. They have not promoted the development of an underrepresented community. This statement is a start but definitely not enough. Concrete plans need to be made on how they (and other companies) will work to do better. Perhaps a forum like the one for “Nightingale” 22 October 2012 at 16:45 · Like · 9
Amanda Bear Yes, definitely a public forum C.Amanda Maud and Anna Chen. If the RSC is serious, they should show they are serious. 22 October 2012 at 16:58 · Like · 3
Daniel York LET’S THIS BE THE END OF YELLOWFACE FOR EVER!!!!! 22 October 2012 at 17:00 · Like · 2
Amanda Bear Oh and Nicholas Goh, you are bang on about this being a much bigger, wider, societal/industry issue. 22 October 2012 at 17:00 · Like · 4
Daniel York I appreciate their efforts. There’s still some serious dodghiness in there (which I’ll address at a later date) but right now I haven’y eaten or slept properly in days. 22 October 2012 at 17:01 · Like · 5
Daniel York P.S. I want a public debate a la La Jolla! 22 October 2012 at 17:01 · Like · 6
Gemma Chan Thank you Nicholas for saying so eloquently what I’ve been thinking and I agree that most of the pertinent points have already been made here. For the record the RSC invited me to audition for the parts of the Princess in The Orphan of Zhao and Maryna in Boris Godunov and due to other work commitments I ended up turning them down. However I agree that the issue goes wider than the RSC and extends to the industry as a whole. 
“To be honest, this isn’t really about the Orphan of Zhao. And it’s not about Greg Doran either, or the RSC. In an ideal world, there shouldn’t be any fuss about this casting because we would be able to point to last year’s wonderful Chinese Malvolio, or the Japanese Hermione the year before that, or the hilarious Korean Lady Bracknell. But we can’t.”
Quite. The only major Shakespearean or classical role I can recall being played by a British East Asian in the last few years, perhaps longer, is Laertes played by my friend Benny Wong at the Young Vic. Nobody wants special treatment or positive discrimination, just an equal playing field and equality of opportunity. But to be able to truly compete with the highest profile actors, of any race, the opportunities for British East Asian actors to play leading parts do not come round anywhere near often enough. Definitely time we spoke up. For me, the ideal is colour-blind casting but it has to be a two way street and we are not there yet. I support Daniel in his efforts to bring this issue to public attention and I appreciate the RSC’s latest statement and intention to set up a forum for wider debate. Let’s make sure it happens.
That being said, in my experience (and I say this mainly with regard to the screen where I have done the majority of my work, rather than the stage) it’s not overwhelmingly negative. I’ve been fortunate in several of my more recent projects to have met forward-thinking casting directors, directors and producers who have cast me in roles which were either originally conceived of as white or an unspecific race and, indeed, when I won the part they didn’t feel the need to explain my race in the story (hurrah!). Long may it continue, not just for me but for my fellow British East Asian performers and it needs to happen more regularly for leading and not merely supporting parts. While we’re at it, let’s support and encourage more British East Asian writers, directors and producers as well, challenge the status quo from the inside out. 22 October 2012 at 17:57 · Like · 26
Jay Wong Gemma as always, well articulated… 22 October 2012 at 18:08 · Like · 1
Ken Narasaki This is a problem many of us in the U.S. continue to grapple with, but it’s always depressing and disheartening to see the kind of response that the RSC has had up ’til now, echoing the same tired arguments about their artistic rights, ignoring morals and ethics of the current racist practice of “separate and not equal” casting of minorities in theater. The ugliest aspect of this is hiding behind the cloak of “multiculturalism” to take roles away from minority actors while sticking to the old boys’ network excuse of having plays for which they won’t even consider minority actors. Why is theater casting allowed to be so openly racist? Greg Doran’s nasty answer to this controversy displays a truly appalling lack of thought on this issue. 22 October 2012 at 18:21 · Like · 8
Rebecca Cathcart i think this wall post you removed said it best: “Dear RSC, You know your Shakespeare. You’re familiar with epic battles of right and wrong. What you’ve done with The Orphan of Zhao is wrong, and like many other companies who claim to be multicultural, you use ethnicity as a mutable marker that can be calibrated to serve your needs. In the case of The Orphan of Zhao, your justifications to limit the number of East Asian actors are: a) the ensemble must fit the requirements of a multi-play season; b) the East Asian actors play “The Maid,” and not “a maid;” c) the play deals with universal themes, and; d) the RSC has done extensive research and hired a culture police to make sure our art and intent are authentic.
We’ve heard them all before. These are the very same barriers actors of Asian heritage scale every day in the United States. They are the same excuses we’ve heard again, and again. We can debate the merits of each, but it might be better to cut to the chase. I do, however, want to better understand what Mr. Doran refers to as the “Miss Saigon theory.” When did it become theory? Did it skip hypothesis? Aw, shucks, we can discuss this later.
So yes, let’s cut to the chase.
You’re on the wrong side of history. You had an opportunity to be a true leader on this issue. Instead of traveling to China to imbibe its culture and get the stamp of authenticity, you could have engaged your local community of East Asian actors to see how you can work together. Instead of saying you’re casting for a season that includes non-Asian plays and can’t, therefore, have too many Asians in the company, you could have tapped into your cache of multicultural virtues to say, “Heck, why don’t we do a season that includes ten East Asian actors? If the Emperor can be white, then Hamlet can be Cambodian.” What a statement that would have made. Sadly, you’ve chosen to say that having white actors play Chinese is acceptable because of play has universal themes, but it’s simply too jarring to have an East Asian make an appearance in Elsinore because Hamlet is more specific, and how can audiences possibly wrap their mind around that improbability?
Try to parse out that logic through the eyes of an East Asian. 
What you’re doing gives permission to many theaters to continue their biased practices by selectively applying your “Miss Saigon theory” as justification for excluding East Asian artists. If the RSC can do it, then by golly, so can they.
Finally, you’re missing the bigger picture. You’re not hearing the pain of a community of artists that continue to be marginalized because of its skin color. You’re not feeling the heartache of listening to one of the most esteemed theaters in the world say, you’re not good enough. 
I believe in a theater with higher aspirations. 
25″ – Ralph B. Peña 22 October 2012 at 18:37 · Like · 6
C. Amanda Maud Rebecca, Ralph’s post is there. Don’t know if things are actually being removed or if it’s a case of a lot of traffic on this page. It’s a great statement worthy if a repost, in any case. Thanks to Ma Yi et al for all the support. 22 October 2012 at 19:00 via mobile · Like
Crystal Yu Very well said Gemma and Nicolas. Whilst the issue of casting requires much recognition and change, it is far beyond ‘The Orphan of Zhao’ or the RSC.  
I too, have been fortunate enough in the past to have met some forward-thinking writers, directors, producers who saw race as insignificant compare to one’s ability as an actor. Having said that, I have also recently been offered a role where I was required to play an illegal immigrate (who spoke English with a HEAVY Chinese accent) to which I politely turned down. The issue thus, as Gemma puts it quite rightly, extends to the industry as a whole. 
Unlike the main theme of ‘The Orphan of Zhao’, we – the professional British East Asian performers – are not seeking revenge for not getting the part, nor are we in any way bitter or sour – it is all part of an actor’s life. Rather, we want to use this opportunity not only to raise the profile of BEA artists but also to challenge the idea of ‘Chinese-ness’ or ‘Asian-ness’. We are more than obedient servants, we are more than submissive wives or daughters and we are definitely more than merely supporting roles. 
I might be wrong here, but isn’t the story of ‘The Orphan of Zhao’ also about the unyielding opposition to an old and unfair regime? So surely it is about time the world of casting looked beyond the colour of one’s skin? 22 October 2012 at 19:20 · Like · 7
