CMU School of Drama

Monday, April 10, 2017

Director, performer resign after Calgary Opera plans to cast white woman for Asian role

The Globe and Mail: Calgary Opera's production of South Pacific, planned for this summer, is facing upheaval over the same issue at the core of the musical: race. A dispute over the casting of a Tonkinese character has seen the director, a designer and a performer quit the production. The company says the director's departure was premature as the role has not been definitively cast – although a white artist is on hold for the role while Calgary Opera continues its search for a race-appropriate fit.


Claire Krueger said...

Other that last week I’m pretty sure I comment on an article regarding whitewashing almost every week. It’s sad that it's such a prominent issue but it's nice to read about people trying to help. After the failures of casting POC as white actors you’d think a lesson would be learned. Look at Ghost In The Shell which scored a whopping 46% on rotten tomatoes, its two predecessors were incredibly successful making a third rendition an obvious choice. Disappointingly this rating is due to more of a poor directing, overwhelming aesthetic and ‘empty shell’ of a plot, not the white washing. Not that I can judge, maybe the whitewashing played a subconscious role in ruining the movie for the critics, but still it's disappointing not seeing a stronger backlash over the casting of the characters. Even though leaving a project doesn't necessarily get the problem solved it's satisfying to see the publicity on the issue, that there is something, even if it's small, the try and counteract white washing.

Sarah Boyle said...

With the Ghost in the Shell article, I had been really upset that Scarlet Johansson thought that it was fine for her to accept the role because it was a great opportunity for her. This is not as bad, since there are more specific limitations to who fits an opera skill and vocal part within the limited Canadian casting pool than for the Ghost in the Shell. It’s also not as bad because the director, a designer, and a performer all feel uncomfortable with the situation and left. Maybe it doesn’t change it, but people working on a project not being willing to work with whitewashing would be a hugely important shift. To the person associated with the opera interviewed in this article spoke about casting a white actor in the lead role as though it may be unavoidable. But really, it wasn’t a surprise. And I would assume that the opera chooses its own season. Maybe they should have been thinking about that earlier. If casting Canadian is the highest priority for this company, that’s fine, but then they should be choosing operas that fit that mission.