RSC The Orphan of Zhao controversy

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How the controversy over the RSC's yellowface production of The Orphan of Zhao unfolded

Compiled by Anna Chen - October 2012

The Orphan of Zhao casting controversy concerns the exclusion of British east Asian artists from the mainstream culture, and erupted when the Royal Shakespeare Company gave only three minor roles out of 17 to east Asian actors in "the Chinese Hamlet" in 2012.

I've attempted here to document in chronological order the key events in the campaign to get the RSC to recognise there was a problem with its unfair casting policy — and to make a serious effort to change it.

The campaign hit the public eye after attempts had been made over some time by actor Daniel York to get the matter addressed but to no avail. It led to the creation of a new group, British East Asian Artists, which has won widespread international support for its demands that artists of east Asian heritage are included in all areas of their own culture.

The BEAAs are:
Anna Chen
Hi Ching – Artistic Director, River Cultures
Dr. Broderick D.V. Chow - Lecturer in Theatre, Brunel University, London
Kathryn Golding
Paul Hyu – Artistic Director, Mu Lan Theatre Co;
Michelle Lee
Chowee Leow
Jennifer Lim
Dr. Amanda Rogers - Lecturer in Human Geography, Swansea University
Lucy Sheen (Miller) – Associate Director, True Heart Theatre
Daniel York – Actor, Writer and Director

British East Asian Artists L to R: Michelle Lee, Lucy Sheen, Anna Chen, Jennifer Lim, Amanda Rogers, Paul Hyu, Kat Golding, Daniel York (minus Broderick Chow, Hi Ching and Chowee Leow)

The Royal Shakespeare Company announces its cast list.


To begin ... the article that kicked it all off and was tweeted relentlessly until the RSC responded with their Facebook statement.

Wednesday 17 October 2012
Madam Miaow SaysThe Orphan of Zhao: RSC casts Asians as dogs and maid in Chinese classic:
"The news that the revered Royal Shakespeare Company has not only given a measly three out of 17 roles in their production of the Chinese classic, The Orphan of Zhao, to Asian actors, but that these parts are for two dogs and a maid, has quite gasted my flabber. None of the main roles are played by Asians. ..."

Wednesday 17 October 2012
Lucy Sheen: The Orphan of Zhao
"The fact that the RSC are producing such a work should for the BAME (Black Asian Minority Ethnic) community cause for celebration - so why are not more of us hip, hip hooraying? ..."


Thursday, 18 October at 16:21
RSC Facebook pageRoyal Shakespeare Company statement resulting in nearly 500 comments on the thread:
"There's some Twitter debate about the casting for The Orphan of Zhao - we would like to share some background info for clarification. ... 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. ..."

Thursday, 18 October 2012
All the way from the US of A, The Fairy Pricess DiariesPucker UP #RSC, cuz I am bending over….
"The Fairy Princess was sitting, all snug in her bed, while visions of Equality dancing in her head…when from across the Pond, there arose such a clatter, she sprang from invitations to Conferences to see what was the matter…. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…. This is Gregory Doran, and he is British. He is not ONLY British, he is ‘veddy, veddy’ British, and has been acting and directing with the esteemed Royal Shakespeare Company since 1987. He is more British than Downtown Abbey, he is more British than Dames Maggie, Judi, and Peggy ! (Though he is in fact Nothing Like a Dame.) What he IS, is a conqueror. ..."

Friday, 19 October 2012
Dr Broderick Chow: Two dogs and a maid: theatricality, visibility, and the Royal Shakespeare Company's The Orphan of Zhao
"In 2005, I played the role of Thuy, a Viet Cong commissar and the betrothed cousin of the female lead, Kim, in the Arts Club Theatre’s production of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s mega-musical Miss Saigon, in Vancouver, Canada. The musical is an adaptation by two French men of the opera Madama Butterfly, itself a piece of flagrant orientalism by Puccini, an Italian composer. ..."