Victor Wong Just wondering who is the actor who did the voice-over for the trailer – BEA using her own voice/accent or someone presumably using a feigned accent? The Orphan of Zhao – Trailer | RSC The trailer to James Fenton’s the Orphan of Zhao. 22 October 2012 at 19:51 · Like · 1
Andy Lowe Live stream of panel at eastwest players web site now. Comment your questions. At #apistage 22 October 2012 at 22:24 · Like · 2
Daniel York Gemma Chan Nice to see you on here and hopefully see you in real life sometimes soon. I do think we should all speak up more though. Apparently when Idris Elba agreed to do Luther for the BBC he told them “I don’t want be the only black face in this”. Let’s all try and do this when we get a break. 23 October 2012 at 00:09 · Like · 5
Jonathan Chan-Pensley Its a shame that the character of his partner in Luther, originally conceived as a Chinese/ East Asian character was eventually cast with a caucasian actor. I’m sure after an exhaustive search…. 23 October 2012 at 00:37 via mobile · Like · 6
Gemma Chan Agreed, Daniel. When I was younger my father used to say the British Chinese never kicked up a fuss, just kept their heads down and worked hard. That’s all well and good but if we don’t ever speak up, nothing will ever change. We’ll never have our “watershed” moment. Happy to speak up now. 23 October 2012 at 01:01 · Like · 13
Erin Quill  Royal Shakespeare Co. criticized over casting of Chinese play One of the most prominent theater companies in England has found itself under fi…See more  23 October 2012 at 01:07 · Like · 1
Calita Rainford This has been a compelling read. I am encouraged by the strength and passion of the contributors in this discussion, and would like to add my voice. It’s a shame that questioning this casting decision has garnered various accusations: ”sour grapes”, ”moan,moan,moan” and the suggestion that BEA actors are ”seeking positive discrimination”. BEA artists simply want equal opportunities, which includes going for parts that are not always race-specific, and to be treated with the same respect as our fellow minority ethnic actors (South Asian/Black) who have walked their own paths to see themselves represented on stage and screen in the UK. 
We all know it’s a difficult profession no matter what colour you are, including white. The irony is that, until I entered the industry, I never realised the central role my ethnicity would play in being offered an audition, or not. I could be hard on myself and say I was naïve. But why? It’s surely not a stretch to be considered an actor first and foremost. We must move forward constructively and with a sense of optimism. 23 October 2012 at 02:28 · Like · 11
Daniel York Calita Rainford The “moan moan moan” line is particularly foul IMHO. Honestly. Of all the aspiration and dream killing, philistine sledgehammer reactionary non engagement put downs you could come out with. Despicable. 23 October 2012 at 06:25 · Like · 3
Kumiko Mendl As Artistic Director of Yellow Earth a British East Asian Theatre Company that has been running over 17 years, I welcome the latest statement from the RSC . We have strived to raise the profile of BEA actors and to push for more inclusive casting.The time has long been overdue for actors of an East Asian background to be dealt with fairly and with respect. As one of our leading national theatre institutions we are heartened to know you are acknowledging your responsibility to set an example of best practice and we look forward to hearing further news on the forum. 23 October 2012 at 07:00 · Like · 7
Paul Hyu C. Amanda Maud and Calita Rainford, the sour grapes line is miserable because it elevates a director above any criticism from all actors regardless of the situation. I think an apology for this remark is missing from Greg Doran in the statement. 23 October 2012 at 08:07 · Like · 10
C. Amanda Maud I stand corrected. Apparently there have been BEAs employed by the RSC in the last 20 years. I was told it’s about 3 people and only one of those was in the mainstage season. Underwhelming to say the least. If anyone can get the actual numbers they would be interesting to see. 23 October 2012 at 10:05 via mobile · Like
Melody Brown I wrote to the Arts Council Chief Exec on Friday. This is the reply I received today: “Dear Melody
Thank you for your correspondence regarding Royal Shakespeare Company. I am sorry to learn that your experience with Royal Shakespeare Company has not been a positive one and although this cannot be handled using Arts Council’s published complaints process, we still appreciate you giving us the opportunity to respond.
Whilst Arts Council may fund and talk to the organisation about its activities, the organisation is still fully responsible for every part of its business. The Arts Council cannot be held responsible for any action the organisation takes, or fails to take as we are not involved in the management of their day to day activity.
Each funded organisation has a point of contact at Arts Council England called a Relationship Manager. I have referred your correspondence on to them, who can note your concerns and raise the issue with the organisation. We must stress however, that you must resolve this matter with Royal Shakespeare Company directly.
I hope that this information is helpful.
Kind regards
Iain Ferns ”
I’m not convinced he read my email too well, it’s a bit of a ‘I’m sorry you feel that way’ non-apology. Not that it’s his job to apologise. Let’s hope the Relationship Manager (IT Crowd anyone?) does something. 
23 October 2012 at 12:15 · Like
Daniel York Ralph B Pena I salute you. I agree with the above. An apology for the “sour grapes” swipe would be most welcome as well as an honest acknowledgement of what I know he knows i.e. that there WERE East Asian actors good enough to play decent roles in all three of these plays. Time to stop perpetuating that vile myth (which is fodder to the trolls) that we’re somehow “definicient”! 23 October 2012 at 13:57 · Like · 2
Victor Wong It’s great to see that people are writing to ACE and getting a response. They have guidelines for diversity and inclusion and actually they could suspend their financial support if warranted. I would also think that the non-diverse board of RSC would want to be apprised. Then there’s the Culture Minister and the shadow critic who could ask the Culture Minister why public funds are being used for to reinforce barriers for BEAs and what is the purpose of having guidelines at ACE when they are not being respected by the industry in general and RSC in particular. 23 October 2012 at 16:27 · Like · 3
Victor Wong Refer to ACE conditions re equal opportunities – section 3.12.2 and section 9.1 where ACE was “absolute discretion” to stop payments. 23 October 2012 at 16:38 · Like · 1
Daniel York Those ACE guidelines are frankly just window dressing. 23 October 2012 at 17:50 · Like · 2
Lucy Miller Ralph B. Peña This is the crux of the Zhao brouhaha. The RSC felt it was necessary to limit the number of East Asian actors in the company because apart from Zhao, the season includes Brecht’s Galileo, and Pushkin’s Boris Godunov. In other words, East Asian faces disrupt the authenticity mandated by Western theater, but having Caucasian actors play Chinese characters in a Chinese play fall within the acceptable realm of believability. They see nothing wrong with this practice. In fact, the RSC says their goal is to represent the diversity of the U.K. Evidently, that goal is compromised by having too many East Asians in the season. They want to be diverse, but um, (mouthed because of vocal rest) “not too diverse.”
How many Asian plays has the RSC done? How many East Asian actors have been on their stages? On this rare occasion, is it asking for too much to right a historical imbalance? Apparently so. In response, our chorus of dissent has been labeled “sour grapes,” and “reverse racism.” Ouch.
On sour grapes – we’re not moaning because we didn’t get the role. We’re made of sterner stuff, just like every actor (of any ethnicity) who has dealt with rejection in this business. What we’re calling attention to is the decidedly tilted playing field. In many instances, we’re not even allowed to step ON the field. Asians have been kicked around far too much. Sour grapes? No. Grapes of wrath? Yes.
On reverse racism – ah, the trusty ammunition of the Privileged. If one group is advantaged, then all others are, by extension, disadvantaged. Sounds reasonable doesn’t it? Well, in situations like this, I like to use visualization. And because it’s almost Thanksgiving, let’s use the image of a pumpkin pie. Let’s say actors of color get a quarter slice of the pie, and the rest goes to Caucasian actors. Great. But just as the actors of color are about to subdivide that quarter slice into more slices for Blacks, Browns, and Yellows – the Whites say, “Hold up, we also get a slice of your slice because… um because… it isn’t fair if we don’t. That would be discriminatory. And FYI, we’re keeping all the whipped cream.” [end of visuals] 
