Dallas Summer Musicals recently got some unwanted attention when it came to light that the theater company had plans to produce the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic The King & I with a Caucasian actor in the role of the “King Mongkut,” a practice known as “yellowface.’
The Asian American Performers Action Coalition and others became incensed that one of the few leading roles available to actors of Asian-descent would go to a non-Asian actor.
After many letters, emails and mucho media coverage, the producer Michael Jenkins and director Glenn Casale (a good friend of mine, and a stand-up guy) have decided to begin again and find a proper actor of Asian background to play the role this summer.
Jenkins posted a statement addressing the concerns of the Asian actors community and ended with this:
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.
Which goes to show, strong grassroots actions can have a powerful impact.
Good for everyone, I say.