In covering the Guthrie Theater's 50th anniversary season last week, one thing became very clear; the lack of diversity on the theater stage is an ongoing national problem.
20 years ago the lack of roles for Asian American actors, and the lack of learning opportunities for aspiring Asian American actors, led Rick Shiomi to found Mu Performing Arts.
Photo by Lia Chang
Today Shiomi can list an impressive number of young actors who got their first acting opportunities at Mu, and are now regularly employed by other theaters around town.
On McKnight Foundation's "State of the Artist" blog, Shiomi wrote that while theaters may be gradually diversifying their plays- and their casts - there will always be a need for his theater, and other similar ethnic theaters.
Mu plays a key role in the continuing development of new Asian American theater talent because it is part of our mandate and primary values. Other companies may do Asian American work on occasion, but their role is not to train and develop Asian American artists. So if the flow of Asian American actors were to somehow dry up, their answer to why they might use "yellow face" or not use Asian American actors in diverse casts, would simply be that there are no qualified Asian American actors available. That was the answer before Mu, that is the answer when "yellow face" is used now, and that would be the answer in the future if the pool of Asian American artists were diminished.
There are challenges in the broader vision of Mu. When an actor has the opportunity to work at a larger company, it is hard for them to stay with a Mu production. But that happens to every small theater. That's why we at Mu are so intent upon developing more talent, so when an actor gets the chance to jump up, we have someone in the wings waiting for their opportunity. Losing singular talented actors to bigger theaters is hard, but in the broader scheme of things, more Asian American actors working on more stages in the Twin Cities is good for everyone.
You can read the rest of Rick Shiomi's piece here.
Posted at 3:56 PM on May 4, 2012
by Marianne Combs
Filed under: Events
This is one of those weekends that makes me wish I could replicate myself. There are simply too many great things going on! Here's just a partial list; do yourself a favor and make an effort to see/participate in at least one of these many cultural offerings.
May Day Parade
Photo: Heart of the Beast
Cinco de Mayo offers a full day of entertainment in West Saint Paul, including live music, contests and a lowrider car show.
The 38th annual MayDay Parade is this Sunday in Minneapolis. Featuring community built floats, Heart of the Beast puppets and lots of good fun, the parade and subsequent ceremony focus this year on the end of the world as we know it, and the transition to a better one.
Tonight Ballet of the Dolls presents a one-night-only performance at the Ordway Center in downtown Saint Paul. Faith: A Dance for Life, is a world premiere ballet work based on one man's dream and/or reality in the time required to take a singular breath.
Penumbra Theater presents The Amen Corner, James Baldwin's play about a woman's spiritual crisis when reunited with her estranged husband. The show, which runs through June 17 at the Guthrie Theater, stars Greta Oglesby, who received rave reviews for her starring role in Caroline, or Change.
A young woman ventures into a dangerous woods to confront Baba Yaga the witch. Ten Thousand Things presents Vasa Lisa, a new play by local playwright Kira Obalensky based on Russian folk tales. Performances run four weekends - the first two at Open Book, the second two at the MN Opera Center.
So what are you doing this weekend?