Sunday, July 26, 2015

Why the Roundabout Casting of Noises Off is Problematic

The recent cast announcement for Roundabout Theatre Company's Noises Off (brought to my attention on Facebook by Kate Rigg) is extremely problematic. The all-white casting of a play about a company putting on a production paints the picture that theatre is still only by and for white people. The arguments defending this choice--casting based off of talent or an artistic vision--are equally as problematic.

Okay, so let's just argue the casting of this show was based off the nine actors who were the most talented who auditioned for these roles. However, if the best talent argument is used, why do we stop at disregarding race? Why not gender, too? Why not a male Belinda or female Selsdon? "But the roles are written for specific genders, not for specific races!" So what this tells me is when a role is not ethnically specific the default for someone casting that role is white. I'd be curious to see what the default would be for non-gender specific roles. "What? Non-gender specific roles? That doesn't make sense! Some of those characters are supposed to be in love with each other! Boys can't be in love with other b..." Yeah, I think an organization like SCOTUS is going to disagree with that.

Fine. Let's disregard the gender restriction and go back to ethnic specificity. Is it to be believed that not one actor of color who auditioned was as equally talented to play any of these nine roles as the person who was cast? And let me remind you that Roundabout states on its website that it is an Equal Opportunity Employer. (Thank you Miki Yamashita) The implications that there are no talented actors of color are far beyond what I could explain in this blog, so I'm going to create an entire separate blog which I will link here when it's done.

Screen-cap from Roundabout Theatre Company's Website

But, I mean...come on...really?!?


Perhaps there were better actors of color for some of these roles, but for whatever reason the producers or director couldn't envision them in the roles. Again, this reads to me as an artistic team that only sees non-ethnic specific plays as all white. This production's casting makes a statement to the world and audiences that; only white people create theatre. White actors, white directors, and white stage managers. These choices seem to me unimaginative and lazy. 

You might ask, "What would a diverse cast add?" Farce is all about setting up and tearing down expectations. What if Brooke was Asian? If we play to stereotype, an Asian actress who always wears glasses may be trying out new contacts for this show, which would explain her constant loss of them. Additionally, to play against stereotype of Asians who are studious and the model minority, how funny could it be that she is the space cadet of the cast? What if Dotty was a Latina? Again, it feeds into stereotype of a Latina house keeper, but then how much more resonate could Dotty's lines read about being unhappy with playing that type of role? Make Lloyd, the director, a person of color, because it would explain Lloyd's troubling behavior in the show! For the most part, directors of color who are directing non-ethnic specific plays are always feeling an added amount of undue pressure. In three simple choices we've added an extra depth to three characters. See what a little imagination can do?

Still having a hard time seeing Noises Off cast diversely? Then, I think you need to admit that you are someone who sees white as the default. I don't need to sit here and tell you you're wrong. But, I am going to tell you that you need to own it. Own that you only see a White America. Own that this production is choosing to work with white actors and tells the story that a white director only works with a white stage managers and white actors. Own that this is the story that is being told on stage. Exclaim it to the world; "MY DEFAULT WORLD IS WHITE!!!" Is that difficult? Is it uncomfortable? Does it feel wrong? Like I said, I don't need to sit here and tell you, you're wrong. Your own conscience seems to be telling you that.

Regardless if a white dominate American theatre is not the artistic vision you intended for the stage, that is the hidden message that is being put and told on the stage. And if that's the story you want to tell, I know a target market of confederate flag waving, #AllLivesMatter hashtag using, and anti-immigrant Trump lovers that you should be reaching out to.

But if you're ready to join the progressive side of America, where in just a few decades the minority will become the majority (which is already true in some cities such as Los Angeles), then start looking for that diversity in your artistic choices. Start looking for that in your actors, your directors, your designers, your writers. Don't get left behind. Or at least, don't start scratching your head when "your" audience starts disappearing, stops donating, and can no longer be found when you're the one looking for work. Then again, if drowning out the necessity of diversity with these #WhiteNoises helps you sleep a night...

(Thanks Rodney To for the #WhiteNoises inspiration.)


UPDATE: Previously I had called this the "seemingly all-white cast" because I didn't know the entire cast very well, so I didn't want to presume that none of those actors might be mixed race and be white passing. That being said, my friend Trevor Biship on Facebook reminds me that "casting is about making a statement. Regardless of 'passing,' this statement is pretty clear to me." And he is correct, this casting statement reads all white to me. And now after doing my research on the individual cast members, the most ethnic diversity comes from actors with some Armenian and Albania's backgrounds...

Additionally, I previously suggested a male Poppy, but got a few reminders from people that her female anatomy becomes a crucial plot point in the play.

Also, after looking back at the casting notice for this production from Backstage, the notice asked for submissions from ALL ETHNICITIES...well, that seemed to go well for them...Either the company backed out at the last minute of making diverse casting choices, OR there was very little intention to actually cast diversely, and the ask for all ethnicities was purely for show. I'm noting director 
Jeremy Herrin as well as casting by Jim Carnahan and Stephen Kopel for the future. It would be great to get a response from them or RTC about what happened in this casting process that started with all ethnicities in the submission but ended with an all-white cast.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Critical Reviews of Washer/Dryer

Rachna Khatau, Ewan Chung, Corey Wright, Karen Huie and Nancy Stone in
Washer Dryer by Nandita Shenoy at East West Players
Photo by Michael Lamont

In full transparency, I like to post all the review of my show; the good, the bad, and the ugly! Washer/Dryer has gotten a good mix, things that I agree and don't agree with on both sides. But what has been noted through all of them so far, is that the show is filled with laughs, which means you're going to have a good time. Check out my favorite highlights below.


