We, the Steering Committee of the Asian American Performers Action Coalition (AAPAC), write this in support of Lloyd Suh regarding the recent controversy surrounding the cancellation of the production of his play, “Jesus in India”, at Clarion University.
The first and last reason to support Mr. Suh’s actions is that he acted on the right to which every playwright of every color, gender, culture, sexual orientation or physical ability is entitled according to the Dramatists Guild Bill of Rights and according to copyright law: that of ensuring their work is done how they wish it to be done, and that if those wishes are ignored, they may withhold the rights to said work. They should not have to defend a production that was attempted despite the producers' failure to obtain the rights, no matter what reason they have for not granting them.
Over his years as a playwright, Mr. Suh has written many plays about the Asian and Asian American experience. In doing so, he has created many roles for our community, roles that we do not often see - leading roles, nuanced roles, roles in which ethnicity informs the character without creating conflict. In "Jesus in India," again Mr. Suh created characters with a specific ethnic make-up. In casting white actors in the roles of Sushil and Gopal, Clarion claims that it has participated in “non-traditional casting”, a gross misinterpretation of the intended purpose of the concept. In fact, "non-traditional casting" (often more aptly referred to as "inclusive casting") was never meant to give more opportunities to those who have historically had more of them, but to promote the elimination of exclusion in the theatre by casting Actors of color and Actors with disabilities in roles where race, ethnicity, gender, age, and/or presence or absence of a disability are not germane to the character. Clarion has, instead, participated in the whitewashing of Mr. Suh’s play, a practice that Mr. Suh himself cites in his letter to Clarion "is connected to a very painful history of egregious misrepresentation and invisibility, and is incredibly hurtful. Hurtful to a community for whom opportunity and visibility is critical, and also extremely hurtful to me personally as a flippant denial of Asian heritage as a relevant and valid component of one's humanity."
In light of detractors making claims that Mr. Suh has engaged in reverse racism, we encourage everyone to tweet, update and vocalize your viewpoint using the hashtag #IstandwithLloydSuh.