New York Asian-American Actors Look to Increase Their Presence in Theater

While we’ve certainly come a long way from white actors like John Wayne and Mickey Rooney portraying Asian characters in so-called “yellowface” makeup, roles for Asian-American actors on the Broadway stage are few in number, even as New York City’s media is dominated by its newest sports sensation, Asian-American basketball player Jeremy Lin.

Sadly, the number of Asian-American actors in Broadway shows has actually declined since five years ago, the only minority group that has seen a decline. 

Why aren’t there more roles for Asian-American actors on Broadway? 

That’s a question that the RepresentAsian conference at New York’s Fordham University attempted to answer on February 13.  According to the data presented at the conference, of the 6,639 New York theater roles in the last five theater seasons, only 54 Broadway roles featured Asian-American actors, and only 100 non-profit theater roles went to Asian-American actors.  With Asians making up 12.9% of New York City’s population and growing, the plight of Asian-American actors is summed up by playwright Douglas Carter Beane, who said at the conference, “The stats baffle me.  Casting directors of every show I’ve worked on have always asked at some point, ‘Can we open this up? Can this character be black, Latin or Asian?’ … You want the stage to look like the street, not some fantasy world that doesn’t exist.”

Frustrated Asian-American actors have previously formed the Asian American Performers Action Coalition (AAPAC), a group devoted to increasing the number of roles filled by Asian-American actors.  However, the issue of course isn’t just number of roles, as the AAPAC doesn’t want to sacrifice quality for quantity.  For example, actress Anitha Gandhi points out, “When contemporary plays are produced, we’re not looked upon for roles of the girlfriend, best friend, mom or father. I feel the color angle really does us a disservice. There is this patting-the-back mentality among producers and casting persons who will say, ‘There is a black actor in my production.’ … They don’t look at us as being part of the fabric of the American story.”

Possible issues the AAPAC has identified include the prevalence of “name” casting (i.e. Broadway shows casting film or television stars for roles to boost ticket sales), since there are also few roles for Asian-Americans on television and producers’ fears that casting too many minorities of any background in production gives audiences the impression that it is a “conceptual” show. 

Still, perhaps the best way to turn the declining statistics around is by getting such information out there.  After all, if the newest unlikely New York basketball star playing only a few blocks away from the Theatre District can be a previously ignored Asian-American, surely increased Broadway success of Asian-Americans is possible, too!

via NPR

Leave a Reply

http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Linnea-Berthelsen-Stranger-Things.jpg
Linnea Berthelse on Her ‘Stranger Things’ Audition and Keeping Her Role a Secret for a Year
“Sometimes when actors don’t get the part, it’s not always about an actor being a bad actor; it’s about connecting to the material.” – Linnea Berthelsen Stranger Things is back on our screens with its second season, something fans have been waiting for ever since season one arrived on Netflix in 2016. Returning to the […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/jonathan-groff-hamilton.jpg
Jonathan Groff on Playing King George III in ‘Hamilton’: “I rehearsed for about a day, and then went into the show”
Can you even imagine stepping into a role in one of the biggest Broadway hits of all time with barely any time to prepare?
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/lina-esco-swat.jpg
Lina Esco on Playing the Only Female Officer on ‘S.W.AT.’: “I have to portray her as someone equal to all of the guys on her team”
"The important thing for me when I read scripts is how much respect I have for the character and how far I can take her" - Lina Esco
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/sam-rockwell-three-billboards.jpg
Sam Rockwell on Typecasting and One of His Worst Auditions
"I’m kind of a workhorse. It takes a toll" - Sam Rockwell
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/rachel-bloom-crazy-ex-girlfriend.jpg
Rachel Bloom: “The way that I learned comedy was not rigid, but this very specific technique taught by the Upright Citizens Brigade”
"I went from being a person who was doing moderately successful videos online and working as a moderately successful TV writer and aspiring to do this to having a Golden Globe." - Rachel Bloom