Representatives from Knox College are defending their decision to cancel a production of The Good Person of Szechwan over concerns that the there aren’t enough Asian students to fill the cast.
Speaking to the College Fix, Peter Bailley, a Knox College spokesman, said that the college is “proud of the open dialog between our students and faculty, which addressed important issues and concerns that frame our faculty’s teaching.”
Elizabeth Carlin Metz, the chair of Knox College’s theater department, suggested that it was the right call to cancel the play’s performance.
“I believe that academia needs continually to be vigilant about the shifting nuances in addressing sensitive texts,” Metz argued. “I think we must put them in our syllabi and on our stages so that we can interrogate our assumptions and examine our past in order to understand [our] present…We need to acknowledge privilege in all sectors and the inherent bias that ensues. And we all need to listen.”
The Good Person of Szechwan is about a Chinese sex worker who seeks to do “good deeds.” Students expressed concern that the play, which features predominately Chinese characters, would be “whitewashed” due to the lack of Asian students in the drama department. The play was canceled after an uproar from students.
“Students of color have time and time again expressed their concerns about the department’s tendency to stereotype, tokenize and demean minority groups,” the college newspaper’s student editorial board wrote earlier this month. “This treatment of students must stop and can only be stopped by the professors taking the time to actively listen to their students.”
“It’s a play that’s set in China. What Neil is doing, as far as I understand, is taking that and moving that to a Europe centralized setting. Which then makes sure all the characters could be white,” sophomore Joel Willison complained, referencing theater professor Neil Blackadder