"Under director Peter J. Kuo's competent direction, the proceedings are diverting in a Norman Lear way...a sincere, well intended contrivance that gets its laughs like clockwork.... Khatau’s fresh, understated heroine and Chung’s likable, short-fused hero are nicely matched -- she is hilarious at her climactic meltdown, and he valiantly strives to keep the various tropes from stereotype. Huie and Stone expertly attack their functionary roles, and Wright, who also voices Sonya’s doorman, performs his duties with outsized flair"

"Big Load of Talent Tossed Into WASHER/DRYER Spins Outa Clean, Hot, Fresh, Finished Pice of Entertainment...Director Peter J. Kuo whips this talented cast of five through a fast, even paced ninety-minutes of social issues served up on a tasty elixir of laughter."

"...a nearly unqualified rave...Shenoy’s ingenious—and consistently hilarious—script... Peter J. Kuo’s inspired direction...a cast that ought to be transferred lock, stock, and wok to the small screen if and when Washer/Dryer is awarded the weekly 30-minute slot it so richly deserves."

"Directed by Peter Kuo with a sitcom sensibility, the piece feels like a pilot of the likes of Dharma & Greg...for those who loved Dharma & Greg, this is quite a compliment."

"[A] magnificent new comedy – a triumphant coming together of acting, directing, writing and timing...the funniest play I’ve seen in a year as director Peter J Kuo superbly handles the farce and family dynamics."
Review - - Washer/Dryer (February 22, 2015)

"Reasonably well-acted and seasoned with some light hijinks..."
Review - LA Weekly - Washer/Dryer (February 23, 2015)

See if you agree! Washer/Dryer runs at East West Players until March 15, 2015! Get your tickets at

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Audience Responses to Washer/Dryer

Ewan Chung and Rachna Khatau in
Washer/Dryer by Nandita Shenoy.
Photo by MichaelLamont
This is what audiences have been saying about Washer/Dryer online:

4.2 stars out of 5 on Goldstar
"What a wonderful show!"- SoCalGirl

"Very well done. Unique plot & well acted. Very funny!" - Apmed

"GO see it-soooo great." - Leanne S., Facebook 2/14/15

"It's a super fun time!!" Justin L., Facebook 2/14/15

"Congratulations on a funny and great-sounding production." - Joey D. Facebook 2/14/15

"WASHER DRYER at East West Players. hilarious and really exciting; it's the first time I've seen a romantic comedy where the central characters are a Chinese American man and South Asian woman. Lovely work." - Greg W., Facebook 2/14/15"

"Get your arses to East West Players and go see Nandita Shenoy's "Washer/Dryer"!!! It's one of the best things I've seen at EWP and certainly one of the funniest plays I've seen in a long time." - Rodney T., Facebook, 2/12/15.

"A fun romp!" - Janet M., Facebook, 2/14/15

"SUCH a great show!" - Christopher B., Facebook, 2/14/15

"It was a great 90min feel good romantic comedy. Go See It!" - Dina D., Facebook, 2/13/15

"Saw a hilarious preview of Washer/Dryer at East West Players. Go see it when it opens." - Jordan W. - Twitter, 2/13/15

"Had a blast last night at Washer/Dryer." - Scott M., Twitter, 2/12/15

"Go see Washer/Dryer @EWPlayers! Sweet, funny, wonderful performances + well-directd!" - Dana L., Twitter, 2/12/15

GET YOUR TICKETS! The show closes March, 15, 2015: Go to

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Washer/Dryer at EWP; Feb. 12 - Mar. 15

There are a lot of reasons I'm excited about directing this production of Washer/Dryer at East West Players. Yes, it's my directorial debut on East West Players' main stage. Yes, I'm joining the ranks of a theatre company that I've known, studied, and worked at administratively for more than half of my life. Yes, I have an incredibly talented team of actors, designers and production staff members. 

But what is really exciting about this play is, not only does it feature hilarious writing and a heartfelt struggle between loneliness and relationships, but it reflects the reality of what a diverse America looks like today. The central themes of these plays aren't about race, or sexuality. Yet, the play features characters that are written to reflect multiple races and sexual identities. There is no huge thematic reason these characters are the way they are. They just are. And that's how it should be. It broadens the audience to seeing a diverse group of people on the stage, and then hopefully more on television and in films.

Please check your schedules now and reserve the time (and your ticket) to see this hilarious new production!

East West Players presents

by Nandita Shenoy
Directed by Peter J. Kuo

February 12 - March 15, 2015

Love. Lies. (Dirty) Laundry.

A newlywed's marriage is put to the test by her husband's intrusive mother-in-law, their New York co-op’s strict president, and--worst of them all--the her washer/dryer. Tempers and misunderstanding flare and mayhem ensues as the couple is forced to re-evaluate their relationship and decide whether all is fair in love and real estate. Washer/Dryer is a hilarious new farce that examines marriage in the modern day against the backdrop of New York City real estate.  

Ewan Chung, Karen Huie, Rachna Khatau, Nancy Stone and Corey Wright

Set Design - Arturo Betanzos and Sasha Monge
Costume Design - Sara Ryung Clement
Lighting Design - Rebecca Bonebrake
Sound Design - Howard Ho
Prop Master - Sasha Monge
Stage Manager - Michelle Gutierrez-Martina
Assistant Stage Manager - Brandon Cheung

Tickets and additional info at: or 213.625.7000

Performances are at
David Henry Hwang Theater
at 120 Judge John Aiso Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012