COMMENTARY: Applause for opinion on “The Mikado” — A letter from Bettie Luke to the Seattle Times

Thank you for writing your OPINION column “Yellowface in your face” in the Seattle Times Monday July 14, 2014, page News A7.

Your well-written editorial clearly presents the case for challenging “The Mikado” play, scheduled at the Bagley Wright Theater July 11 to July 26.

I find it astounding that 40 white actors– all playing “Japanese” characters, actually are happily portraying a story in Yellow-face!  The producer Mike Storie and the army of theater volunteers are all a part of this offensive portrayal of a supposed farce. How would new audience members know this story was designed to poke fun at Victorian England?

What is apparent — is a specific “exotic” Asian group with silly names and barbaric cultural practices, actively promotes distorted images for this fake Asian group — and anyone who looks like them. That kind of regard is harmful.

This Mikado production also imprints the message that it is acceptable for whites to portray Indians, Asians, or Latinos — as was the outdated standard in early film and theater. Is this practice considered less offensive than blackface? The answer is not to have 40 Asians play the roles — the Mikado is just not a story worth producing. Gilbert and Sullivan productions can be wonderful theater. The Mikado is not one of them. (end)

Bettie Luke is a community activist.

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