Casting of Royal Shakespeare Company's The Orphan of Zhao Sparks Controversy; East Asian Actor Seeks Apology
By Michael Gioia
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.
The RSC's production of The Orphan of Zhao – which is often referred to as the Chinese Hamlet – faced criticism on Facebook because its cast featured only three actors of East Asian heritage. The production, adapted by James Fenton for a cast of 17, began performances Oct. 30 at the RSC's Swan Theatre.
York is also requesting a public debate with RSC representatives, including artistic director Gregory Doran, who helmed the production.
"The whole industry is reluctant to cast East Asians in non-race specific roles," York told the Guardian. "We are generally only thought of as the Chinese takeaway man or the Japanese businessman... It's incredibly hard for an East Asian person to build up the track record that would enable the RSC to feel confident in casting them in a decent role. We're not on the radar because we're not working very much."
Although Doran had said that the company auditioned "lots and lots" of East Asian actors – including York – and had made offers that were turned down, he released a joint statement with RSC executive director Catherine Mallyon that said, "We understand that the casting of our World Elsewhere season of three plays has led to much concern and are sorry that this is the case.
"We do recognise that the lack of visibility for Chinese and East Asian actors in theatre and on screen is a live and very serious issue. We are beginning the process of talking to industry colleagues, representing employers and actors, to set up a forum for wider debate, which we hope will make a meaningful difference."
For more information on the production, visit RSC.org.uk.
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