To be fair, discrimination cuts both ways. Communities of color can also discriminate against the dominant group. Call it a reflexive response to getting your butt reamed too many times. But here’s the difference, communities of color do not control the levers of power. We don’t get to make decisions. If we have any biases at all, they’re not institutionalized, or (to get back to my pie metaphor) baked into the rules. 
What’s happening at the RSC is one in a string of many. The same thing happens here, in our own backyard – minus the British accent. 23 October 2012 at 18:10 · Like · 5
Alan Ho Don’t worry white actors make very authentic Chinese people ask Benny Hill! Mr. Chow Mein auditions as a Ventriloquist. STOOPID IRRIOT!!  23 October 2012 at 19:42 · Like · 1
Adrian Lochhead Melody Brown Relationship Manager is the (new-ish) title for the person at ACE who the funded organisation has a relationship with ie your officer. Alll NPOs (National Portfolio Organisations – ie orgs on three year plans) have a relationship manager who may have 7-10 orgs to deal with. a huge issue at present is that ACE is being forced by govt into serious internal cuts, so RMs are very stressed and hard pressed. i think that this issue is more for the Exec and the ACE council to be addressing as a policy issue…i think that all comments should be addressed to Alan Davey The executive board is our strategic and executive decision-making body. It prov…See more  23 October 2012 at 20:13 · Like · 2
Soomi Kim Here’s the truth : YOU CAN DO BETTER. 23 October 2012 at 20:27 · Like · 5
Sonora Chase-Snyder This is a very shallow statement. Theater is hard. Casting talented Asian actors is not. Don’t keep doing this. 23 October 2012 at 20:44 · Like · 7
AsianAmerican FilmLab We are very disappointed in the RSC and obviously do not support the RSC’s casting decisions of The Orphan of Zhao. The Asian American Film Lab, although our members comprise film and television professionals, stands with our East Asian British colleagues in the theatre. We do not tolerate racism. 23 October 2012 at 20:50 · Like · 11
AAPAC (Asian American Performers Action Coalition) stands in support of our British East Asian colleagues in their outrage over the Royal Shakespeare Company’s current production of James Fenton’s adaptation of The Orphan of Zhao. Originally written by 13th century Chinese dramatist Ji Junxiang, this production, directed by RSC’s artistic director Gregory Doran, has followed in the footsteps of La Jolla Playhouse’s recent production of Sater and Sheik’s The Nightingale, in that out of 17 actors in the cast, only 3 are of East Asian descent. The cast of Orphan will also perform plays by Pushkin and Brecht in repertory as part of a season. Doran has publicly stated prior to today that though “the RSC has led the way in non-culturally specific casting,” there was “no way I was going to do this with an exclusively Chinese cast that would then go through to those other plays.” He has publicly justified this by saying that Orphan isn’t a “specific Chinese play,” its characters are not “race-specific,” nor does it have a “Chinese context.” However, their press materials use an East Asian child’s face as the visual centerpiece, with this wording: “Sometimes referred to as the Chinese Hamlet […], The Orphan of Zhao was the first Chinese play to be translated in the West.” Doran not only traveled to China to research it, he hired Dr. Li Ruru, a Chinese expert on Shakespeare, to teach Chinese concepts and movement to the cast, and James Fenton studied Chinese poetry and theatrical traditions when adapting the original piece. Doran is also quoted as saying they auditioned “lots and lots” of East Asian Actors, that in some cases offers were made to EA actors but were turned down, and that ultimately he had to “choose not based on ethnicity but on the best actor for the role.”
Yesterday, October 22, the RSC issued a public apology in which they state, “We commissioned our World Elsewhere season in order to explore great plays from world culture […] recognising that much of this rich seam of drama has been largely ignored in the West, and certainly by British theatre.” They also state that they “intend to present The Orphan of Zhao in our own way, just as a theatre company in China might explore Shakespeare […] we want to approach the play with a diverse cast and develop our own ways of telling this ancient story and thus explore its universality. The contradictory and fallacious nature of Doran’s various remarks points to their disingenuousness. Playwright David Henry Hwang says: “The Orphan of Zhao casting controversy says less about Britain’s Asian acting community, than it does about the RSC’s laziness and lack of artistic integrity […] By producing The Orphan of Zhao, the RSC seeks to exploit the public’s growing interest in China; through its casting choices, the company reveals that its commitment to Asia is self-serving, and only skin-deep. During the Miss Saigon casting controversy in 1991, producer Cameron Mackintosh claimed that he had conducted a ‘world wide talent search’ to cast the role of the Eurasian Engineer, before selecting Jonathan Pryce. Several years later, the musical’s director, Nick Hytner, revealed to me that there had never been any such search at all, that Mackintosh’s public assertion had been a complete fabrication. In light of this history, when self-righteous theatres defensively claim to have conducted thorough auditions before denying acting opportunities to minority actors, I believe the burden of proof, at the very least, falls on those producers.”
Veteran British East Asian actress Tsai Chin states, “It was such good news when I heard the RSC was putting on a Chinese play, a great classic written a few centuries before Shakespeare. It is deeply disappointing to learn that only a few East Asians have been cast in the production […] My British training gave me a solid foundation to pursue a successful career in the UK for a few decades, for which I am extremely thankful. However, it was when I went to America that I could extend my potential further by being given chances to play great roles in western classics, which empowered me to expand my acting career to more than half a century. It is therefore heartbreaking to discover that nothing seems to have changed back home, and that the younger generations at the helm of British theatre in the 21st century are still lagging behind the times by hanging on to old-fashioned ways of treating East Asian actors […] As the head of the British Theatre, meaning the crown of world theatre, surely it is [the RSC’s] responsibility to be the example for our profession and beyond.” 
Doran seeks to claim multi-racial casting as shorthand for universality without realizing that for decades, casts consisting of one race – white Caucasian – have been regarded as universal simply because it reflects the majority. And he hopes an apology will excuse actions that both exploit China’s cultural legacy and yet deny the heirs to that legacy the opportunity to represent their culture onstage. We at AAPAC submit that the universality of a piece will be tested by the strength of its writing and performances regardless of actors’ ethnicities. In the words of Dr. Broderick Chow, a performer and Lecturer of Theatre Studies at London’s Brunel University, his “failure to consider the visibility of Asian performers in this production is a failure to understand the very nature of theatre, and the real effects beyond representation that theatre’s choices in terms of what is seen and what can be seen can have.”
We believe New York artists should be concerned because The RSC is coming to New York City in two different ways:
– The RSC is producing Matilda the Musical this season on Broadway and casting is happening now
– The RSC’s Young People’s Shakespeare production of King Lear in collaboration with the NYC Department of Education is playing now to more than 1,000 New York City public school students.
Will they bring their practice of exclusion with them?
Here’s what you can do:
1) Post a comment on the RSC Facebook Page ( or tweet them at @thersc.
2) Write Dennis Walcott, Chancellor of the NYC Department of Education to say you do not support the RSC’s casting decisions of The Orphan of Zhao and will not tolerate predominantly white casts for NYC school productions. Write to him at: Shakespeare Company
In November 2010, the RSC re-opened its new theatres following a 4-year transformation project. The new Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Swan Theatre include a thrust stage configuration, bring the actors and audience closer together. The new building also includes exhibition spaces, a viewing Tower,…Page: 34,438 like this
In November 2010, the RSC re-opened its new theatres following a 4-year transfor…See more 
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23 October 2012 at 20:59 · Like · 6

