The Nightingale casting controversy

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In 2012, the La Jolla Playhouse generated nationwide controversy for the casting of a musical adaptation of a Hans Christian Andersen story "The Nightingale," set in ancient China. The play was part of the La Jolla Playhouse's "Page to Stage" program,[1] a workshop series in which unfinished new works are tested and altered during the show's run. Only two Asian American actors were cast, and more than half the cast were Caucasian actors.[2][3] The Asian American Theatre Community expressed their indignity on this issue.[4][5]

The casting controversy generated significant response from the Asian American theater and artistic community, particularly because similar controversies have occurred in the past, as when Jonathan Pryce was cast to play the Eurasian lead in the musical, Miss Saigon.[5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12]

During a public forum to address the debate, the idea for which having been generated by a letter of protest from the Asian American Performers' Action Coalition, Christopher Ashley, the current Artistic Director of the La Jolla Playhouse, stated that it was his effort to follow a "color-blind" casting principle for this play, and to incorporate both western and eastern elements.[1][13][14] Ashley and director Moises Kaufman both apologized. Kaufman admitted that he would be "the first to agree that we have been unsuccessful at what we were trying to do."[15]

Speaking from the audience, book writer Steven Sater stated that even though they started out with an all-Asian cast, they eventually decided to go with a multi-cultural cast in order to reflect the "multi-ethnic" world that he knew and lived in.[15] Composer Duncan Sheik stated in an interview after the panel that the discussion had "affected" his thinking of the show and that his "head [was] spinning."[15] Previous readings of the musical included one at Vassar's Powerhouse Theater with a multi-ethnic cast (also directed by Kaufman), as well as one with an Asian American cast at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.

Production Information[edit]

With Nikki Castillo, Bobby Steggert, Charlayne Woodard, Kimiko Glenn, Eisa Davis, Jonathan Hammond, Corbin Reid, Aaron Serotsky, Steve Gunderson, Matthew Patrick Davis, Chelsea Diggs-Smith and Zach Martens.

Performance Dates: July 10 – August 5, 2012, Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre [16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ La Jolla Playhouse "Page to Stage" http://www.lajollaplayhouse.org/the-season/page-to-stage
  2. ^ David Ng, Asian American Theater Leaders React to 'Nightingale' Controversy, LA Times, http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/culture/la-et-cm-asian-american-nightingale-la-jolla-playhouse-20120718,0,7027101.story
  3. ^ Daniel Lehman, La Jolla Playhouse's Casting Controversy Over 'The Nightingale', Backstage, http://www.backstage.com/bso/content_display/news-and-features/e3i006b2ebc755b8341f4cb6be83184b8e3
  4. ^ Lucas Kavner, 'Nightingale' Casting Controversy: Asian American Actors Criticize Lack of Asian Actors, Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/19/nightingale-asian-american-actors_n_1686270.html
  5. ^ a b Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times, Critic's Notebook: real world concerns about a fantasy 'Nightingale', http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/culture/la-et-cm-critics-notebook-la-jolla-playhouse-nightingale-20120723,0,4429707.story
  6. ^ Andy Lowe, Chinese Pirate Productions, A Response to the Nightingale Casting Controversy at the La Jolla Playhouse, http://chinesepirateproductions.blogspot.com/2012/07/a-response-to-nightingale-casting.html
  7. ^ Jennifer Chang, In a place called Naboo, or mythical China. http://changinator.wordpress.com/2012/07/23/in-a-place-called-naboo-or-mythical-china/
  8. ^ Isaac Ho, Deja Vu All Over Again - The Nightingale and Miss Saigon, http://www.scriptenabler.com/isaachowriter/?p=426
  9. ^ Ken Choy, La Jolla's 'Nightingale' Doesn't Sing and Apology Doesn't Sway Many APIAs, Hyphen Magazine, http://hyphenmagazine.com/blog/archive/2012/07/la-jollas-nightingale-doesnt-sing-and-apology-doesnt-sway-many-apias
  10. ^ Asian American theater leaders react to 'Nightingale' controversy, http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/culture/la-et-cm-asian-american-nightingale-la-jolla-playhouse-20120718,0,7027101.story
  11. ^ KPBS, Casting Controversy Shadows La Jolla Playhouse's 'Nightingale', KPBS, http://www.kpbs.org/news/2012/jul/18/casting-controversy-shadows-la-jolla-playhouses-ni/
  12. ^ Huffington Post, Asian Actors Not Hired to Play Roles In Production Set in Ancient China, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/03/latest-conversations-cast_n_1739990.html
  13. ^ Angry Asian Man, Panel Discussion at La Jolla Playhouse, http://blog.angryasianman.com/2012/07/when-st-got-real-at-la-jolla-playhouse.html
  14. ^ Angry Asian Man, Talk Back on the Nightingale Casting Controversy, http://blog.angryasianman.com/2012/07/talk-back-on-nightingale-casting.html
  15. ^ a b c Id.
  16. ^ La Jolla Playhouse The Nightingale Production History, http://www.lajollaplayhouse.org/about-the-playhouse/playhouse-highlights/production-history