Anything but Lily-White

It looks like The Bill Show has received its second production at the end of July. (And I never told you about the first!) Since your author is keeping you laughably uninformed, you may wish to use this link to keep track of Bill Show-related events.

I don’t know nearly as much as I’d like to about this Celebration Arts production in Sacramento. I did have brief contact with the director. She asked permission to change Matsuda so he wasn’t Japanese. Dean and I gave permission to make him into Masukov, a Russian gangster. Since Matsuda was very much a playboy of the western world (only less Irish), it wasn’t too difficult to make the necessary rewrites. The biggest change was probably discarding his signature Japanese flag boxer shorts for skivvies bearing the Soviet hammer and sickle, a gag we used originally in our Spice Girls lip sync.

Privately, Dean and I thought the change was a little disappointing: how hard is it to find Asian actors in California? It made me wonder if any of my productions were ever anything but lily-white. Maybe the Kazakhstan Jack, Wanda, and Ben and Big Game? Do we really have to go halfway around the world to find some non-Anglo actors?

Further news of Celebration Arts’ Bill Show performance led me to their Schedule of Events. (It is, incidentally, the only page of their site I can see on a computer without Flash installed.) Celebration Arts is currently performing Athol Fugard’s Boesman and Lena, and following it will be Shay Youngblood’s Talking Bones. Another article about Bill Show director Chenelle Doutherd is about her performance in Celebration’s Crumbs From the Table of Joy. From this, Celebration Arts seems to primarily be an African-American theatre group. I have no idea what the makeup of The Bill Show cast was, but it’s likely that, even without a Japanese actor, the production was not as James-Taylor-concert-white as I thought it would be.

What I find most interesting is I was originally going to throw a racially-tinged joke into the play. In the last scene, as Chester bemoans his misfortunes, I was going to have Bill say something like, “Come on, Dad; cheer up. It’s not like a business failure means you’re ruined. You’re a rich, white American!” Father and son would then break out into an evil laugh, celebrating their privileged societal status. I decided against this. Bill and Chester may be of the industrial elite, but they aren’t necessarily white.

And maybe in Sacramento they were. But maybe not.

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