Immigration, Assimilation, Ethnicity and All That Jazz

Cultural Lessons: Drama/Theatre

Posted by chinesecanuck on May 6, 2008

Going to live theatre was definitely part of my upbringing, especially after I was 8 or 9 years old.  If you include ballet, my first stage performance was The National Ballet of Canada‘s The Nutcracker, around Christmas 1987 or 1988 (I’ll do a post on dancing another day).  By my teens, I was going to at least two shows a year (I was a teen during the HEIGHT of British Theatre Invasion of Toronto (Cameron Mackintosh musicals)).  I saw shows such as Les Miserables, Showboat, Miss Saigon, The Phantom of the Opera, Sunset Boulevard, etc, as well as plenty of trips to Stratford.  But when it came to actually being involved in the theatre/drama business (whether it be actor, director, producer or whatever….even if you tell people you want to be the next Ang Lee of the stage), it’s a definite no-no.  No wonder it’s so hard for Asians in this part of the world to be noticed in the film and theatre world!  If you don’t build it, no one will come!

This is what I don’t understand.  Why is it okay to play a musical instrument but not okay to be involved in theatre (with the exception of actually going, of course)?  Can’t theatre be seen as an accomplishment, just like playing piano or violin?  Why is acting, “less proper”?  Does it have to do with the historical connection with prostitution?  Can’t acting or directing be seen as a hobby just like classical music?  I did a double major in drama and history just so I wouldn’t look like I was a rebel.  And the drama part wasn’t even a BFA but a straight BA (Honours).

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4 Responses to “Cultural Lessons: Drama/Theatre”

  1. Alston said

    I think that it’s because it is seen as the province of white people. Most roles are for white people, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that people would not expand their thinking to include you (or I) in the theatre unless there is a very specific reason or role. It’s a bit similar to fashion and comic books, I think.

  2. But it shouldn’t stop you from starting your own production company, writing, etc…even if you say that you’re going to get work in the old country…parents still don’t like it. If you don’t allow it/like it, things won’t change. I guess parents don’t really get that, huh?

  3. I know quite a few Asians who are in the arts (including actors and non-classical musicians). It’s not so simple as “If you don’t build it, no one will come!” Even if you build it, people may not come, because Asians are not seen as marketable.

    Your parents seem very conservative.

  4. They’re not THAT conservative. I’m MORE conservative. There are things that I think are appropriate, yet my parents find outdated. More on that later.

    We’re also talking about independent theatre/film too, which doesn’t really have a big audience to begin with. If few people make movies and produce plays, things will NEVER change. You just have to try harder and find the right mentor. Join a mentorship group. Network. Also, if you aren’t getting enough work, go to the old country. We’re talking about theatre not being considered “proper” in the old country either.

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