Tuesday, January 10, 2012

DAY 51: I Take All Kinds, Even Your Racist Bullshit

In my history of doing theater and performing music, I don't mind reading reviews: Good or Bad.  It's the nature of the business and frankly, what I do onstage will not change.  My job is to serve the creatives and my personal art;  not that of any critic.  I think everyone has a right to their opinions.... EXCEPT when they write things that are unnecessarily hateful (aware or unaware).

Here is the review in question:

Green Day’s American Idiot Toronto Production Intelligent-enough idiocy, until Jan. 15.

I was in my dressing room today when it was brought to my attention:  "Hey, have you read the review where they call you a token."

From the review by Mr.  Kerry Doole, "It’s hard to fault the dancing or singing of any of the cast, though for a bunch of punks everybody was a mite too freshly scrubbed and wholesome-looking. The actual dance routines could have done with more pogoing, moshing or slam-dancing to be punk-credible, while the inclusion of Asian and black actors seemed a little token."

It is certainly hard to fault the cast for their performances (wouldn't have minded if he did).  Instead, it is much easier to fault the creatives for assembling a diverse cast of actors in 2012.

"...while the inclusion of Asian and black actors seemed a little token" 

Upon further discussion with my castmates, we have decided that the meaning of this quote is to imply one or many of the following:

-In a suburban USA and later urban NYC, there are no Asian or black people.
-The punk revolution is a whites only counter culture.
-Actors of color are only cast, not based on merit or talent, but to fulfill some unspoken professional quota of minority performers.  Broadway's own Affirmative Action plan, if you'll have it.

I would list that I have followed the punk culture pretty much my entire Asian life.  I would list that Long Island is as suburban as it gets and I call it home (where I was one of a few but still many Asian teenagers in my town.  Oh yea, I'm pretty confident that black people also live on Long Island).  I would list the ever growing list of bands emerging out of the Asian hardcore punk scene developing worldwide.  I would list that if Broadway Affirmative Action were actually real, I would be a much happier, and richer actor today.

Alas, Mr. Doole.... I need not list anything to demonstrate how blatantly ignorant your self-posturing comments have come off. 

We have been so well-received in Canada with positive reviews and wonderful audiences.  I expect along the way we'll receive similar reviews to Mr. Doole's and that will be fine with me because it's much easier to write a scathing review than to do a "squeaky-clean theatre" piece like American Idiot.

But Mr. Doole.... he is a self-proclaimed "lover of first generation punk"  and wishes that American Idiot would more embody the true spirit of punk.  Among his astute observations, he suggests that, "surely it wouldn’t have hurt the bassist to trim his long locks, in the spirit of the show."  Just like one of the undeniable patriarchs of punk, the well-groomed, hair-trimmed Ramones:

Oh wait.....

Fun Facts:

1. The Ramones hail from Forest Hills, Queens.... aka The Land of No Asians (ahem. cough, cough).
2. Without "tokens" in the American Idiot family we would have to find the all white counterparts for--  Krystina Alabado, Nicci Claspell, Justin Guarini, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Gabrielle McClinton, Jarran Muse, Corbin Reid, Wallace Smith, Okieriete Onaodowan, Josh Henry,  Christina Sajous--- among many others to represent Mr. Doole's narrow view of the punk demographic.
3.  The term "token" traditionally refers to ONE of any category being represented.  The tour currently has three "token" black actors appearing at the same time from Principal to Ensemble characters.
4.  If I were hired as any "token" perhaps "token gay".  And who has every heard of gay punk rock besides the virtually unknown Pansy Division ?!?!  (again, ahem.  cough, cough).


  1. I was gonna comment on Twitter but I'm pretty sure my comment will go over 140 characters, so....
    Okay, what the hell?
    In all honesty, the fact that you got a review that says all that just... pisses me off. Simple as that.
    I mean, I get that sometimes, reviews would be negative. But negative when it comes to performance or something, not to race.
    In 2012, in the modern (freaking) world, that's just ridiculous.

    I mean. I'm a high school student in a post-communist, Balkan country, and yet there's currently a Vietnamese Bulgarian actor playing in Spring Awakening in my school's production. Why? Because it's the 21st century, it's THEATRE, and surprise, (Mr. Doole), actors are cast based on their skills, not their race.

    Jesus, this is outrageous. As you can tell, I'm-- a bit angry.

    But there's one thing you can do, and you're doing it already -- your performance will show that no one's been cast as a "token". And I know you practically prove this every single night.

    Also, I really hope that that Mr. Doole reads this blog post, and.... well. Thinks about it. (And then feels terrible.)

    That's all. And I apologize if my comment got a bit too long.

    Neda Marie (@idiette)

  2. That's not a review, that is just superficial comments. A review would dig into the story and its relationship today's society. It would investigate the character's responses and motivations for their actions in relation to the society in which the play is set. It would discuss the aspects of theatre such as choreo, light/set design, costuming, etc. It includes the viewers visceral reaction to the show and their reasoning for it. In no circumstance is there any need to comment on the the race or sexuality of any actor, as most sentient human beings are aware. It is obvious in his use of these statements that he does not understand the role of a critic, and should be relegated to the role of a pathetic letter to the editor in the vein of "Dear Abby, I'm a dumbass". I can't wait to see what new stories the Idiot tour cast bring to the stage. And I know you all give 1000% every night.

  3. Go check to see if "Mr. Reviewer" actually picked up his tickets and saw the show. There was a "review" done by a website in Nashville of In the Heights that was rude, racist and sounded very much like this one...turns out the guy didn't even pick up his tickets and never saw the show. After it was brought to the attention of the cast and then the public, the "review" was taken down and an apology issued.
    Also, he sounds like he fancies himself a punk rock expert and wrote of Green Day as "superficial" and "main stream" therefore giving this show no chance at all. But the fact of the matter is that just because you like punk, doesn't mean you'll like this show. And just because you might not like punk much, doesn't mean you won't like it.
    You all keep doing what you're doing. This show isn't about white suburban kids. It's about anyone who's every felt like they don't belong or fit in where they are.
    THANK YOU for continuing to give your all. Just a little over a week and I'll get to experiance it myself.

  4. Someone shared this on FB today and it made me physically ill. I can't think of anything else to say about that. Can't wait until you guys get to Detroit next week!

  5. Some people are ridiculous. Props to you for this response, which completely proves this article wrong. From this blog and your Twitter, I think anyone can tell that you care immensely about this project and are far from a "token" cast member. One of the messages I personally took away from this show was that you belong somewhere, even if you have to run away from it to find that feeling of belonging. People of all races, genders, sexualities, etc have something they can learn from this musical, and some way to relate. It celebrates the diversity of our culture and the punk mindset is one that "outcasts" (which I say lovingly) of our society can find themselves in.

    In short, keep doing what you're doing and fuck them hatahs. You rock.