Friday, 19 October 2012
The Guardian, 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:
"The Royal Shakespeare Company is facing criticism for producing a play regarded as the Chinese equivalent of Hamlet with a predominantly white cast.Of the 17 actors cast in the forthcoming production of The Orphan of Zhao, which will be overseen by new artistic director Gregory Doran, only three are of east Asian heritage. ... Doran said that the RSC auditioned 'lots and lots' of east Asian actors for The Orphan of Zhao, and in some cases made offers that were turned down. 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,' he explained. 'I have to say, partly, it feels a bit like sour grapes.' ..."

Friday, 19 October 2012

Sunday, 21 October 2012
Madam Miaow SaysRSC Orphan of Zhao: US statement, Front Row interview and RSC education course:
"So what's new, pussycat? Apart from the Royal Shakespeare Company being engaged robustly on their thread concerning the casting of The Orphan of Zhao. Seems the RSC has hired a Chinese academic from Leeds University to give a one-day course for Sixth Form and Undergraduate students on a play whose first British production writes out Chinese people. Ironically, the course looks at: '... the ideas of sacrifice, friendship, bravery, justice and evil embedded in this revenge play.' ..."

Sunday 21 October 2012
Anglo America 101RSC racist casting: James Fenton’s remake of the The Orphan of Zhao, East Asians are cast as maid and non-humans:
"White Producers and Entertainers continuing their war against East Asians. another day another case of white entertainers resorting to racist casting of hiring white actors to portray East Asians . in the casting 2 asians are cast as ghost/demons and one as a maid. ..."

Monday, 22 October 2012
Anna Chen in the Guardian, Memo to the RSC: east Asians can be more than just dogs and maids. The Royal Shakespeare Company's casting for The Orphan of Zhao seems to hark back to an age of British imperialism.
"It's no fun being bred out of the cultural gene pool. Watching TV, theatre or film, I'm on constant alert for a glimpse of someone who looks Chinese, for the slightest resemblance to an estimated 499,999 others like me living in the UK. Barring Gok Wan, scientist Kevin Fong and the odd TV chef, UK Chinese are virtually absent from mainstream media. So it was with a sense of "here we go again" that we learned that the esteemed Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) is mounting the classic play The Orphan of Zhao in the way prize trophies usually get mounted: gutted and stuffed. ..."

Monday 22 October 2012
Dr Amanda Rogers: 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 central to my research as a cultural geographer. But events have overtaken me, largely because rather than reflecting and analysing on casting practices for the purposes of academic debate, for the last two weeks I have been heavily involved in political protests over the casting of The Orphan of Zhao at the RSC. A daunting prospect to challenge the liberal establishment, a revered institution and one that, to be fair, has made strides in developing multicultural or ethnic-specific castings (as in the latest all black Julius Caesar and the all South Asian Much Ado About Nothing). However in this instance, the RSC has made a sore misjudgement. ..."

Monday 22 October 2012
Equity: Arts Council, SOLT/TMA and Equity to work together on casting of East Asian actors:
"Arts Council England, Equity and SOLT/TMA are working together to arrange an event early in 2013 designed to increase opportunities for East Asian artists. It will be a day-long event designed to facilitate introductions, increase understanding and broker partnerships between East Asian actors and theatre makers and the wider theatre industry. ..."

Tuesday 23 October 2012
American actors call for action over RSC in New York:
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. ..."

Wednesday 24 October 2012
Dr Saffron Walkling: Madam Miaow makes mincemeat of the RSC over non-Chinese casting:
"I have to admit to feeling just a little bit sorry for Greg Doran, appointed new artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company and actual director of its upcoming World Elsewhere season. After all, who wants to be made into cat’s mincemeat by the magnificent Madam Miaow? Madam Miaow, aka steampunk poet and Chinese cultural activist Anna Chen, is leading the campaign to ‘out’ Doran and the RSC as culturally insensitive (at best) or institutionally racist (at worst) after they cast predominantly non-Chinese as leading roles in the classical Chinese play The Orphan of Zhao, by Ji Junxiang (紀君祥). ..."

Friday October 26 2012
Mark Shenton in The StageShort Shorts 58: Cross-cultural and race-specific casting:
"The RSC, a company that has recently done more for cross-cultural casting and expanding opportunities to ethnic minorities in major roles than just about any in the country, is currently being hauled over the Guardian multi-cultural coals by one commentator Anna Chen. ..."

