Asian-American actors and artists in theatre have taken to Twitter to share stories about challenges, insults and brick walls they face as Asian Americans in theatre and film. Using the hashtag #MyYellowFaceStory, Asian-American performers, including Tony Award winner Lea Salonga, posted brief anecdotes about their experiences.
The campaign was launched after it was announced that Tilda Swinton was cast in Doctor Strange and Scarlett Johansson was cast in Ghost in the Shell, both non-Asians playing roles that were written as Asian characters.
David Henry Hwang, the Tony Award-winning playwright of M. Butterfly, told NBC.com, ”I think the general public is unaware how few opportunities are open to minority actors. Sharing these stories may help folks understand why it's so damaging when the few Asian roles that do exist end up going to white actors, two of the most publicized recent examples being Tilda Swinton and Scarlett Johansson. Moreover, since actors of color are routinely excluded from even auditioning for many roles, how can anyone believe that the white actors hired were truly the best men or women for those jobs?”
“Yellow face” is a term for white performers who make themselves up to look Asian, similar to “blackface” for white actors who play black characters.
Here are samples of the #MyYellowFaceStory posts:
In grad school I was told if I was uncomfortable with white actors in Asian roles I shouldn't have written Asian roles #MyYellowfaceStory— A. Rey Pamatmat (@AReyP) April 27, 2016
that time I was told my Indian accent didn't sound as real as Hank Azaria's #MyYellowFaceStory pic.twitter.com/MJHTblj1iQ— anjili (@anjili) April 27, 2016
That time an audience member wrote in "there were no Asians or Blacks in Shakespeare's time." #myyellowfacestoryhttps://t.co/UrgQq5zx6h— Ariel Estrada (@arielestrada) April 27, 2016
That time the sound designer for my first play asked, "So what are we gonna use? Chink-y music?" #MyYellowFaceStory https://t.co/3Kvj5XXyKV— David Hwang (@DavidHenryHwang) April 29, 2016
That time I auditioned for Oliver! And they said, " but who can you play?" #myyellowfacestory #asianactorproblems— Ann Harada (@annharada) April 18, 2016
That time I was told I couldn't be seen for My Fair Lady because I was Asian. And I already won my Tony. #MyYellowFaceStory— Lea Salonga (@MsLeaSalonga) April 29, 2016