The Royal Shakespeare Company recently got pummeled with criticism over Facebook due to questionable casting for their upcoming play, The Orphan of Zhao. In this Chinese play, written in 4th century BC, the RSC company only has three actors of east Asian descent. Following the Facebook reproaches, the vice chair of the Equity ethnic minority committee, Daniel York, demanded an apology from and debate with RSC representatives. This launched a bigger, lingering issue involving not just the RSC, but the entire acting industry.
According to the Guardian, York said, "It's incredibly hard for an east Asian person to build up the track record that would enable the RSC to feel confident in casting them in a decent role. We're not on the radar because we're not working very much." So last week, producer Kevin Fitzmaurice and head of RSC casting, Hannah Miller did meet with York and other Equity representatives. The show's director, Greg Doran also told the Guardian that the RSC had, in fact, offered many east Asian actors roles, but they turned them down.
Nonetheless, Doran submitted a formal apology, "We understand that the casting of our World Elsewhere season of three plays has led to much concern and are sorry that this is the case.
"We do recognise that the lack of visibility for Chinese and east Asian actors in theatre and on screen is a live and very serious issue. We are beginning the process of talking to industry colleagues, representing employers and actors, to set up a forum for wider debate, which we hope will make a meaningful difference."
The Orphan of Zhao is scheduled to open the Royal Shakespeare Company's A World Elsewhere season, as previously reported by BroadwayWorld.com.