Saturday 27 October 2012
Tom Sutcliffe in the Independent: Only when colour on stage isn't an issue will we have made progress:
"I found myself wondering the other night whether a white actor will ever play Othello again. In the near future the answer to this question is obvious, I would have thought. Only last week the American playwright Bruce Norris withdrew permission for a German company to perform his play Clybourne Park, after learning that a white actress was going to play a black character. ..."

Monday 29 October 2012
Carving in Snow: The politics of representation:
"The American playwright Bruce Norris withdrew his very fine play Clybourne Park from Berlin's Deutsches Theater, one of the the top line German-speaking theatres, when he discovered that the theatre intended to cast a white actress in a black role and 'experiment with make-up'. What made matters even worse is that the play, winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize and London's Olivier Award for Best Play, deals centrally with race relations. It's not often that we hear of 'blacking up' in the theatre anymore, although the practice is still current in the world's opera houses. ..."


Tuesday 30 October 2012
The birth of the British East Asian Artists who come out fighting, RSC Orphan of Zhao: British East Asian Actors' statement:
British East Asian actors have challenged the Royal Shakespeare Company over the casting in its upcoming production of the classic Chinese play, The Orphan of Zhao by Ji Junxiang. Support for the British East Asian actors has spread globally with statements flooding in from Asian actors’ groups in America, Australia, Canada and other countries; as well as messages of support from theatregoers and the public on the RSC’s Facebook site. ..."

Tuesday 30 October 2012
The Stage, East Asian actors call for public forum to discuss casting concerns:
"A group of British East Asian actors, led by the vice-chair of Equity’s ethnic minority committee Daniel York, has called for the Royal Shakespeare Company to host a public forum in response to the controversy around casting decisions for its forthcoming production of The Orphan of Zhao. Followers of the RSC’s Facebook site, including a number of performers, have criticised the company for only casting three actors of East Asian heritage in the play, which has been billed as the “Chinese Hamlet”. A group of East Asian performers has now issued a statement calling for a wider discussion on the issues raised by their protests. ..."

Wednesday 31 October 2012
The Guardian: East Asian actors seek RSC apology over Orphan of Zhao casting
Actors calls for public debate with RSC to discuss casting concerns in production of so-called Chinese Hamlet
"A group of east Asian actors is seeking an apology from the Royal Shakespeare Company for its controversial casting of The Orphan of Zhao. Last week, the RSC faced criticism on Facebook over a 17-strong company featuring only three actors of east Asian heritage that will perform James Fenton's adaptation of a piece that is often referred to as the Chinese Hamlet from December. However, the Stage reports that British Chinese actor Daniel York, the vice-chair of Equity's ethnic minority committee, has called for an apology and a public debate with RSC representatives, including artistic director Gregory Doran. ..."

Wednesday 31 October 2012
Huffington Post: 'The Orphan Of Zhao' Controversy: East Asian Actors Demand Apology From Royal Shakespeare Company:
"The "Orphan of Zhao," a story of a boy who realizes his adopted father killed his entire clan, is often referred to as "Chinese Hamlet." So when a recent casting of the piece by the Royal Shakespeare Company hired only three east Asian actors in a cast of 17, the decision raised quite a few eyebrows in the UK. The lack of Asian representation in theater is not a recent issue and isn't limited to England, however. ..."

Wednesday 31 October 2012
Theatre Passe Muraille: “Choosing the best actor for the role” can cast a theatre into hot water
"As an inter-cultural theatre company we strive to find ways to represent the people who live in our city. We are not alone in the desire to be heterogenous and representative on our stage. Most theatres strive for this. But theatre does fall behind the times compared to other performing arts, like dance for example. Over the weekend I noticed that on two continents there are high profile public discussions going on about casting. ..."

Thursday 1 November 2012
Playbill: Casting of Royal Shakespeare Company's The Orphan of Zhao Sparks Controversy; East Asian Actor Seeks Apology:
"British Chinese actor Daniel York, who is also the vice chair of Equity's ethnic minority committee in the U.K., is seeking an apology from Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company for its casting of The Orphan of Zhao, according to the U.K.'s Guardian. ..."

