Tag Archives: Race-bending

Playwright Takes Stand Against White-washing of His Play

November 18, 2015
Clarion University student actors Sam Atwell and Kiah Harrington-Wymer in a rehearsal photo from the school's planned production of “Jesus in India” published to social media. (Photo Credit: Clarion University)
Clarion University student actors Sam Atwell and Kiah Harrington-Wymer in a rehearsal photo from the school’s planned production of “Jesus in India” published to social media. (Photo Credit: Clarion University)

The theatre world is embroiled in controversy right now over the attempted White-washing by Clarion University of Lloyd Suh’s cutting-edge play, “Jesus In India”.

Suh’s play — an irreverent exploration of popular conceptions and misconceptions of historical religious figures — includes several characters of Indian descent. However, when Professor of Theatre at Clarion University Marilouise Michel decided she wanted to put on a student production of the play this year, she seized upon a quip by Suh in one of the play’s liner notes (wherein he describes the play’s appeal as “universal”) and interpreted it as license to cast non-South Asian actors as characters named “Gopal”, “Mahari”, and “Sushil”. Michel also decided to make dramatic rewrites to the play (which originally contained only two or three songs). She commissioned a full songbook, transforming the play into a musical.

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The post-racial revolution should not be televised

March 24, 2014

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Leave it to CNN to report on ideas that have been circulating in the blogosphere for years like it’s news, and to further treat those ideas with the kind of insipid, uncritical patina that suggests that the article is the end-result of maybe two hours — tops — of online reading. Leave it to CNN to give a complex and nuanced conversation a Monday morning rush job on an otherwise “slow” news day.

This morning, CNN published an article by John Blake, who normally writes for CNN’s Belief Blog; today Blake was writing about diversity in speculative fiction.

The basic premise of his op-ed? Televised speculative fiction is awesome right now because there are people of colour doing things next to White people.

If [Martin Luther] King clicked on TV today, he might shout that we’ve reached the Promised Land. A racial revolution is quietly taking place on the small screen, and zombies, witches and headless horsemen are leading the way. There’s been an explosion of multiracial casting on science-fiction, fantasy and horror shows, and the people powering this trend say it is here to stay.

Popular shows such as “The Walking Dead,” “Sleepy Hollow” and “Arrow” are giving us a sneak preview of a post-racial America that can still seem far away, fans and creators say. The most eye-popping elements are not the special effects and supernatural creatures but the multiracial casts and the casual acceptance of racial differences. These shows routinely feature actors of color in nonstereotypical roles, and interracial relationships are the norm.

Yes, according to Blake, we have arrived at King’s Promised Land: we have built a post-racial world, and it has zombies in it.

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