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Clarion University Play Canceled Over Actors' Race

CLARION (KDKA) – A group of students at Clarion University were set for the opening night of a stage production. Then, they got the news – "the show must not go on."

"We've put in all of this work and can't finish the last section, like nothing is going to get finished," said Courtney Chaplin, the stage manager for the play "Jesus in India."

Clarion University was told to cancel the play by the playwright.

The set hasn't been torn down yet, but the marquee outside Little Theater reads, "This production has been canceled."

The playwright cited "ethnic composition."

Marilouise Michel, Clarion University professor of theater and the play's director, explains what she was told.

"On Monday afternoon, I received an email from the playwright telling me that he demanded that we recast the show with Asian actors or shut down our production," she said.

A lot easier said than done for the primarily white state university.

"We don't have a large population of Asian students at the university," Michel said. "We opened our auditions to all of the students at the university."

"Jesus in India" is a contemporary take on the lost years of Jesus Christ as a wayward teenager along his journey to the east, complete with punk rock music and drugs, written by Lloyd Suh.

"He is a Korean-American who writes plays primarily for Asian theaters and Asian companies to promote opportunities for Asian actors," Michel said.

Students had been rehearsing for weeks for the five performance show. The production has cost the university roughly $15,000 in costumes, the set, lighting and the music score. Plus $500 paid to the playwright for the rights. The university will get the $500 back.

The six cast members and members of the crew are heartbroken about this, calling it a tremendous loss.

Brenda Waters spoke with two of the actors, Victoria Heckert and Kiah Harrington-Wymer.

"Mostly we are dealing with this like a death in the family, that's what it feels like," Heckert said.

"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," Harrington-Wymer said.

The playwright, out of New York, never saw any rehearsals, just promotional tweets of the actors. All of the actors were white with the exception of one biracial student. Calls to his agent went unanswered.

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