Thursday 1 November 2012
West End Broadway World: Equity's Ethnic Minority Committee Demands Apology from RSC Over Casting [Note that their headline was wrong as it was the British East Asian Artists who want the apology]:
"The Royal Shakespeare Company recently got pummeled with criticism over Facebook due to questionable casting for their upcoming play, The Orphan of Zhao. In this Chinese play, written in 4th century BC, the RSC company only has three actors of east Asian descent. ..."

Thursday 8 November 2012
What's On Stage: Guest Blog: Daniel York on the Orphan of Zhao casting controversy:
"It's my opinion that the press coverage regarding the storm over the RSC's decision to produce the Chinese classic The Orphan of Zhao with a cast of 17 but featuring only three of East Asian descent (and none in a leading role) is doing scant justice to what is surely a monumental event when it comes to diversity in mainstream British theatre. ..."

Thursday 8 November 2012
BBC Online, The Orphan of Zhao comes to the RSC
"When casting for the production was announced there was criticism that there aren't more Asian performers in it. The RSC pointed out that the same pool of actors has to work across two other plays in the same season, neither of which has a Chinese connection. ..."


Friday 9 November 2012
Madam Miaow SaysAnna and Lucy go to Stratford: RSC The Orphan of Zhao:
"Had we been ninja, we could have crept stealthily into the village without being seen. However, as we had done our research — which in this case consisted of being Chinese and paying attention — we blew into town and proceeded to make like we were proper Ingrish which, as we all know from recent events, we are not. I am about to apply the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair and write my review and feature. ..."

Friday 9 November 2012
Michaal Billingham in the Guardian, The Orphan of Zhao review:
"This production of a Chinese classic has already caused controversy because only three actors out of a cast of 17 are of east Asian origin. But, although there are serious issues about the plight of east Asian actors that need to be addressed, it would be sad if that obscured the fact that this is a stunning act of theatrical reclamation. Gregory Doran, as the new head of the RSC, has unearthed a drama of which most of us were unaware and given it a superlative production. ..."

Friday 9 November 2012
Charles Spencer in the Telegraph: The Orphan of Zhao, Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, review:
" ... The play is one of the classics of Chinese theatre, with its origins going back to the fourth century BC. But while the poster shows a picture of young Chinese boy, only three East Asians have been cast in the show, all of them small roles. It would be sad however if this was allowed eclipse the great merits of the production. ..."

Friday 9 November 2012
Natasha Tripney in The Stage: The Orphan of Zhao review:
"... It’s easy to see where this frustration comes from. This is the RSC’s first ever production of a Chinese play - and it is being presented as part of the company’s international A World Elsewhere season - yet those few British East Asian actors in the cast are in very minor roles, servants and palace guards - with the exception of Chris Lew Kum Hoi, whose role, while also small, is pivotal. ..."

Friday 9 November 2012
Fairy Princess DiariesBritish Critics Buggering the RSC:
"I wanted to go to sleep. Truly. I have an almost 6 month old, and sleep is much appreciated by all who dwell in …my dwelling. (Well, that’s where we dwell, so that would be about right, wouldn’t it) But thanks to the Socialest of Social Networks I was sent links. LINKS! Before I went to bed! Now I can’t sleep! And what were they of, may you ask? Rightfully so. They were about the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of The Orphan of Zhao.

Sunday 11 November 2012
Rage OffstageDarkness reigns at the foot of the lighthouse: The Orphan of Zhao brings mixed messages from the RSC:
"The trouble with having a blog is that what you write can come back to haunt you. Take, for example, our rather fulsome praise of Gregory Doran, at the end of our review of his recent production of ‘Julius Caesar’:'We hear that Doran will soon be taking over as artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and with this production, he has certainly set the bar very high.' Having been so publicly impressed with Doran’s African Julius Caesar, we feel compelled to comment on the controversy which his inaugural programme as Artistic Director has brought, namely the lack of East Asian actors cast in The Orphan of Zhao, a fourteenth century Chinese play ... Despite a week long research trip to China, and a marketing campaign targeting the Chinese community, East Asian faces are few and far between in this production. ..."

