East Asian Actors Protest RSC Casting over Chinese Play
November 2, 2012
The recent controversy over the Royal Shakespeare Company’s casting of the play Orphan of Zhao has sparked an online debate about the complexities of casting minority actors.
Although the anger of the Chinese and other East Asian actors is understandable, the issue carries more shades of grey underneath the black and white.
The fact that the RSC is doing Orphan of Zhao is a triumph. It shows a great interests in Asian culture and history. In the context of a non-racially biased society, the race and ethnicity of the cast members is by definition irrelevant, and it’s the opportunity for pure cultural exchange and understanding that matters. For this, I believe both the West and the East will benefit.
We can’t assume that a production of Romeo and Juliet in China is not true to Shakespeare, simply because it has no Western actors in it.
However, there is a total lack of East Asian actors in Western TV, film and plays. Most Asian actors who do appear are British, yet they are hardly ever casted as anything but a sterotypical Asian person.
We need to make a protest, but it must be for the right purpose and from a right angle. It’s important to note that making misleading protests when others are stepping out of their comfort zone makes them less likely to do so again.