In Response To The Asian American Performers Action Coalition And Others:

Glenn Casale and I are in receipt of your numerous emails and form emails. The reason for the delay in answering is that during the holidays I was in the hospital, and I have been recovering at home from a deadly blood disease.

First, Mr. Casale, our Director, has directed multiple years of productions using not only Asian actors and actresses, but diverse ethnic groups. Second, I have produced probably the most shows using Asian actors and actresses. For example, Flower Drum Song on Broadway, Flower Drum Song national tour, Brooklyn the Musical, and Bombay Dreams, just to name a few.

I can assure you that neither Glenn Casale nor I ever intended or conceived a thought that this would be disruptive, negative or disrespectful to anyone.

It’s interesting. Going back in the history of The King and I, Mr. Yul Brenner was actually from Russia, and Mr. Lou Diamond Phillips was born on a naval base in the Philippines and is an American. Mr. Paul Schoeffler has played the role in theatres across America in the past. And after looking at several Asian prospects for the role, they were all “on hold” pending a call back from the Lincoln Center Production.

The cast for this new production consists of 28, of which 25 are of Asian-descent. Of the 15 children in the cast, all are of Asian descent. We even went to a Thailand Temple to audition children for the production to be as authentic as possible.

Both Mr. Casale and I would never intentionally do anything contrary or negative to your culture, and we have both provided numerous opportunities to the Asian community in the past.

Mr. Casale and I visited yesterday. We have heard your comments, and we have heard your concerns, and we are now going back to find an actor of Asian descent for the role of the King. WE HAVE HEARD YOU, and we are working to guarantee a positive result for both you and also for a quality production. We have heard you and we take your comments seriously.

Michael Jenkins

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11 Responses to In Response To The Asian American Performers Action Coalition And Others:

  1. shauntuazon says:

    Thank you for the response and plan of action! It’ s nice to see a person/organization listening to the masses.
    I know I speak for many when I say the recognition is appreciated.

  2. Mark Nelson says:

    Thank you! This is the right thing to do, for the play, the audience, the community. I feel sorry for the Caucasian actor who was expecting to play the role, but there is a bigger principle at stake.

  3. Cody says:

    I applaud your swift and appropriate plan of action, but would caution you on the way you speak regarding the situation.

    Take notice of the name of the association in your blog post: Asian American Performers Action Coalition. I would think most of the “Asian prospects for the role… ‘on hold’ pending a call back from the Lincoln Center Production” are Asian-American, not Asian. You refer to Lou Diamond Phillips as “an American” but somehow your “Asian prospects for the role” are not? Semantics, but important.

    Listening to the community is great, but learning from the experience and communicating sensitively is even better.

  4. danbacalzo says:

    Reblogged this on Dan Bacalzo's Asian American Performance Site and commented:
    This is the right way to respond to a casting controversy! Thanks go out to the Asian American Performers Action Coalition for their work in bringing attention to this issue, and to Dallas Summer Musicals for reevaluating what they were doing.

  5. angel desai says:

    Thank you for listening and for doing the right thing! It is a gigantic step in light of the stubbornness Asian Americans are constantly faced with around the country when we bring our concerns to light. Well done!

  6. Glenn Casale and Michael Jenkins are probably the more enlightened producers of entertainment in the country. Now if only the DreamWorks people would wake up and get rid of Scarlett Johansson in their Ghost In The Shell remake.

  7. Sharalea says:

    Saddened that an actor is losing out on being a lead in this play because a group is offended, I always thought the role should go to the most qualified. Yul was the very best, good thing he didn’t lose his part due to peer pressure. This is bullying at its best. Sorry you had to deal with this while being sick. I’m a season ticket holder to DSM, I hope the play I’m most looking forward to is not ruined by second choice actor

  8. AAPAC says:

    Dear Mr. Jenkins,

    Thank you for listening to our concerns and for reconsidering your casting decision.

    We are sincerely sorry to hear that you have been ill and hope for a full recovery.

    It is this disconnect–that you and Mr Casale never thought that casting a Caucasian King would be disruptive or perceived as negative–that we tried to address in our original letter. That said, we are happy that you have righted this wrong and take your gracious letter in the spirit it was meant. We commend you for making it a priority to cast all the other Asian roles with Asian actors.

    Despite more opportunities for Asian actors now than in the past, our latest statistics from the 2012-2013 season found that numbers for Asians dropped to only 2% of all available roles on Broadway. To create more opportunities-or should we say, more equal opportunities–we hope you will consider casting more roles non-traditionally for future productions. Inclusive casting actualizes a belief that I think everyone can agree on: In situations where race is not a part of the story being told, the best actor should get the role regardless of race.

    Please let us know if we can be of any assistance to you in your search for an Asian King. In addition, we are happy to have a deeper conversation with you and/or a representative offline to put this tension behind us. Our mission is to engage and work with theatres, not to disrupt the good work they are doing. We have an ongoing dialogue with many theatre companies in the NYC area and have worked with organizations such as the Broadway League and TCG to make diversity a national priority.

    The good will you have exhibited in reversing your decision has made all the difference to us and we are sure that continuing to cast inclusively will continue to make a difference in diversifying your audience members, now and in the future. We wish you much success with your production.

    Sincerely,
    The Asian American Performers Action Coalition

  9. Ian Jacobs says:

    Just so I understand, the only concern is that an Asian actor portray the King. If the actress playing Mrs. Anna isn’t British, then that’s ok? What about the Kralohom, shouldn’t he be of Asian decent as well? And let’s not forget Prince Chululonghorn and Lady Thiang. I guess its only an issue for the actors portraying the people of Siam and that they be of Asian decent.
    This all reminiscent of the uproar when Renee Zelwegger was cast as Bridget Jones.

  10. Ching Valdes-Aran says:

    Glen Casale and Michael Jenkins, thank you for listening to our concern!

  11. kathyphsieh says:

    Thank you so much for listening and acting upon your conscience in casting. Interestingly enough, though, – Yul Brynner is part Mongolian, which is considered of Asian descent and Lou Diamond Phillips is multiracial including Filipino, which is also considered being of Asian descent. Jason Scott Lee has also played the role before (in London). So it is possible to cast the best person for the role with box office appeal while at the same time coming closer to racial authenticity.

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