Wednesday 14 November 2012
Anna Chen's review in the Morning Star, The Orphan of Zhao:
"Sometimes it's useful being the barbarian at the gate. This "outsider" role has been imposed on British east Asians by top-ranking arts institutions for far too long, so don't blame us when we warm to it. "Normal" roles are denied us unless they're race-specific with a "Chinese connection", and sharp white elbows mean we often don't even get those. The welcome policy shift towards cross-racial casting — intended to give ethnic minorities a fair share of parts, representing British society in all its glorious variety — has led instead to one-way traffic and exciting new opportunities for white actors to scarf up the juiciest Chinese parts. ..."
READ MORE at Madam Miaow Says ...

Thursday 15 November 2012
Madam Miaow SaysAladdin for middle-class grown-ups:
"A quick update: the British East Asian Artists have sprung up to challenge these archaic attitudes towards us and had brilliant support internationally from the United States of America (thank you Aapac and everyone), Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Netherlands, Singapore, France, Spain and Portugal. "

Monday 19 November 2012
Daniel York in Racebending: British East Asian actors speak out against “The Orphan of Zhao
"In Britain, the storm over the esteemed Royal Shakespeare Company’s casting of their production of the Chinese classic The Orphan Of Zhao can only be described as unprecedented. The reaction to this most venerated of theatre companies’ decision to cast this– the first Chinese play they’ve ever produced–with a cast of 17 mainly white actors and with only three actors from East Asian backgrounds (none of whom can be described as playing a leading role, in fact many critics have described them as “minor,”) has shaken the theatrical establishment in Britain to the core. ..."

Friday 23 November 2012
The Asian Performing Arts Forum presents: Roundtable discussion: Interculturalism, universality and the right to representation in the RSC’s The Orphan of Zhao:
“Unavoidably, the production raises the question of ethics, not just the ethics of representation, which concerns the decontextualisation of an epic from its history and culture, but the ethics of interacting with people … in the process of creating the work itself. … It is at the level of interactions that the human dimensions of interculturalism are, at once, most potent and problematic.”

Tuesday, 27 November 2012
VIDEO: RSC The Orphan of Zhao debate Part 2: British East Asian Artists discussion:
"The Royal Shakespeare Company declined this chance to debate with members of the British East Asian Artists group who had been critical of the casting for The Orphan of Zhao, a Chinese classic. The 17 roles included only three BEAs, and those were in minor parts: chiefly working a puppet dog, and playing a maid and a ghost child. Having seen the production, I can safely say there's a whole lot more that needs to be discussed, oh yes."

Tuesday, 27 November 2012
VIDEO: The Orphan of Zhao debate Pt 1: no show by the RSC at roundtable discussion:
"With charges of "sour grapes" and claims that east Asians couldn't be cast in parts that had no "Chinese connection", there's an awful lot to discuss concerning the Royal Shakespeare Company's The Orphan of Zhao. So it's a shame that the RSC declined an invitation to take part in a debate between members of the British East Asian Artists and theatre academics from Swansea, Brunel and Royal Holloway Universities, organised by the Asian Performing Arts Forum."


Sunday 16 December 2012
Anna Chen in the South China Morning Post: City scope: now is the winter of our discontent:
"When the hallowed Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) cast East Asian actors in a miserly three roles out of 17 in the Chinese classic The Orphan of Zhao (aka, "the Chinese Hamlet"), it sparked an uprising among British East Asians that would garner support from as far afield as America and Australia. ..."
READ MORE on Madam Miaow Says ...

Tuesday 18 December 2012
Kat Golding (BEAA) comments on the RSC Facebook thread:
"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. ..."