Daniel York AsianAmerican FilmLab We thank you for your support. BIG love to you, brothers & sisters. 23 October 2012 at 21:39 · Edited · Like · 4
Daniel York As per usual when we start speaking out we get trolled by a lot of tinpot bigots with nothing better to do than try and shout the “little orientals” down. Check out some of the truly vile comments in response to Anna’s article. Get on there and spam them back. Let’s not be bullied around any more. I’m on there already as “Yueke”. Don’t run away crying. Fight them! These people are scum.

Anna Chen: The Royal Shakespeare Company’s casting for The Orphan of Zhao seems to hark back to an age of British imperialism 

23 October 2012 at 21:11 · Like · 3

C. Amanda Maud Thank you Aapac. Your continued support and commitment are inspiring. Now is the time to add more pressure, not the time to back off. The RSC’s statement, although welcome, is no indication that anything will change. Keep the comments coming here, go troll hunting on Anna’s comment is free article, keep spreading the word and most importantly, get a specific time and place from the RSC (and other leading theatres) for a forum to discuss these issues. 23 October 2012 at 21:44 via mobile · Like · 3

Well, I have been meaning to post about casting again and explain why it is so c…See more 

23 October 2012 at 22:07 · Like · 3

Signature Theatre’s GOLDEN CHILD, by David Henry Hwang, begins performances toni…See more 

