THE KING & I (St. Kevin’s College, 2012)

Cindy Tsai is an Asian American college student in a BFA musical theatre program in Boston and wrote about her first semester and her experiences with racism there:

One requirement of the musical theatre program here is that each student must have private coaching sessions with the department’s faculty members twice a semester. Just the student and the faculty members in a room together. During one coaching session, I asked for suggestions from a faculty member for new songs I should put in my audition book. The white faculty member asked if I had looked at The King and I. This suggestion had nothing to do with my voice range or my personality. This suggestion was given on the basis that I could play someone in The King and I, a show that portrays a group of Asian people as barbaric and exotic, then shows these people being indoctrinated with English culture. This advice was a shortcut – an excuse to see me as less than a full human being, as nothing more than my race. Thanks for the suggestion.

One day in jazz class, the instructor was teaching a dance move and specified that boys should do it one way and girls should do it another way. My classmates and I cringed as she continued, saying that in this industry, there are certain standards for male and female parts… the same way there are standards for racial types. She looked at me and said that if a part called for an Asian female, I would be typed as that because that is what I am. Thanks for the reminder.

I didn’t realize how much I stood out in this program. My white classmates are seen as blank, the norm, while I am color.

To read the full article, go to: The Nuances of Racism in Theatre School