Issues of Race Shut Down University Play Days Before Opening Night

13 Nov, 2015, 14:52 ET from Clarion University

HARRISBURG, Pa., Nov. 13, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- The student actors of Clarion University never anticipated they'd be the latest headlines, punished for their race. Clarion University department of visual and performing arts was scheduled to open the off-Broadway musical "Jesus in India" on Nov. 18 until playwright, Lloyd Suh, yanked production rights and "condemned the way it had been cast."

The small, state college in northern Pennsylvania has spent much of the year preparing for the musical only to learn by casting Caucasian and mixed-race actors in roles intended for South Asian actors, the production is canceled. With a student body of about 5,368 students, only 0.6 percent of students are Asian and no Asians auditioned for the play. The University claims their intent from the start was to honor the integrity of the playwright's work, and the contract for performance rights did not specify ethnically appropriate casting. Despite the University's attempt to give Suh a page in the program to explain his casting objections and a stage speech given by a university representative on the cast's race, Suh rejected any solutions other then removing the non-Asian actors or canceling the production.

"We have no further desire to engage with Mr. Suh, the playwright, as he made his position on race to our theater students crystal clear," says Dr. Karen Whitney, Clarion University President. "I personally prefer to invest my energy into explaining to the student actors, stage crew and production team members why the hundreds of hours they committed to bringing 'Jesus in India' to our stage and community has been denied since they are the wrong skin color."

Clarion University students and administrators were left stunned by Suh's decision, including senior Kiah Harrington-Wymer who was set to play a main character in the musical. As reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Harrington-Wymer spent months preparing for the role, which was to be her senior-year capstone project, and was devastated by the news. Harrington-Wymer is of mixed race and has experienced her fair share of discrimination and claims this hurts just as much as any other time.

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SOURCE Clarion University