News agencies have recently been discussing the lack of Asian Americans in Broadway and other New York City theatrical productions. According to an article by NPR, Asian Americans make up only 2.3 percent of theatre actors, compared to 3.5 percent Latino, 13.2 percent African American and 80.3 percent white.
The Asian American Action Performers Coalition states that, of the past five theatre season’s 6,639 roles cast, only 54 went to Asian Americans. But while these numbers look shocking, it doesn’t feel shocking. Look at popular music today. While the past year has seen the rise of Bruno Mars, Fareast Movement, and Jenna Ushkowitz and Harry Shum Jr. (the Asians on Fox’s musical drama Glee), the overall industry is lacking an Asian-American presence, while African Americans and, more recently, Latinos have been seeing themselves rise within popular media.
Another article, by Guy Aoki, recites the recent American Idol Asian contestants being walking stereotypes, played up by the cameras. It seems sly to not have an Asian American consistently among the top contestants on the Fox reality show, being as “American” is in its name. At least NBC’s The Voice saw Dia Frampton become a finalist.
Who will be the next breakout Asian American? I guess that’s what this comes down to. We need someone to infiltrate the mainstream population’s line of sight with the type of magnetism that’s kept Brad Pitt and Matt Damon popular fellows, and Zooey Deschanel and Anne Hathaway charming young ladies. But which studio will take the chance at casting an Asian American into a leading role that isn’t typecast? I suppose that’s another question in itself.
Photo: Justin McCraw