Saturday, July 24, 2010

Show #40 "Throne of Blood" at Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Of all the shows we took in this week at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, this was one I was anticipating the most. "Throne of Blood" is an adaptation of the Akira Kurosawa film of the same name, which is an adaptation of the Shakespearean play "Macbeth."

It's also another chance to see Japanese characters come to life here in Ashland, OR. Twice in one day even! I couldn't believe my good fortune!

But, even for this champion of non-traditional casting, this show had me thinking and re-thinking my position on this issue.

First off, I was totally prepared to see many non-Asians portray the Japanese characters. After all, the OSF company does not have that many Asian performers, and color-blind casting has been something I long admired about their theatre festival.

But, after seeing this show, with the exception of the actual Asians in the cast (there were two of them), and perhaps one or two other actors, I just couldn't buy this cast as being Japanese.

No, it wasn't their non-Japanese faces that did it. I could have seen past that.

It was a combination of their voices and their movement. They just didn't speak like Japanese warriors or moved like them. I was dismayed to have seen a company of Equity actors who hadn't properly done their homework.

Okay, I'm still a strong proponent of color-blind casting. But even with this sort of artistic affirmative action in place, you still need to do the job right.

There were a lot of things about this production I really enjoyed. But, unfortunately, it just didn't take place in Japan. It took place in Ashland, OR.

That's not good. But, thank you, OSF, for putting on this brave piece of theatre. There were so many things you did right in this show. With another cast, it has the potential to be brilliant.

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