I’m trying to collect my thoughts on the issues surrounding the debate over casting of the RSC’s The Orphan of Zhao. I think I need a bit more musing-time, but meanwhile here are some links to blogs and discussion relating both directly to the RSC/Zhao case, and to similar experiences elsewhere.
To be continued!
Main link: The RSC Facebook post wherein the RSC address the “Twitter debate” over the casting. The comment thread is a really good primer in itself, with lots of questions, comments, opinions and explanation of context both for the RSC casting process and the general frustrations and barriers encountered by BEA actors.
Guardian online article on the debate. Includes a response from Artistic Director Greg Doran (possibly a little misjudged wrt the use of the expression “sour grapes” given the wider context and frustrations demonstrated in the RSC FB thread)
An earlier (January 2012) Guardian article by Elizabeth Chan on her experience as a British Chinese actor – thought provoking and provides some context.
Reaction from an Asian-Canadian actor, Dr Broderick Chow – now a lecturer in Theatre Studies at Brunel. Some thought-provoking discussion of the issues surrounding the RSC case and diversity in casting.
Blog post by Diep Tran (linked from comments in FB thread) Reaction to a similar incident (regarding the casting of “The Nightingale at La Jolla Playhouse) in the USA.
In another recent casting controversy, Playright Bruce Norris refuses permission for a German production of his play, Clybourne Park. The play, which is a satire on race and class issues, was to feature a white actress in the role of a black woman – with the discrepancy addressed by “experimenting with makeup” 0_O
The Fairy Princess (US based) lets rip with a funny, no-holds-barred blog post in reaction to the RSC news.
Reaction from blogger, artist and socio-policital commentator Anna Chen – also including further links and, at the bottom, a quote (in reaction to the RSC casting, specifically) from Asian American playright David Henry Hwang.
Having sat down and written various drafts of what was to be my response to it all, things have changed a lot since the initial post – so much so that I want to reflect on things some more, in private. Quite a lot of the issues around being British, “otherness”, ethnicity and identity are really quite close to my heart in a complicated sort of way – and never have I felt more aware of my ethnicity than as an entrant to the acting business. That’s not novel – everyone has a “type” that will to a greater or lesser extent influence how they are perceived (and therefore cast). But I think I’d been a bit naive (certainly ignorant) about the status of east asian actors, and the sheer invisibility of BEAs – something that the Zhao discussions and reactions to them have shone a big spotlight on – was a nasty shock.
Not being particularly delicate, I’m over the shock, newly aware and happy to try and work towards a better state of affairs. But I don’t think I’ll post what I started writing – at least, not right now.