Saturday, November 03, 2012

British East Asian Actors Group

Statement from the newly formed British East Asian Actors group:

RE: The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC)
The Orphan of Zhao

"For more than three weeks, we have protested to the RSC and the Arts Council England about the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of the Chinese classic The Orphan of Zhao.

Our concern is that there are only three actors of East Asian descent in a cast which consists mainly of Caucasians but no other Asians. This does not, in our opinion, represent "multi-cultural casting" as the RSC insists it is."

The statement then goes on to identify key issues.....
"It is clear to us that there is an industry-wide problem regarding the opportunities available for East Asian actors. Too often, actors from our background can only access auditions for poorly-written and stereotyped roles on television that require a heavy emphasis on being "foreign" as opposed to being integrated and three-dimensional members of British society. In the theatre, with the occasional rare exception, we are shut out completely from all but community and children's theatre, with opportunities to appear in classical and mainstream drama extremely rare.

We welcome a time when actors can play across race, gender, class or disability. However, this can only meaningfully occur on a level playing field to which we must ensure we have fair access.

As a publicly-funded company, the RSC has a responsibility to reflect the make-up of society. In order to tear down the limitation on East Asian actors, it is our heartfelt wish to see far more active outreach to our sector. When the Harry Potter film franchise was casting for an actress to play Cho Chang, applicants queued around the block, disproving the notion that people from East Asian backgrounds have no interest in the performing arts. At present, the message being sent out to young people from East Asian backgrounds is that a career on the stage is not available to them.

We welcome greatly the closing paragraph from the RSC's most recent statement on the subject:

"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."

The statement then makes requests which include an apology, a public discussion forum, 
ethnic monitoring of auditionees for both race-specific and non-race-specific roles and for that data to be freely available and see a clear measurable target in terms of engaging and developing East Asians actors.  Also it is requested that there are no "professional reprisals" in light of any recent comments made by actors in response to the casting of The Orphan of Zhao.

The British East Asian Actors group comprises of:

Daniel York – Vice Chair, Equity Minority Ethnic Members’ Committee

Anna Chen
Dr. Broderick D.V. Chow - Lecturer in Theatre, Brunel University, London
Kathryn Golding
Paul Hyu – Artistic Director, Mu Lan Theatre Co; member of Equity Minority Ethnic Members’ Committee
Michelle Lee
Chowee Leow
Hi Ching – Artistic Director, River Cultures
Jennifer Lim
Lucy Miller – Associate Director, True Heart Theatre
Dr. Amanda Rogers - Lecturer in Human Geography, Swansea University

To read the full statement and keep updated please visit the British East Asian Actors Facebook page

The RSC have now responded to this statement.  They have stated:
"Equity and the RSC have committed to working together to identify action that can be taken across the industry to bring East Asian talent to the attention of casting directors and to promote the employment of East Asian performers. The RSC lent its support to Equity’s call for an industry- wide event designed to facilitate greater understanding of the particular issues affecting the casting of East Asian performers, and how the industry can best address issues of invisibility."

To read the full statement please see the RSC Facebook Page.

On today's Lucky Cat I speak to Daniel York about the RSC controversy and the BEA actors group statement.  Tune in at 3.30pm 104.4FM or via

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