Clarion University canceled its production of Jesus in India after playwright Lloyd Suh voiced concerns over white actors being cast in roles written for actors of South Asian descent.
Updated: Lloyd Suh releases a statement contained in Howard Sherman’s blog (tweaking Clarion a bit).
Updated 2: Because Clarion clearly needed tweaking…..Clarion and its white professor releases a one-sided statement to the The Chronicle of Higher Education, and basically whines a lot. (My take is that, AT VERY BEST, the white professor is guilty of sloppy research–a modicum of research on Lloyd’s stint at Ma-Yi Theatre as Lit Manager, his body of work and his work with the Asian American Performers Action Coalition would indicate that he’d NEVER be OK with changing the races of characters in his play; moreover, an educator would be astonishingly oblivious as to be unaware of the discussions in the field about yellowface and brownface, with one instance in the same state as Clarion).
Howard Sherman takes the unusual step of a second column, pointing out the white professor is guilty of copyright theft by altering Lloyd’s text and not getting explicit approval. That’s actionable for legal action and eligible for punitive damages in court.
Melissa Hillman, author of the Bitter Gertrude website, takes the white professor to task for her extreme unprofessional behavior (as well as that of her university’s administrations)
“Actors of color are still underrepresented in theatre. Most of the available jobs go to white actors, who are disproportionately represented. White men in particular have always dominated, and continue to dominate, the industry. It’s unethical to push people of color aside to allow even more white people to have even more roles, especially the tiny handful of roles written specifically for people of color. ”
“I’ve been producing for over 20 years and have personally negotiated licensing agreements with Beth Blickers, so I understand exactly the process Clarion went through, having gone through it myself. As I say at the top of my post, I don’t have any special information– just the publicly available information filtered through my years of experience teaching university theatre and producing. Those of us who have produced can easily see where the misrepresentations are.”
Diep Tran at American Theatre puts this into context with other examples of academic theatre departments playing fast and loose with author’s text and intent.
And, of course, the inimitable Erin Quill places her own take on the entire affair, using TWO blogposts to blister more than a few electrons along the way:
Dramatists’ Guild publishes lettter in support:
Lark Theatre writes in support:
Asian American Performers Action Coalition writes in support
Stay tuned for further developments.