I present to you, select choices from my preferred Batman reboot cast. According to Rule 63. And racebent. Guys, this would be glorious. I’m tellin’ ya: glorious.
Brooke Wayne/Batwoman: Gina Torres
Reasoning: Her breathtaking performance as kicker of asses, Zoe Washburne. She can do cool and stoic under fire. I’d like to see her brood.
Alma Pennyworth: Loretta Devine
Reasoning: Literally the only woman with enough sass to portray a Pennyworth.
Richelle Grayson/Robin: Nikki Soohoo
Reasoning: Freaking adorable. Aaaaaaand experience pretending to be a gymnast.
Shane Kyle/Catman: John Abraham
Reasoning: Look at him. LOOK. LOOOOOOOOOOK.
Commissioner Jamie Gordon: Jennifer Beals
Reasoning: I just really miss The Chicago Code, and her performance as an utterly dedicated, no-nonsense officer of the law.
Victor Vale: Godfrey Gao
Reasoning: Okay seriously, are you looking at him? That’s why.
Harper Dent/Two-Face: Kelly Hu
Reasoning: One of my absolute favorite actresses, she’s fabulous good or evil and I’d love to see her waver between the two.
The Joker: Angela Bassett
Reasoning: I can’t think of any other actress with the chops to pull this off. She’d be phenomenal.
Parker Isley/Poison Ivy: Santiago Cabrera
Reasoning: He looks good with a beard and he can do sorrow like no other. See Merlin.
Evelyn Nigma/The Riddler: Dichen Lachman
Reasoning: Her constantly changing performance on Dollhouse makes me think she’d be perfect to develop a mysterious, unique take on the Riddler that the movies have not yet seen.
You write a musical. It’s called “The Nightingale”. Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale. It’s not finished yet, different drafts and versions abound, each getting its own try-out in the form of a workshop. You put a lot of work into it. You want it to succeed.
“The Nightingale” being set in China and involving Chinese characters, there is of course one workshop where all the roles are played by Asians. Duh.
But you didn’t like that version.
Something about it struck you as …
Well, it felt small.
Small when it should be grand. “The Nightingale” is a myth (well, more accurately a fairy tale, but who’s going to parse the difference?) and being a myth, it should be … mythic.
Grandeur. That’s it. That’s the word you’re looking for.
Grandeur and universality, a mirror into which so many different people can see themselves, unalienated, because a myth has to have universal application, universal endorsement, universal, um, you want help, you’re running out of words …
But in the workshop, one Asian face walked on stage, followed by another, and then yet another, a whole chorus of them, and suddenly …
Well, it just kept getting smaller and smaller.
It was literal. That’s it. Literal. And not mythic.
Literal when it should be mythic.
Literal because well — you’ll just say it and risk a chorus of disapproval — an Asian walks on stage and he can only be himself. He does not bring the world with him. Ingenue, lover, fighter, villain, protector, monarch — nuh-uh, none of these. He reads small. And that smallness will transfer to your work. And a small work is an unendorsed work. You have ambitions. You want endorsement. Of course you do.
An Asian walks on stage and he reads small. Case-study-sized. Life-sized. Literal. Only himself, and no other discernible qualities that would make the surrender of heroic transference by an audience easy and pleasurable.
Civic lessons, yes. Well, if this were a musical about civics lessons …
In the audience, you among them, watching the Asians making “The Nightingale” smaller and smaller, you thought of each act of heroic transference that couldn’t occur marked by a dollar sign. You’re smart. And pragmatic. Such a thought would be no stranger to someone smart and pragmatic.
Think of the negative hole that puts you and your work in.
Nuh-uh. Let’s do another workshop. The monarch in China is white. White is the universal solvent. Into him so many other colors will fold. In white is yellow, black, brown, red. The size of the world. Grandeur. That’s the word. Grandeur. And mythic. Grandeur and mythic. You will repeat the words in tandem or singly over and over. A mantra.
Bu in white is yet another color. In white is green. But this is something you will never say."
An excerpt from Asian American writer Han Ong’s Facebook status essay, “The Nightingale Affair,” regarding the play “The Nightingale” being put on in La Jolla, Calif. by the creators of the Broadway musical “Spring Awakening.” Although the play is set in ancient China, the main character (the Emperor of China) is played by two white actors. There are no Asian American men in the cast and only a small handful of women of color in supporting roles. As Ong writes, the situation is about “ Asians fighting to be able to play themselves on stage.” (via racebending)
As someone who saw Spring Awakening and adore it still…
Seriously. Fuck Sater and Sheik. All that cred they got after Spring and this is what they do?