MISS SAIGON: White Actor Denied Immigration Visa for Not Being Asian


From the New York Times:

Producer Cancels ‘Miss Saigon’; 140 Members Challenge Equity

By MERVYN ROTHSTEIN

Published: August 9, 1990

The producer of the hit London musical ”Miss Saigon” announced yesterday that he was canceling the show’s Broadway production, which had already sold a record $25 million in advance tickets, because Actors’ Equity had denied permission for the English actor Jonathan Pryce to repeat his performance in New York. …

In a statement issued earlier by his London office, Mr. [Cameron] Mackintosh [the producer] said: ”In denying approval for Jonathan Pryce, Actors’ Equity has violated its own collective bargaining agreement with the League of American Theaters and Producers as well as its agreement with British Equity. Under these agreements, the only issue which Equity has the right to consider in making its decision is whether or not Jonathan Pryce is a ‘star.’ Equity has previously certified Mr. Pryce as a ‘star,’ when it endorsed his appearance on Broadway in 1984 under an H-1 visa. Therefore, there is no legal basis for their objecting to his admission for ‘Miss Saigon.’ ”

Equity, in its statement Tuesday barring Mr. Pryce, said that it could not ”appear to condone the casting of a Caucasian in the role of a Eurasian.” …

”It’s a legitimate argument they have, trying to insure that any racial minority is given full opportunity to work in the arts,” Mr. Pryce said. ”But I thought logic and reason would prevail.” … If the character is half Asian and half European, you’ve got to drop down on one side of the fence or the other, and I’m choosing to drop down on the European side.” …

A Broadway production of ”Miss Saigon,” a musical about an American G.I. and his Vietnamese girlfriend during the last days of the Vietnam War just before the fall of Saigon, would have provided roles for 50 actors, about 34 of whom would have been members of minority groups. Those jobs, as well as hundreds of others from possible touring companies, are now apparently lost. …

”Indeed, Equity has rejected our application solely on the grounds that Mr. Pryce is Caucasian,” the statement continued. ”By choosing to discriminate against Mr. Pryce on the basis of his race, Equity has further violated fundamental principles of Federal and state human rights laws, as well as of Federal labor laws.”

… The dispute over Mr. Pryce’s appearance on Broadway began when David Henry Hwang, the Tony Award-winning author of ”M. Butterfly,” and B. D. Wong, who won a Tony Award as best supporting actor in that play, complained to Equity.

You see, B.D. Wong felt he racially deserved the starring role of the half-French / half-Vietnamese character because Jonathan Pryce is 100% Welsh, and Wales is part of Great Britain, and Great Britain and France have often been enemies, whereas B.D. is 100% Chinese, and look how well the Chinese and Vietnamese have always gotten along. So you can see it is simple genetic arithmetic.

No, wait … that’s not it …

Instead, it’s much simpler: the Pryce is white and no Wongs make a wrong.

No that’s still too complicated. Okay, here’s the essence:

White is Bad.

Not white is Good.

Eventually, Mackintosh’s brinkmanship paid off and he opened on Broadway with the first ever $100 tickets. Pryce won a Tony.

But since then, no white man has been allowed to play the Eurasian role in the United States.

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