23 October 2012 at 23:03 · Like · 2

Melody Brown Adrian Lochhead, I did write to Alan Davey. He didn’t write back. He got his minion to do that. And that minion is passing my email on to their Relationship Manager. Hate to sound like a gun-toting libertarian, but the bureaucracy is excessive. 23 October 2012 at 23:16 · Like · 1
Lobo Chan Well done Daniel york for facing up to the trolls. Reading them yesterday I couldn’t believe these bigots called themselves ‘Guardian readers’! 24 October 2012 at 00:06 via mobile · Like · 6
Orville Mendoza Hands off my sliver of pie!!! Brilliant!!! 24 October 2012 at 00:39 via mobile · Like · 3
Mingyu Lin I’ve been following this debate via various articles and whatnot on the sidelines and I’ve been wary of adding in my 2 cents (pence?) because I keep thinking perhaps whatever I’ve to say has already been said and/or someone else has said it more eloquently already, but then I thought ‘MEH’, I’m going to post this just because I would like the RSC to register that ONE MORE East Asian (aka MYSELF) is against their casting policy and does not take well to their trying to gloss over their mistakes/obvious biases (come on, I would have MUCH more respect for a company that could at least admit ‘ok, we’re biased’ since they really are, then we could have a proper discussion about it and trash it out, throwing out vague excuses is both disrespectful and cowardly). 
Therefore, while it’s a small step forward that they’ve now issued a statement about their casting choices, we really can’t see it more than just a few more placatory bubbles blown into a cloud of hot air, until we can see (literally SEE onstage) the casting choices being changed, any statements issued will simply be just that to me ‘words’ but no action. Shakespeare was incendiary, Shakespeare tread the dangerous political line, Shakespeare put dogs and bears onstage, surely the community of East Asian actors are worth more than a dog’s role? (on a side note, let’s not downplay the role of a ‘puppeteer’ which is a whole profession and skill-set in itself, technically, only one East Asian actor-performer was cast in this play, the other was a puppeteer-performer)
Ok, so that’s my two cents, even if it’s just another ‘unhappy voice/comment’ in a sea of many I’d like to pitch it in there anyway, even if just to show support for fellow BEA’s who’re bravely making a noise out there for a cause they believe in 24 October 2012 at 01:04 · Like · 9
Erin Quill Haven, my Chinese Family has been in Australia since the 1870’s- so… 24 October 2012 at 01:12 via mobile · Like · 1
Ray Yeung Hey, you guys need to organize a protest on the opening night, which is a week away! Get a group of people to go to RSC and protest. Hire a bus! Fight for your rights because they can’t get away with this. Chinese have been accused of being too passive, too submissive, and therefore always get left out. The gays and the blacks have been much more vocal. Look at where they are. They made things happened for them! So should the Chinese. No one will give you anything, if you don’t fight for it! Make a lot of noise! Call the news stations, local radio stations, TV and newspapers! Gather students together and make a statement! You will never regret it! 24 October 2012 at 03:36 · Like · 4
Marina Celander I agree with Ray Yeung. You all have made an amazing amount of noise already, and I applaud you all for being so amazing! Make more noise, picket the premiere, flyers and pamphlets, get student organizations behind you, family and friends, everyone etc. Call media. YES! You can do it! Together we can all beat this institutionalsed settler mentality of “everything I see is mine, and I am the boss of everything and deside if you get to play with us”. 24 October 2012 at 04:22 · Like · 3
Marina Celander I know you guys have already done the media bit, since I’ve read and heard what you’ve done in newsmedia and radio! Hurra! 24 October 2012 at 04:23 · Like · 2
Stan Vidal Guingon UK folks you really need to organize a rally on opening night and be heard! 24 October 2012 at 04:42 · Like · 3
Yixin Song Ditto for Hollywood… “Why is Mandarin played by Ben Kingsley…  Another (East)Asian well Chinese role being taken by a half white/(half Indian) person. How typical Hollywood.”

BEIJING — The first trailer for “Iron Man 3” debuted Tuesday, giving fans a glimpse of Tony Stark’s new armor, … 

24 October 2012 at 04:45 · Edited · Like · 1

Melody Brown Paul Hyu, this would be a perfect opportunity for Chinese Elvis… 24 October 2012 at 07:13 · Like · 2
Melody Brown Or something along the lines of what these folks did at the Noel Coward theatre:

Much ado about BP sponsorship as West End play hit by protest23TuesdayOct 2012Po…See more 

