â€œWhat I love about The Lion King is that this is a show with a predominantly nonwhite cast that is not about race. On the other hand, itâ€™s all about race â€” and that should be acknowledged, because there are very powerful traditions from a certain race, and that fact shouldnâ€™t be ignored. â€œWe shouldnâ€™t have to think about it,â€ the Disney people insisted. â€œAnd I was saying, â€˜No, youâ€™re absolutely wrong. We are absolutely going to think about race here. Weâ€™re going to have a person representing the king on that mountain and heâ€™s going to be wearing African-inspired clothes.â€™ White people may say that race doesnâ€™t matter, but to black people, race matters, totally. As some have told me, â€˜Itâ€™s the first time my son has seen a black person representing a king on stage.â€™ That moment at the top of the mountain is the first time heâ€™s seen in a position of power, the father kindly talking to his son about what itâ€™s going to be like to be king â€” something that white people take for granted, but itâ€™s very, very powerful. America is up on stage, and, I hope, the future of America, where race is interchangeable.â€
I really like that thinking. There was a recent hullaboo at La Jolla Playhouse where Chinese characters were cast with caucasian actors. I’m not going to yap about it here because I’ve already talked about it extensively with several friends, but one of the interesting points of the discussion that this workshop actually violated an Actors Equity rule — the term “multicultural” was to create more work for African-American, Asian/Pacific Islander, Latino, handicapped, and Native American actors. You can’t call a production “multicultural” but do the opposite.
Anyhoo, Julie Taymor’s quote clarified certain things for me. First of all, that lady is remarkably bright and sensitive. You usually hear white casting directors and directors complain there aren’t any minority actors (there are tons, but they usually just know each other — so to me, this is a sign that there isn’t much integration in our society) and that race shouldn’t matter if the performance is strong. Her quote points out dude, white people always say that because they never think about race; non-white people always think about race.
That is all.