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Screenshot of Beyoncé in the music video of Coldplay's "Hymn for the Weekend."

Offscript: Cynthia Ling Lee & Rebecca Mwase Get in Formation

This week’s guests are performance artists Rebecca Mwase and Cynthia Ling Lee, who discuss cultural appropriation versus cultural exchange as it relates to Beyoncé. Meanwhile, the editors sound off on the ‘Hamilton’ casting nontroversy.

Every other week, the editors of American Theatre curate a free-ranging discussion about the lively arts in our Offscript podcast.

This week, editors Rob Weinert-Kendt, Suzy Evans, and Diep Tran discuss the Hamilton casting nontroversy and what it says about color-conscious casting. And Suzy regales us with tales from her recent trip abroad to the Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro de Bogotá.

Then we interview performance artists Rebecca Mwase and Cynthia Ling Lee*, who discuss the cultural appropriation in two recent Beyoncé music videos: “Formation” and the Coldplay collaboration “Hymn for the Weekend.” Mwase, based in New Orleans, breaks down the triggering NOLA images in “Formation,” while Lee, trained in South Asian dance, calls out the Orientalist images in “Hymn for the Weekend.” They also contrast cultural appropriation with cultural exchange, and how these issues relate to their own work as theatre artists.

Download the episode here. Subscribe via iTunes or RSS.

This week’s recommendations: 

  • Inspired by the Encores! production of 1776 at New York City Center, Diep encourages more producers to cast people of color as founding fathers in this seminal American history musical.
  • Speaking of history and Hamilton, Rob recommends this critical look at the musical from Slate, “A Hamilton Skeptic on Why the Show Isn’t as Revolutionary as It Seems.”
  • And Suzy recommends videos from MCC Theater’s annual gala, Miscast, especially this “surprise” duet between Tina Fey and Tituss Burgess.

*We misrepresent Lee on the podcast. She’s actually based in Greensboro, N.C. and Los Angeles (not San Francisco and Atlanta), and is a choreographer and scholar of contemporary South Asian performance who is trained in kathak, rather than a choreographer and scholar of North Indian kathak. Sorry about that Cynthia! 

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