Sunday 6 January 2013
Dr Amanda Rogers: The Orphan of Zhao review:
"En route to the family Christmas, the time came when I finally entered the hallowed (and somewhat cramped, given the £112.8m refurbishment) halls of the RSC to see the play I had been campaigning about. I had to see if it was better, or worse, than I imagined, plus the fact that come April I will be writing about the transnational protests surrounding it for my book, as long as the publisher agrees. If not, Antipode beckons. Therefore I have to see it and form my own opinion. ... "


Sunday 6 January 2013
RSC response in the South China Morning Post: Successful 'Orphan' taps into Shakespearean vein of Chinese classic:
"The RSC overcomes ethnicity row and taps into a Shakespearean vein with its first production of a Chinese classic, writes Victoria Finlay. Since its opening in October the Royal Shakespeare Company in Britain has had terrific reviews for The Orphan of Zhao, the first Chinese play that it has performed in its 51-year history. "This is a stunning act of theatrical reclamation … and an extraordinary theatrical event," The Guardian newspaper said, while The Telegraph called it "gripping" and "the Chinese Hamlet". However, the first nights of the production were overshadowed by controversy over the casting. ..."

Sunday 13 January 2013
Letter to the editor of the South China Morning Post from the British East Asian Artists group: Reviewers noted lack of Asian actors
"Victoria Finlay's article ("At home with The Orphan", January 6) is highly selective.
The argument over the Royal Shakespeare Company's failure to cast more than three east Asian actors in a cast of 17 for the production of its first-ever Chinese play, The Orphan of Zhao, is far from over. And the critical reception for the play has been far less positive than the article suggests. The Independent on Sunday described it as "anachronistic", especially in relation to the casting. Andrew Dickson on BBC Radio's Front Row said it suffered from a lack of east Asian actors. All the major reviews referred to the casting controversy, one going as far as to describe the "ethnicity row" as "justified". There have been objections to the casting from all over the world. ..."

Thursday 17 January 2013
Jingan Young in the South China Morning Post: Will door to Asian actors in Britain truly be opened?:
"A new year means new resolutions, or in the case of the Royal Shakespeare Company, damage limitation following The Orphan of Zhao casting controversy last year ... Next month, several British arts institutions including the Arts Council, Equity, and the Casting Director's Guild will form a barricade around the concerns raised by petitioning artists. They will host an 'open forum' designed to 'improve the situation' regarding the apparent lack of employment for British East Asian actors in film, theatre and television. Baptised 'Opening the Door', this well-marketed attempt to quell the disgruntled community will undoubtedly return us to the old adage, 'Is casting colour-blind?' ..."

Saturday 9 February 2013
The British East Asian Artists win the Nee Hao magazine Man and Woman of the Year Award (2012).

Monday 11 February 2013
The long-awaited Open Space event for east Asian actors and theatre creatives at the Young Vic in London. VIDEO Part 1:
"Almost 200 actors and theatre creatives — mostly of east Asian heritage — attended this unique event in London on Monday 11th February 2013. "Opening the door" was facilitated by Improbable Theatre in association with Equity, TMA/SOLT, Arts Council England, ITC, CDG and the Young Vic Theatre."

Sunday 17th February 2013
Actor and BEAA founding member Daniel York in My Asian Planet: BEA Artists meet with top theatrical bodies in bid to end marginalisation:
"How did it start? How did 80 BEA Artists get to meet a council or representatives from the biggest theatrical associations in the country? It started the day the Royal Shakespeare Company elected to mount a Chinese play with only three East Asian actors out of a cast of seventeen. We protested. En masse. This brought about action from the representative bodies:
Arts Council England (who fund the RSC to the tune of £15 million a year)
Equity (the actor’s union)
Society Of London Theatres/Theatrical Management Association
Casting Director’s Guild & the Independent Theatre Council ..."

Wednesday 5th February 2014
British East Asian Artists open letter to Ed Vaizey and broadcaster on racial exclusion in the culture: We read with interest that the UK Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, The Right Honourable Mr. Ed Vaizey, has expressed concern about the number of black actors who are abandoning Britain for America because of lack of opportunities here. We welcome the concern that Mr. Vaizey and the media at large have expressed on this issue recently. We also welcome his determination to make meaningful changes in this area. In our opinion such an initiative is long overdue. …

Thursday 6th February 2014
Ed Vaizey responds to British East Asian Artists open letter on cultural inclusion: The BEAA writes: Some of you may have seen yesterday an open letter from British East Asian Artists (BEAA) to the Minister For Culture, Ed Vaizey. The letter was in response to Mr. Vaizey’s recent roundtable discussions with leading black actors and industry heads about the lack of opportunities for “Black & Asian” actors in the UK. ...

