Culture NYU

NYU Skirball Cancels Yellowface on Campus with the Perpetually Offensive “The Mikado”

Skirball Center of Performing Arts is the largest performance arts facility in New York City south of 42nd Street. It is also owned by Generasian’s home, New York University, and this December, NYU Skirball planned to present Gilbert and Sullivan’s the Mikado, a British Comic Opera set in Japan. Luckily, thanks to the many concerned NYU students, A/P/A institutions, and the general public. who voiced their protests the production was canceled.

The following is a very helpful synopsis of the Opera to catch people up to speed:

“Nanki-Poo, son of the Mikado of Japan, fled his father’s imperial court to escape marraige with Katisha, an elderly lady. Disguised as a traveling musician, he met and fell in love with Yum-Yum, the young ward of Ko-Ko, a cheap tailor in the town of Titipu. Yum-Yum, however, was already betrothed to her guardian, and Nanki-Poo left Titipu in despair.” (x)

And in case “Nanki-Poo,” “Yum-Yum,” and “Titipu” weren’t enough for you, here’s a picture of the cast in action:

You know, my favorite part of theatre has always been the yellowface.

The Mikado has always been an eyesore in the context of Asian representation in western theatre. Since premiering in 1885, every few years, The Mikado has consistently been pulled back out, dusted off, and repackaged in a modern and, yet, timelessly racist manner to delight audiences around the world. Just last year, a production in Seattle stirred up controversy.

But I still wonder, on a campus that has a prominent 14.8% Asian population, how could the NYU administration be so ignorant as to have given this production the green light in the first place? Of course justice has been served as NYU Skirball cancels the performances, but I am still left with the unsettling realization that New York University (as well as every actor, producer and theatre-goer that still buys into The Mikado) apparently still needs to be told what is not ok. And that is not ok.

—>But I digress, let’s now never think of The Mikado again, and instead look forward to George Takei’s musical Allegiance, opening on Broadway in November.

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