"Why here? Why now?"
By Somi De Souza
A contemporary and topical Brit play is being performed in Los Angeles.
Wanna know why?
It’s been rejected by all the mainstream fringe venues in London; even the one that granted ‘development week’ based on a public-funded writers’ scheme for ethnic minorities. The play was in fact developed and dumped using tax- payers money! OUCH!
The Royal Court has been the only theatre to give positive feedback. To give feedback. Period. Still a ‘No’ but at least it was a ‘No’ that oozed royal charm. Appreciated.
Strange that amidst the near daily headlines about the lack of diversity in the cultural landscape, a play that has this at its very heart is of no interest to those in charge of the cultural output.
But Los Angeles wants the Revolution!
The LA scene is open to political theatre, particularly when it comes to authentic discussions about race where we don't have to be portrayed as the poor ethnics in some down-trodden stereotypical race issue for the consumption of white middle class audiences who see themselves as liberal.
'"They may hate you in LA but they’ll never say 'How dare you' In Britain they will.”' -Michael P. Edwards, Director.
I dared. I dared to step outside my cultural Alcatraz of HONOUR KILLINGS, FORCED MARRIAGES and TERRORIST PLOTS.
Let’s face it- MUSLIM is now the new entertainment genre that gets butts in seats.
Email from an ex-actor after reading Revolution in a Catsuit:
"Hi Somi, Its good, I really enjoyed. It's going to be really difficult staging this because of the content, too controversial for 'White' theatres, also in terms of our ethnicity we are not viewed as being important enough (Sad as that may be). I really related to the play myself having lived what you wrote about for 10 years. I know it might not be what you want but you might have to contact the asian theatre companies. Well done though, really good work."- Name withheld, British ex-actor of Pakistani heritage
And there you have it. If you’re ethnic, you cannot write whatever you want- it has to be how the mainstream media wants society to perceive your race. The choice? Go to a state subsidized race-based theatre company that will make sure your work checks boxes to secure public funding OR disappear as an artist.
The only way around this is for us (the rising middle class, educated and empowered people of ethnic backgrounds) to take charge of our own images. If we don't, someone else will, as they have been, and we will continue to get what we've been getting…
Thanks to Michael P. Edwards who said ‘yes’ to my script, The Bootleg Theatre for staging the world premier of the show, and of course, the Los Angeles audience for being open to an honest debate about race in media. Because of you, I am free…"
Calling All Warrior Queens!
The play tells the story of Nina, an actress turned activist, who is campaigning for better roles on TV for actors of colour but when her break out role is about to go to Tuhli, her bi-racial sistah-in-arms, the campaign takes on a very different fight. Ambition. Race. Gender. Jealousy. - all play their parts in this behind the scenes look at what happens when a woman places her career above all else... in an industry that will not see beyond her race.
About the show
Forget the caste system! Let's talk about the 'casting system' and its racial profiling of roles for stage and screen. What are we being FED to believe about various skin colours? If Orange is the new Black then Brown is ALWAYS in Orange.
Post 911, Brown = Muslim = Terrorist - the equation media wants to sell us. The danger begins when we buy it.
Somi De Souza's biting satire Revolution in a Catsuit asks,
"IF YOU CAN BE IT, WHY CAN'T YOU PLAY IT?"
Are brown actors allowed to play any role or are they confined only to certain roles? The one role. The same role. Over and over. Particularly in the UK.
But remember, Americans love all things British - The Queen. The accent. Downton Abbey. Farage?
Revolution in a Catsuit is both funny as it is significant and finally gives the diversity debate a human face.