Clarion University in Pennsylvania has been forced to cancel a student play after its author objected that too many of its actors were white.
“Jesus in India” portrays a teenage Jesus Christ journeying through India. Unsurprisingly, of the five characters in the play, three of them are Indian. But Clarion is overwhelmingly white and its minorities are almost entirely black and Hispanics; Asians make up less than one percent of the school.
As a result, of the three Indian characters, two of them were set to be played by white actors and the third was to be played by a half-white, half-black student.
Lloyd Suh, the play’s author, learned about the performance’s ethnic make-up and objected, telling the school Monday it had to recast the play so the three Indian characters were played by people of Asian descent. With just a few days to go before the play’s debut, and so few Asian students available in the first place (none even auditioned for the play), the school was unable to meet Suh’s demand. As a result, he revoked the university’s right to stage the play, forcing it to be canceled.
Suh rejected several alternative solutions, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, such as a school official explaining beforehand why the play did not use Asian performers. Suh’s objections weren’t based on a fear of ethnic stereotyping; the actors were not going to use brownface and they were not going to use Indian accents. Rather, he simply insisted that the race of the performers was unacceptable.
“I couldn’t stop myself from crying when I saw the photos and realized what was happening,” Suh said in an email to the college.
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