Saturday 8th February 2014
The RSC Orphan of Zhao: one year on, East Asian British in the arts with guest blog from Daniel York:
"We are now one year on from the momentous and ground-breaking event that was the ACE/Equity sponsored Opening The Door Open Space session, where 200 theatre professionals (around half of East Asian descent) came together to reflect/debate/share/argue about the parlous state of affairs that have continually been the lot of East Asians in British theatre and to collectively seek solutions to the problems traditionally encountered. The year since Opening The Door has certainly been very encouraging in terms of East Asian representation on our stages, though it would also be fair to say there is still some way to go before the East Asian talent that shone so brightly in the various mainstream and fringe productions that populated 2013 becomes more fully integrated into the UK theatrical mainstream and in a way that truly reflects and respects equally the diversity of that talent. …"

Friday 28th February 2014
THE RACIAL PECKING ORDER IN BRITISH THEATRE AND TV Structural Inequality In UK Theatre and TV by Daniel York at Media Diversified:
"I’ve been reading a book recently by the American sociologist David T. Wellman with the frankly terrifying title Portraits Of White Racism. I say terrifying because it conjures all kinds of images of Aryan skinhead fascists with big boots and arm-bands. ... In fact the book isn’t about skinhead fascists at all. Rather its premise is to refute the popular notion that all 'racism' is born of ignorant prejudice. Instead Wellman’s subject is 'culturally sanctioned strategies for defending social advantage based on race'. Of course the very word “racism” is now so incendiary it actually seems to have become worse to call someone a racist than actually be one. But leaving aside Wellman’s terminology there is something clearly and fundamentally unequal in UK society and particularly in the industry I work in, that of screen and stage, something that black British actor and playwright Kwarme Kwei Armah recently referred to as 'structural inequality'. …"

Wednesday 23rd April 2014
British East Asian Artists cheer on Somi Guha's Top Gear racism complaint and BBC apology
"PRESS RELEASE 23RD APRIL 2014 British East Asian Artists congratulate Somi Guha for winning an apology from the BBC over racism. Doubts remain about contradictory BBC statement. The British East Asian Artists group (BEAA) are supporting actor Somi Guha's formal complaint to the BBC for the broadcast of racist material and are delighted to see that this has resulted today in an apology from Top Gear's Executive Producer, Andy Wilman. A broadcast is a service and it is unlawful to produce racist services. The trigger for Ms Guha's case was an exchange on the BBC's Top Gear Burma Special programme where, filming in Thailand, a native person on the bridge was referred to as a 'slope' … "

Tuesday 10th April 2014
British East Asian FAQs for BBC, casting directors and media
Intrepid tweeting British East Asian (BEA) Elizabeth Chan wrote to me attaching a letter she'd received from BBC about lack of BEA representation on the airwaves. ... So they asked the BBC. Back came a letter, long-winded where it should have been enlightening, and gleefully patronising, as if addressing a slow six-year old. In light of the many, many, MANY words we BEAs have written to try and communicate our views about cultural participation, depiction and fairness to the various institutions, we find ourselves puzzled and muzzled. What's a po' BEA to do? …
FAQs about BEAs for the BBC, casting directors and reviewers:
Q: Do East Asians have lives outside the takeaway, snakehead gangs and business?
A: Should the takeaway, the restaurant and the casino in your drama already have their full complement of ethnic characters, you may well find other areas where East Asians would fit right in. Having a complicated romance, for example. Discovering a cure for cancer. There's a Chinese doctor whose mitochondrial DNA research proves we all walked out of Africa 70-100 thousand years ago. Think of any human endeavour and we bet you could find an East Asian who has already done it or who is working on it.

October 2014
Contemporary Theatre Review. Special Issue: A Controversial Company: Debating the Casting of the RSC’s The Orphan of Zhao.
Guest Editors: Amanda Rogers and Ashley Thorpe. Featuring interviews with Daniel York and Anna Chen. Poem Yellowface by Anna Chen.


BEAA on Facebook

Devoted & Disgruntled Feb 11th Open Space reports

If I have omitted anything, please let me know and I'll add it to the list.

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