24 October 2012 at 07:20 · Like

Michelle Lee Been looking at the dates: 30 Oct is start of previews, 6 November is opening night and 8 Nov is PRESS night.24 October 2012 at 07:36 via mobile · Like · 2
C. Amanda Maud 8 Nov sounds more doable although I’m up for any of them. I really think a physical presence is needed. Let’s start organizing! 24 October 2012 at 07:48 via mobile · Like · 2
Alex Hsu According to Wikipedia, the villain Mandarin from the Iron Man comics was born of a Chinese businessman and British noblewoman. So he’s BEA! Lol! Anyway it’s seems ok that he’ll be played by Ben Kingsley even if Mr Kingsley is not EA. Seems like someone still put some thought into it am made an effort? 24 October 2012 at 09:16 via mobile · Like · 2
Daniel York Alex. Sir Ben is at least Asian. 24 October 2012 at 09:51 · Like · 5
Lucy Miller Statement of Support From True Heart Theatre Productions:
We are proud to stand by our friends and colleagues on this matter, the RSC production of The Orphan of Zhao has merely opened a pandora’s box which has long been sat upon. We support and will assist in any way that we can to Raise the profile of BEA theatre artists nationally as well as in LondonPromote Cultural ExchangeChallenge prejudice & stereotyping
The RSC debate has opened the door as a result of this we hope that, We can effect real change and that the following might be achieved: Works to raise the profile of BEA theatre artists nationally as well as in London to break the glass ceiling of cultural “invisibility” in the UK, and to integrate BEA theatre into mainstream British cultural life Promotes cultural exchange, particularly between British and East Asian artists Challenge prejudice and stereotyping, and create more opportunities for BEA artists to express themselves fully 24 October 2012 at 10:28 · Like · 4
Steve Barker While the Doran/Mallyon response to the RSC casting debacle is very nicely written, it fails to actually address a very serious problem that is not unique to the UK. Why advocate a ‘debate’ about the issue?? We should not need to debate this issue at all. Just put a stop to the cultural bigotry and listen to the thoughts, feelings and well-made arguments of the many BEA actors who have posted here. 24 October 2012 at 11:44 · Like · 12
Stan Vidal Guingon Actually, maybe this is exactly what RSC had in mind but they are not outright saying it. They did this to create buzz which will result in high attendance and sold out performances, which is even worse because not only is it racism, it is also being taken advantage of! Disgusting! 24 October 2012 at 13:12 · Like · 2
Daniel York Stan having met Greg Doran I’m not sure he’s got that kind of Machiavellian intrigue in him. I’m sure he had the best of intentions…he messed it up. Plain and simple. 24 October 2012 at 13:28 · Like · 4
Jonathan Chan-Pensley Well Dan you know what they say about good intentions…. Whilst others have commented that there is a bigger issue to be considered, the RSC’s and Mr Doran’s decisions and statements are a microcosmic reflection of these attitudes that pervade the industry. I am sure they don’t see where they could have caused dismay or outrage. I am sure they would, or maybe have recoiled in horror at the level of accusation that they have faced. But its the sheer fact of how oblivious they are to the actual situation that is the most telling.  Mr Doran’s initial response is probably the most honest one as it is most likely to have been a gut reaction to the furore and that is what I find so disappointing. That we don’t have to scratch too far from the surface to be confronted by human beings innate propensity for prejudice. 24 October 2012 at 14:16 via mobile · Like · 7
Oliver James I’d be very interested to know more detail about this quote from the RSC’s OP: “We are always aiming to reflect the diverse population of the UK on our stages and we make considerable efforts to audition actors from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds.” That is to say, exactly what constitutes ‘considerable effort’ and does the RSC have policies and procedures in place to ensure a diverse range of actors take part in the RSC’s productions (and, if so, what are they exactly). As an organisation of the arts and culture, perhaps the RSC should be making an extra effort to push for more ethnic diversity in plays and challenging peoples’ perception of who should be playing particular roles – personally, I’d also love to see more disabled people on stage. Finally, Anna Chen makes an excellent point about the BP’s sponsorship of the RSC, it’s a disgrace that that our cultural instituions accept what is effectively blood money (BP’s behaviour in Azerbaijan being just one example). Oil is a dirty business and the RSC should not be helping to improve BP’s image. 24 October 2012 at 14:36 · Like · 8
Victor Wong We may have a much bigger battle ahead as elements of a traditional Chinese play (with the stated theme of revenge) is exoticized/exploited/coopted/appropriated by people who have shown no sensitivity in their approach. Just wondering if there’s been a dress rehearsal? Any signs of yellowface/ Fu Manchu-Charlie Chan-Emperor Ming rip-offs/ feigned accents/ the Engineer’s taped eyelids/ white guy-saving-the-yellow- maiden-scenes, etc? I had asked earlier: who is the actor who did the voice-over for the trailer – a BEA actor using her own voice/accent or someone presumably using a feigned accent? I think the latter is the default answer. So this is not a situation of “we’ll do better”, rather RSC will continue to operate in this very offensive manner, frankly, because they can get away with it.

The trailer to James Fenton’s the Orphan of Zhao. 

24 October 2012 at 16:51 · Like · 2

Daniel York Let’s hope this is the end of it forever. It stopped with white actors playing Othello 25 years ago, let’s call an end to this now. 24 October 2012 at 18:43 · Like · 1
Marina Celander A statement from Pan Asian Rep Theatre, NYC: “As the most senior Asian American theatre on East coast Pan Asian Rep has been at the forefront of promoting opportunities for AA artists and presenting Asian classics including THE THREE KINGDOMS, RETURN OF PHOENIX, and new works to western audiences. We have also been at the center of activism, protesting the casting of MS SAIGON in 1990, and in the 60’s as part of the Oriental Actors of America, when Edward Bond’s NARROW ROAD TO THE DEEP NORTH stirred indignation. It is with a sinking heart we learn of RSC’s disregard and distortion of ORPHAN OF ZHOU, one of China’s revered masterworks, and to do so in the 21st century? I invite and challenge RSC to begin a dialogue and visit our theatres to see Asian works done right.” -Tisa Chang, Artistic Producing Director 24 October 2012 at 19:04 · Like · 5
Alex Hsu And now for some levity… Though underlying is the idea of Asians and Asian artists reclaiming stereotypes and embuing them with our own experiences, meaning and expression. Enjoy!

LO PAN STYLE LYRICS Godfather of Little China king and a warrior Entombed inside…See more 

24 October 2012 at 19:26 via mobile · Like · 4

C. Amanda Maud Thanks for posting Tisa/PanAsian’s statement, Marina. Glad to see them here and the support is fantastic. 24 October 2012 at 20:11 via mobile · Like · 3
Daniel York Can we get East West PLayers for the full house 24 October 2012 at 20:32 · Like · 2
Lobo Chan Anna, the Guardian thinks the Mark Gatiss version is better. But really, as a gay man you would have thought he’d be more sensitive about representation of minorities….. 24 October 2012 at 22:33 via mobile · Like · 1
Marina Celander Glad I could help, Amanda Maud! 25 October 2012 at 03:28 · Like
Lucy Miller Lobo Chan you would wouldn’t you it was so disappointing and I was shocked, I was genuinely shocked I was so looking forward to this new adaption with the writers they had i.e. Mark Gatiss – SIGH 25 October 2012 at 09:15 · Like
David Tse Ka-Shing Apart from a couple of visual arts centres in Manchester and Glasgow, British East Asian (BEA) arts organisations are unfunded in the UK, so anyone involved in working for one of these is fighting to survive / support artists on meagre resources. Of course, this is true of many arts organisations, but while Caucasian, Afro-Caribbean, South Asian, LGBT and Disabled groups receive regular Arts Council funding to promote “Diverse Practice”, the BEA sector is glaringly missing. At almost 2% of the national population, this situation is clearly inequitable re public subsidy. This is the context in which courageous BEA artists have spoken up so publicly for the first time. No-one wants to burn bridges with a potential employer. But decades of woeful underfunding and lack of equal opportunities, coupled with continued stereotyping in the mainstream media, has led to this explosion of anger and protest from the East Asian arts diaspora around the world
The two BEA theatre companies that managed to secure revenue funding for a time have both been cut. One continues heroically to struggle on: Last night’s opening of their current show was both powerfully moving and very funny, enjoyed by a sold out, engaged and very diverse British audience. The quality of BEA actors on show is not in dispute. That is what is possible, when BEA artists are given a chance and encouraged to fulfil their potential.
I welcome this long overdue debate, and sincerely hope that this “catalyst” will lead to changes in institutional practices across all British arts organisations. Please also sign this petition calling for change in the UK, across the sector:

Yellow Earth is a London based British East Asian touring theatre company. 

