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The controversy surrounding yellowface in The Mikado surfaces again! And this time in New York City. Since I moved to Florida over the summer, I won’t be able to attend this production and weigh in as a critic. But I do find it interesting that the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players have put up a rather long disclaimer about their choice of show on their website. So at least I know they went into the production thinking about some of these issues, even if that didn’t stop them from employing yellowface in the production. I’m also heartened by the fact that, as mentioned in this blog post by Leah Nanako Winkler, that NYGASP does have two Asian Americans in the cast, so it’s not all-white.

That said, I think it is entirely appropriate that people are raising questions about the production. And I think NYGASP should be prepared to not only address them, but allow the conversation to take place. This does not mean that they should never again do The Mikado (in my opinion), but it is a work that requires (re)contextualization and dialogue when performed in America in the 21st century. As I’ve said before, artistic freedom should be balanced by artistic responsibility. And if you’re going to make a choice that you know is likely to offend someone (and honestly, given the controversy in Seattle, NYGASP wasn’t going into this blind), then you should be prepared to be able to address those concerns.

LEAH NANAKO WINKLER

I’m biracial. Which means that people from two opposite cultures (Japan and America in my case) have freely been talking to me about race in two languages with no filter before I knew what the words meant. So before you dismiss these thoughts as  “angry” or a product of a creepy “PC Culture” know that it’s an impetuous sense of comfort that drives me to talk and write about these issues in my daily life as they come up because, well, race has been a part of my daily life since I was born.  So when this flyer for The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players production of “The Mikado” at the NYU Skirball Center For The Performing Arts was delivered to my office on a peaceful Monday morning, I felt totally comfortable calling them directly to ask questions.

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Here’s how it went.

For the record, I’m not a…

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