“WTF:” A Community Forum on Cross-Ethnic Casting, Feb. 20th, 2011
- CHAT’s casting decision reflected the vision of the organization. While CHAT’s vision is to help the Hmong community, their vision also extends beyond the community into the larger Asian-American community.
- Some of the panelists contended that the boycott was “divisive” for the Asian American arts community while some panelists and audience members stressed that CHAT should have worked harder to find a Hmong actor to play True, the lead female character.
- Art and speech is always political, and we cannot separate the other two; Artists must use art responsibly to create social change.
- Some of the panelists defended Chomet’s casting in that it has resulted in the mentorship of aspiring Hmong artists, between Sun Mee Chomet and other actors in “WTF.”
- At the same time, community perception of the casting needs to be kept in mind. In an email to one of the panelists, one young and aspiring Hmong actor said that if casting was based on who is the “best,” then he stands no chance in the industry without a chance to build professional experience.
- Another panelist echoed the frustration felt by many other Hmong actors: opportunities for Hmong actors to take on roles have been incredibly hard to find, both in the mainstream theater and in Asian American theater.
- In regarding if ethnicity should be considered for casting, one audience member asked what opportunities would exist for children of mixed heritages.
- The final question for the panelist and audience was, “What have we learned from the issue and how can we, as part of the community, move forward in creating opportunities for one another?”
- In closing, one takeaway from the event was that resources, opportunities, and space for Asian American artists are still limited. There is still the need to collaborate and to build capacity for our artists, and to remember that artists can thrive best with the community’s support.
This summary was provided with the assistance of Kong Pha.
Hmong Times also has an writeup at their website.
Recently, community concerns were raised over the cross-ethnic casting of Korean American actress Sun Mee Chomet as the lead in Katie Ka Vang’s play “WTF,” which was produced by Mu Performing Arts and Center for Hmong Arts and Talent.
Writer and community activist Ka Vang had called for a boycott of “WTF,” criticizing the production for utilizing color-blind casting and for missing an opportunity to cast a Hmong actor in a lead role. Playwright Katie Ka Vang was steadfast in her decision in casting Chomet, who she felt was best for the role of True, one of eight Hmong American characters in the play.
The forum was hosted by the State Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans at the Minnesota Humanities Center on February 20, 2011. Panelists included Ka Vang, Sandy Ci’Moua, Katie Ka Vang, Kathy Mouacheupao, and Rick Shiomi.