25 October 2012 at 12:18 · Like · 1

Kathryn Golding Lucy Miller – in all fairness to “That Episode” of Sherlock, it was written externally. And the usually pay upfront for scripts so. Anyway, it sucked. For those of you who can’t get the The RSC’s opening night but can get to London for 9.30pm, why not open up the debate here too?? 

Calling all theatre creatives and professionals: Young Vic and IdeasTap are partnering to give a platform to the professional issues faced by…

25 October 2012 at 15:45 · Like · 4

Daniel York Do have to pay, Kat? Sorry I should read but I’m lazy 25 October 2012 at 15:52 · Like
Kathryn Golding It’s free to join Ideastap and it’s free to attend – though I think you’ll be in Stratford that night 25 October 2012 at 15:53 · Like
Daniel York I can be two places at once 25 October 2012 at 15:53 · Like · 4
Ken Narasaki Someone asked me, re: this casting, “What’s the big deal?” Here’s what I wrote: “Here’s the big deal: if this story were African, would the cast the only black actors as the dog and the maid? No. Why not? Because that would be RACIST. That’s the big deal. And I say to the RSC and everyone else who’s listening: Fuck “colorblind casting” when you use it to discriminate against actors of color – that’s racist and so are you. 25 October 2012 at 19:48 · Like · 12
Daniel York Yep. It ain’t “colourblind” if it cuts us out. 25 October 2012 at 22:41 · Like · 1
Lucy Miller Gabby Wong has just posted this

The RSC’s ‘colourblind’ casting of the play they call ‘the Chinese Hamlet’ is on…See mor 

26 October 2012 at 09:01 · Edited · Like · 6

Daniel York GREAT song! 26 October 2012 at 09:05 · Like · 1
Gabby Wong Daniel I’ve been humming it for weeks and woah Lucy lightning quick before I even got a chance to, thank you. 26 October 2012 at 09:53 · Like · 1
Lucy Miller  even with my fat fingers practice makes perfect – well almost 26 October 2012 at 09:54 · Like

The Royal Shakespeare Company is criticised for casting Western actors in Chinese play The Orphan of Zhao. 

26 October 2012 at 12:13 · Like · 2

Gabby Wong It’s just whispers to us… hang on it’s not really a whisper is it and there is support from all ethnicities. Stupid pun from the Torygraph 26 October 2012 at 12:39 · Like · 5
Lucy Miller Michelle Lee And being discussed in What’s on Stage
Rsc Casting Debacle – posted in Plays: This hasn’t been mentioned, by the looks of it, on WOS, but it seems to be making big news elsewhere. The RSC is currently under fire, accused of discrimination for casting (only) 3 Asian actors in their production of the Chinese classic, The Orphan of Zhao, d…
Rsc Casting Debacle – posted in Plays: This hasn’t been mentioned, by the looks…See more 

26 October 2012 at 13:27 · Like

Paul Hyu The Stage has an opinion.
How far should a theatre company go with cultural specific casting – or attempts to be colour-blind? Also, how a bad review lingers.

26 October 2012 at 13:35 · Like · 1

A blog to accompany theResonance FMradio showLucky Cat. Presented by DJ, Broadcaster and East Asian culture connoisseur Zoë Baxter.

26 October 2012 at 13:36 · Like · 1

Daniel York A daft opinion 26 October 2012 at 13:36 · Like · 1
Gabby Wong The stage: ‘Three East Asians in context seems quite generous’ Why, kind sir, dank you prease. 26 October 2012 at 13:44 · Like · 6
Lucy Miller We have to jump,not only jump but how high sir, as we touch our furlocks 26 October 2012 at 13:46 · Like · 1

There are currently some very interesting debates occurring in Germany, and the…See more 

26 October 2012 at 14:31 · Like · 1

Jonathan Chan-Pensley I wonder if the irony that this whole debate has been so eloquently articulated in the Queens English predominantly by people of east asian extraction has been lost on some of the commentators so dismissive of the situation? 26 October 2012 at 15:21 via mobile · Like · 4
C. Amanda Maud Excellent point, Jonathan. I don’t think I’ve read so many clear, articulate and well-reasoned arguments on a thread. Unlike the trollish reaction to Anna Chen’s comment is free article. When the smoke clears I hope the fact that, for the most part, the comments didn’t use childish phrases like “sour grapes” will be noted. See what we come up with when we actually have a voice! 26 October 2012 at 15:56 via mobile · Like · 4
Daniel York Absolutely. The reactions from some people are absolutely vile. 26 October 2012 at 16:01 · Like
As Olivia wrote in her post, there has been controversy over the Royal Shakespea…See more 

27 October 2012 at 06:29 · Like

Lucy Miller RSC Production’s Casting Criticized By Angela Mitchell, GuideOctober 25, 2012
The Royal Shakespeare Company, or RSC, is highly regarded most of the time for its stunning track record of classical productions. However, its casting for its latest production of The Orphan of Zhao has resulted in some pointed criticism for its lack of Asian performers in its staging of one of the most famous Chinese plays ever written.
Adapted by James Fenton and directed by Gregory Doran, the RSC production of The Orphan of Zhao features performers of a variety of races and cultures, however the main characters (including the orphan himself) will not be performed by Asian actors. The RSC’s casting decision here has generated a variety of blog posts and tweets, including one from acclaimed playwright David Henry Hwang, who especially criticized a poster depicting an Asian child, yet chided the production itself for actually casting Asian actors “only as dogs & a maid.” Hwang also went so far as to issue a joint statement about his disappointment in the production’s approaches in conjunction with the Asian American Performers Action Coalition, as well.
While I can sympathize with a production not always being able to cast to type at the local or community level (and when, in today’s more multicultural world, casting against type can actually be so freeing and vibrant), in the case of a company of the stature and resources of the RSC, who surely could have sought after a more authentic cast here, it does feel like lazy casting — and a missed opportunity for true artistic exploration that honors its subject. What do you think? 27 October 2012 at 16:11 · Like · 7

The UK’s Royal Shakespeare Company has come under fire for it’s casting choices in the upcoming production of The Orphan of Zhao. 

