However, like Erin, I’m a little sad that the NY Gilbert & Sullivan Players were not able to find a way to produce this play without resorting to demeaning caricatures like the Axe Coolie and that they thought it was funny to mix Asian stereotypes so uncaringly. Their form of love struck me as cultural embalming, preserving the outer form, keeping all of the irrelevant parts of the piece without breathing life into the inner comedy.
Yes, it preserves the way Gilbert and Sullivan originally did it, but it also preserves the attitudes they and their audience had towards the Japanese. I’m not sure that preserves their original intent; I think a freer approach to the material, like so many companies do to Shakespeare, Ibsen, etc. would be truer to the spirit of the material.
Many Gilbert and Sullivan fans have an uncomfortable resemblance to the comic fans who were complaining about casting a black actor as Pete Ross in the TV series Smallville or as Iris West in the current series The Flash (but odd how these complaints have dropped off the more it’s been done).
Update: NYGASP has met with concerned community members and promises to rework the show and be more creative with its approach.
Update: A whole slew of reactions:
- Erin Quill has a reaction to this (which I bet some people would be surprised at).
- And American Theatre has something.
- Also, http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Final-Curtain-for-Racist-Gilbert-and-Sullivan-Opera-20150918-0011.html
- Unworthy has a feature.
- Now the NY Times.
- A. Rey Pamatmat speaks on 2am theatre.
- Equity commends the decisions and offers to mediate.
- HowlRound curates a series on yellow face: