Yellow Earth Statement to The Print Room and creative team of ‘In the Depths of Dead Love‘
We wish to express our dismay and disappointment at The Print Room’s decision to present an all white cast in the play; In the Depths of Dead Love which according to their website is set in ancient China with characters with Chinese sounding names..
The two statements issued by The Print Room in defense of their decision have we feel, failed to address the practice of yellowface as an outdated and unacceptable form of casting. The Print Room has fallen far short of Equity policy on inclusive casting with respect to BEA (British East Asian) actors in this country and it has sadly highlighted yet again the seeming lack of visibility of BEA actors amongst the theatre industry at large.
In recent years awareness around diverse casting has increased, or so we thought, with Equity, Act for Change and the Arts Council all taking positive steps to ensure actors from diverse backgrounds are better represented on stage. We expect nothing less from a London venue. It’s 2017 and it’s time we saw all theatres embrace diversity and inclusivity. We ask that The Print Room listens to the concerns expressed by many from the BEA community and Equity and start shifting their current thinking.
We urge the Print Room’s Board to review their commitment to diversity and inclusion so that when they state ‘Print Room remains committed to diversity and inclusiveness in all we do” they actively demonstrate that commitment. We would like to see this current impasse move forward and are happy to offer their Board advice and support to ensure this happens..
What is ‘diversity’?
Diversity means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing and respecting individual differences. This can include race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies. Through embracing diversity we can value people’s differences and the contributions they have to make to society and enable everyone to realise their full potential by promoting an inclusive culture for all.
What is ‘yellowface’?
The practise of white actors playing East Asian characters first seen during the Golden Age of Hollywood with many high profile actors assuming costume, voice, walk and make up. Nowadays it could mean the simple of act of a white person playing an East Asian character
What is ‘whitewashing’?
The practise of turning what was historically a non-white role into a white role thus depriving East Asians and other BAME (or actors of colour), of the few roles they are likely to be considered for.
Why is it important to know this as a theatregoer?
Sadly the theatre industry is no different to other industries in that BAME (Black Asian, Minority Ethnic), women, disabled and LGBTQ actors are disproportionately underrepresented both on stage and back stage in positions of leadership and governance. We believe that the theatre and film industry should reflect British society as it is today. When the personal characteristics of an actor are relevant to the role then there should be every effort made to cast actors with those characteristics in that role. Along with Equity the actors union, we call for more incidental portrayal – when the artist’s personal characteristics are only incidental to the roles allowing for a greater range of opportunities for those actors.
How can I support diversity and inclusivity in theatre?
There are a number of brilliant BEA led companies including ourselves that are making and producing BEA work – come see, follow and support!
If you are a producer or running a theatre company or venue follow the Equity guidelines here.
Useful blogs and articles about the Print Room protest:
Dr Amanda Rogers gives a clear rebuttal to The Print Room’s statements
Yellow Earth’s Artistic Associate and actor David Lee Jones on ‘why it’s not acceptable to cast white actors to play Chinese characters on and stage or screen’.
Actor/writer/ filmmaker and musician Daniel York on yellowface.
A good example of how shifts in thinking can come about- what happened when Asian American actors and creatives got involved with a white operatic company staging The Mikado in The New Yorker and The NY Times.