28 October 2012 at 07:23 · Like · 2

Groundswell: Creative Thinkers, Creative SolutionsMainstream companies need to lead by example, not with excuses. If your ever prized Peter Brook has been colour blind casting since the 70’s then why not the RSC? 29 October 2012 at 00:21 · Like · 5
Melody Brown Yesterday I had a message of support from Adrian Jackson of Cardboard Citizens. I’m kind of outing him here, but he owes me, so there. Solidarity from our non-EA colleagues, especially those who have established reputations, is always a joy. 29 October 2012 at 12:33 via mobile · Like · 4

Arts Council England has agreed to meet with Equity officials to discuss the und…See more 

29 October 2012 at 15:10 · Like · 5

Melody Brown At last! Any news on who the actors were who turned it down, and what they were offered? 29 October 2012 at 17:18 · Like · 1
The RSC debate has opened the door as a result of this we hope that, We can effe…See more 
Page: 295 like this. 

30 October 2012 at 06:55 · Like · 3

Daniel York Adrian Jackson has been outed! 30 October 2012 at 07:08 · Like · 2
Lucy Miller Dr Anne Witchard lends her support to the British East Asian Actors 30 October 2012 at 10:07 · Like · 3
British East Asian Artists Idea Tap pick up on the British East Asians Actors Statement
Professional performers offer ways adults can steer clear of racial insensitivit…See more 

31 October 2012 at 00:08 · Like · 1

Melody Brown Who’s going? 31 October 2012 at 11:42 via mobile · Like
Lucy Miller The Guardian pick up on the British East Asian Actors Statement

Actors calls for public debate with RSC to discuss casting concerns in production of so-called Chinese Hamlet

31 October 2012 at 14:18 · Like · 3

Melody Brown Right, so Greg Doran’s “lots and lots” of East Asian actors turns out be eight. Eight. Lazy, lazy, lazy. And heartbreakingly predictable. 31 October 2012 at 18:17 · Like · 2
Michelle Lee Message of support received from Labour MP, Ben Bradshaw’s office today: “British theatres and other cultural institutions must not have a blind spot when it comes to casting Chinese actors. We’ve made good progress in broadening opportunity for other ethnic minorities in recent years, but British Chinese actors feel they are often overlooked or selected only for roles that perpetuate stereotypes and prejudice.” 1 November 2012 at 11:34 · Edited · Like · 5
British East Asian Artists Just in from Westend Broadway

The Royal Shakespeare Company recently got pummeled with criticism over Facebook…See more 

2 November 2012 at 11:53 · Like

Lucy Miller Please can note that the statement released on October 30th had eleven signatories (of which I am one) Equity Ethnic Minorities Committee has not demanded anything it is the BRITISH EAST ASIAN ACTORS who released the statement. We are an organic group of creative professionals and academics that came together incensed by the inequality and lack of visibility of British East Asian Actors the catalyst being the RSC 2 November 2012 at 12:43 · Like · 4
Lucy Miller “The BEAA would like to correct erroneous reports in the press that the statement was written by Equity. It wasn’t. As the statement says clearly, this is a statement by the British East Asian Actors group. This group is made up of academics, East Asian actors and representatives of East Asian Theatre groups in the UK. Two of the signatories are on the (Equity BAME committee) but the other nine are not.” 2 November 2012 at 15:58 · Like · 1
Melody Brown Oh good lord, that is a serious, serious PR fail. Why don’t you get it, RSC? The phrase is BRITISH EAST ASIAN. And if a white woman can be cast across a whole season in Chinese, German and Russian plays, why can’t I? And please don’t say “sour grapes” again. 8 November 2012 at 11:42 via mobile · Like · 1
Daniel York Without “a Chinese connection”. Nor an British one either. 8 November 2012 at 11:59 · Like · 1

    As the comments spiralled over the weekend, and the level of panic grew, they came back after the week with this comment:

    We understand that the casting of our World Elsewhere season of three plays has led to much concern and are sorry that this is the case. We do recognise that the lack of visibility for Chinese and East Asian actors in theatre and on screen is a live and very serious issue. We are beginning the process of talking to industry colleagues, representing employers and actors, to set up a forum for wider debate which we hope will make a meaningful difference. We commissioned our World Elsewhere season in order to explore great plays from world culture, reflecting something of the richness of what was happening in the rest of the world in Shakespeare’s time and recognising that much of this rich seam of drama has been largely ignored in the West, and certainly by British theatre. We invited the poet, James Fenton, to adapt a new version of The Orphan of Zhao, which we will perform alongside new adaptations of Pushkin’s Russian masterpiece, Boris Godunov, directed by Michael Boyd, and Brecht’s A Life of Galileo, a German take on a Renaissance Italian story, translated by Mark Ravenhill and directed by Roxana Silbert. We decided that a single company of actors would play roles across all three plays and, because we wanted to reflect the diverse population of the UK on our stages, the three directors cast an ethnically diverse company, including three actors of Chinese and East Asian heritage. We acknowledge that this choice has become the heart of the debate and that this was not an approach that satisfied everyone. We intend to present The Orphan of Zhao in our own way, just as a theatre company in China might explore Shakespeare. Having absorbed something of Chinese conventions and dramatic idioms, we want to approach the play with a diverse cast and develop our own ways of telling this ancient story and thus explore its universality. We have tried very hard as a company to lead the way in diversity on our stages. We’ve long been committed to non-culturally specific casting, regularly seeing actors of different backgrounds and casting the best actor for the part. It’s certainly not the case that we’ve not employed any Chinese or East Asian actors for twenty years and we have also invested in the diversity of our creative and artist development teams. The issues arising from the process of casting this season are distressing and this is very much reflected in the surrounding commentary. We acknowledge that there is always more to do and recognise our responsibility in this area. We want to explore the rich seam of Chinese drama further, and engage more often with Chinese and East Asian actors. We want to integrate them more regularly on our stages and hope that this production, and indeed this debate, will be a catalyst for that process. Gregory Doran, Artistic Director Catherine Mallyon, Executive Director


    One thought on “The Orphans of Theatre

    1. Pingback: Clash of the Titans… And the opening of a door #EAActors | The Adventures of littlemissmandu

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