- The Washington Times - Friday, November 13, 2015

Clarion University of Pennsylvania has canceled a $15,000 stage production at the request of the playwright after he reportedly took issue with the cast being nearly all-white.

Student actors and stage crew arrived Tuesday evening for one of the final rehearsals before the Nov. 18 opening of “Jesus in India” only to learn that it had been canceled at the last minute, a local CBS News affiliate reported.

“We’ve put in all of this work and can’t finish the last section, like nothing is going to get finished,” said stage manager Courtney Chaplin.

Marilouise Michel, university professor of theater and the play’s director, said playwright Lloyd Suh ordered the show to be canceled over “ethnic composition.”

Three of the five characters in the production are Indian, but on the mostly white, rural northwestern Pennsylvania campus, two of the characters were to be played by white actors and a third by a mixed-race student, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

Mr. Suh told the university through his literary agent that he was uncomfortable with Caucasians portraying Indian characters in his play, Bob Levy, chairman of the visual and performing arts department at Clarion, told the Post-Gazette.

“He felt they should be of Asian descent,” Mr. Levy said Wednesday.

“We don’t have a large population of Asian students at the university,” Ms. Michel said. “We opened our auditions to all of the students at the university.”

Mr. Suh, a Korean-American, wanted the parts recast, but ultimately pulled the university’s right to stage the play after being told that would not be possible on such short notice, Mr. Levy said.

Clarion officials said Mr. Suh declined their offers to give him a page in the program to express his opinion on the matter and to have a university representative give a “stage speech” on why no Asian actors were in the cast, the Post-Gazette reported.

The production has cost the university roughly $15,000 in costumes, the set, lighting and the music score, CBS reported. The students had rehearsed their parts six days a week since early October, Mr. Levy said.

“Mostly we are dealing with this like a death in the family, that’s what it feels like,” student actor Victoria Heckert told CBS.

“This was one of the most exciting shows we could have ever done here, and it’s very sad we don’t get to perform it,” student actor Kiah Harrington-Wymer said tearfully.

Mr. Suh declined to comment Wednesday through his literary agent, Beth Blickers. She would only say, “There are several characters of color for which there were not available appropriate actors and so it was decided that the production should not proceed,” the Post-Gazette reported.

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