Liz Swain 4:24 p.m., May 24
For its current Page-to-Stage project the La Jolla Playhouse is work-shopping The Nightingale, a musical by Duncan Sheik (composer) and Steven Sater (book and lyrics), who wrote the award-winning Spring Awakening.
They adapted a fable by Hans Christian Anderson (1843). A feudal Chinese Emperor loves the nightingale's song so much he keeps one in captivity. He receives the gift of a bejeweled, mechanical nightgingale, a "Little Imperial Toilet Singer," which he prefers until a life-threatening crisis changes his mind.
The work-in-progress has been cast with multi-racial actors. Only two of the 12 are Asian American, and a white actor plays the Emperor.
A blog by Erin Quill has drawn national attention to the issue: "This is a professional theater with a budget and access to any and every Asian American Actor in the country. There are no Chinese people in a show set in China."
In an interview with U-T theater critic Jim Hebert, the authors said a fully-Asian American workshop would not be appropriate "to the piece (we've written). It's not about Asia. What's really important...is to have completely color-blind casting. Completely multicultural. Which is what we have. We have an African-American mother of a white son in our show now. Our cast is not even predominantly white. It's a mix."
Andy Lowe, of Chinese Pirate Productions: the casting "represents a continuing trend for Asians and Asian Americans. It's hurtful not only because it exemplifies the decrease of opportunities for Asian American artists, but because it is also indicative of the continuing trend of appropriation of cultural representation as often reported by organizations such as Racebending.com."
Seema Sueko, of Mo'olelo Performing Arts: "according to the AAPAC [Asian American Performers Action Coalition], 1.5% of all new roles were given to Asian American actors in the last five seasons on Broadway."
On Sunday, July 22, following a matinee performance of The Nightingale (at approximately 3:45), the La Jolla Playhouse will host a public panel discussion on the subject: Potiker Theatre, 2910 La Jolla Village Drive, USCD campus, Revelle College entrance.