Raison D’être

This campaign is inspired by numerous events that have occurred to me. A friend and I discussed how whenever we attended a play at Sydney Theatre Company, we would frequently find ourselves the only ones in the audience who were Asian and under 30. There is certainly no shortage of astounding drama to be seen, rather, I feel the diversity of produced works is limited.

My suggestion is that STC should hold at least one major play a year utilising colourblind casting. This isn’t an entirely new concept, Royal Shakespeare Company have had success with Hamlet (2000) and Henry VI (2001), albeit took five steps backwards with The Orphan of Zhao (2012) by allotting only 3 minor roles out of 17 to actors of Asian descent.

I’ve considered the economics, I know how the industry works, where casting directors would rather pick and choose from a tiny talent pool, exercising a formula that is guaranteed to attract theatregoers. So my solution, to have the requisite play out of 13 seems a reasonable resolution that balances artistic integrity and profit.

Just going to briefly touch on the name of this campaign, I probably could have come up with something catchier than Shade Stories but connotations of skin colour and the ‘shades’ of emotional subtlety are expressed methinks.

I’m not after a perfect, racist-free world. Bigotry is a stubborn splinter like that. Nor am I advocating plays be revised where every single one contains ethnic actors.

What I want, is to achieve a better representation of cultural diversity on our stages than we are currently seeing.

What I want, is to cease seeing ethnic roles going to non-ethnics, it’s not a good enough excuse that casting directors couldn’t find someone who was:

a)   Ethnic, and
b)   Suited the role

Come on, don’t tell me that it isn’t sad when a country with a population of 23,000,000+ of whom an estimated 1.7 million are Asian. That a 60 something year old Chinese man simply couldn’t be found. Try a little harder. Audition a little wider.

Stages once banned women from performing Shakespeare on it, so we’ve come a long, long way since Elizabethan times. There still remains a lot of work to be done so that portrayals of non-Caucasians are actually performed by non-Caucasians and Aussie theatre reflects the cultural melting pot that has shaped the polychromatic Australian identity.

But I’m hopeful, because I believe, despite its shortcomings, media representations of ethnics is progressing in Australia, it’s just advancing at a rate that’s too slow for me, so I’m taking to Shade Stories with my foot on the accelerator.

Comments, criticisms, marriage proposals below if you please.


5 thoughts on “Raison D’être

  1. Here’s a worthy cause! Even ignoring the problems with the industry at large, I think a truly diverse production would wear the title of Australian theatre better than anything else current.

  2. It’s really empowering to hear people from the US, UK, Australia and other places seeing the disparity at hand and attempting to do something about it. I find myself being completely disheartened by the enormity of the challenge one day, and then being hopeful when I hear of small victories here and there.

    Let’s continue to share the challenges, and also the victories. One play at a time.

  3. Interesting cause. I’m the same as you, I often find that there are very few asian audience members when it comes to going to the theatre. Sadly, when i do think of ‘theatre’, words that spring to mind are ‘pretentious’, ‘elite’ and ‘white’. I love the theatre, but it is extremely disheartening to see the lack of diversity in actors especially in such a multicultural country like Australia. Great campaign!

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