The Fairy Princess is shaking her head – and Taylor Swift is not even playing. She is shaking her head because the CEO of The Ordway Theater in St. Paul, MN has caved to a small group of protestors and agreed, publicly, to never produce MISS SAIGON, the musical, again during her tenure.
Ok here is the backstory -( this is what The Fairy Princess wrote at the time) a year ago, (this is what Playbill.com wrote) a small group of protesters formed a group and decided they did not like MISS SAIGON the musical because they did not like the depiction of Asian women in the show. Admittedly, most of them had not seen it – they just did not like the idea of it.
Because theater is not supposed to deal with ideas? Ideas that make you think? Ideas that make you uncomfortable?
Not, apparently in St. Paul.
They do not like to be uncomfortable there, they do not like to think. You see, the “Protestors‘, such as they are, are a rag taggle group of Artists – some visual (none from musical theater), and regular folks, who have very high standards. In fact, they admitted in several interviews that many of them had not even gone to see MISS SAIGON, because their standards ARE so high and even though they were invited by the Producers to see it and have a talk back with the Artistic Staff, they refused.
The Fairy Princess supposes, they were afraid that their brain would grow two sizes too big.
The Fairy Princess supposes, they were concerned that once they saw it, they might…well…like it.
Let’s face it, some of those tunes are catchy.
They might have enjoyed how an entire stage filled with singing and dancing Asian Americans – Asian Americans who are on the forefront of representing Asian Americans because they spend their lives on the stage – would make them feel.
They might have felt….proud.
They might have felt….humbled.
They might have felt….inspired.
And if one is an “Artist’, one cannot feel any of those things? If you are an “Artist’ protesting a show that you have refused to see, or saw a different production of twenty years ago when, yes, the depiction by a Caucasian man OF an Eurasian man sent many of us reeling, of COURSE you do not want to see growth or advancement.
That would be expanding your mind….and what Artist wants to do that.
You just want to get your name in the papers and harass people into proclaiming, in print, that you have a voice.
Ok. You have a voice. And you managed to harass one white lady until she caved.
Well, The Fairy Princess has seen many things, but she has never seen a CEO of a large Arts House become a coward.
The Fairy Princess thought they were made of sterner stuff out there in St. Paul.
Wait, it could not be all about the Protestors…because the Ordway dealt with them before, so what other factor could have led to this ‘agreement’?
A third party.
It seems that this ‘agreement’ came from commissioning a dance piece with an Annaya Dance Company for the opening of their concert hall in March.
This seems so odd – a dance group makes it a condition to never have other dancers in the space owned by the Company? Was it prompted by competition? It seems odd.
Because dancers usually have a sense of community – and it seems in this case, these dancers used their power to take away options from other dancers because they did not like the dancing they were doing.
Perhaps you should take up a discussion on dance with Lainie Sakakura, Broadway Dancer extraordinare about Musical Theater dancing, she’s the professional. She knew Gwen Verdon. If one wanted to have a cultural exchange amongst dancers, Lainie is the first person that TFP would recommend talking to.
But it seems the talking is done and the Annaya Dance Theater has spoken.
Since Musical Theater dance is not your area, what hat is it you do again?
Ah – The Annaya Dance Theater is, to quote it’s website, “the leading creator of contemporary Indian dance”.
The Fairy Princess is confused.
MISS SAIGON does not depict a war in India, nor India bar girls, nor a love story between an Indian Mom and her half Indian child.
It depicts a war in Vietnam. While, yes, there have been many South Asian Americans in MISS SAIGON -
It does not, in fact, depict an Indian story.
So what the Annaya Dance Theater is saying, is that though they are ‘expert’ in one area, and represent proudly one area of dance that has South Asian heritage, they are going to leapfrog and become the clearing house for all Asian Americans who dance, and we now have to run it by them.
The Annaya Dance Theater also says that they ‘invoke the work and dreams of women of color, and reframe the ground on which we dance…”
Oh, they are going to ‘reframe the ground’, which means they are going to ban certain works from being performed. How did they do that? Because that is censorship, and here in America, we have laws banning censorship.
How did they do it? Hold please, The Fairy Princess needs to go back and check their website….
Oh, they played the ‘Women of Color” card.
They played it well, actually. They got what they wanted.
So let me get this straight – an Indian dance company (it does not, btw, say Indian American or even South East Asian dance company, it says Indian) who choreographs – now this is all in response to their website statements – they choreograph in response to global issues to spark chemistry, has decided that what they can throw their weight and activism behind is…taking jobs from other Asian American dancers?
They have decided, this one group of dancers, that they can choreograph and speak for all Women of Color, and that because they are sparking ‘chemistry’ with their dancing, we should all go along with it.
We, the Women of Color of America and the World. Well, the Women of Color and one Caucasian lady who has been bullied in St. Paul.
There are no other global issues they could throw their attention to? Like for example...honor killings, rape, education? Things that, as an Indian Dance Company would, it seems, be more important than banning a production that once every few years, arrives in St. Paul?
No, they are worried about a musical.
A MUSICAL THAT IS NOT NOR NEVER WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A FACTUAL DEPICTION OF VIETNAM.
So they pushed and yelled and coerced and bullied and they got their way.
Yes, The Fairy Princess said bullied – because that is what coercion is. Bullying is what small, mean people do. Bullying is manipulation, and yelling, and saying “I know better than you, I will always know better than you because I represent all Women of Color.”
Well, The Fairy Princess also happens to be a “Woman of Color”
She has an opinion about MISS SAIGON, and it is different than theirs – but hers does not count, is that the takeaway?
She now to understand that this Indian Dance Company, is now…ummmm, “the boss of us”?
The “Boss” of her?
The Fairy Princess says no.
The Annaya Dance Theater does not, and will never, get to decide for her, what she can and cannot do as an Artist in America.
Because that is the anti-thesis of what BEING an Artist is supposed to be.
Yes, we can ‘agree to disagree’ and decide not to go see a show, we can decide to not read an article, or decide that we do not like musicals, or that we do not like musicals where there are prostitutes – which, honestly would take out half the Musical Theater canon and most of the best songs – but WE do not have one mind.
WE do not get to decide what is/is not allowed.
WE live in the United States, and even though this Mid-term election will, yes, slow any progress that is being attempted, it will not stop it.
Because WE do not have one mind – not as Artists, not people of Asian heritage, and NOT as Americans.
You know what, Ordway and Annaya and Protestors….The Fairy Princess thinks you are missing the point of MISS SAIGON. You are all swept away in the bikinis and depictions of prostitutes and you are missing what is one of the most devastating songs in the musical theater canon - Bui Doi.
A song that deals with America taking responsibility for it’s Eurasian children, children that should be American citizens – or French or wherever their Fathers were from – children that should have had all the rights and freedoms and privileges of growing up in America, but they were denied that.
The point of MISS SAIGON is this:
“They are the living reminder of all the good we failed to do, we can’t forget, never forget, that they are all our children too”
(That is Ramin Karimloo, Stephen Rahman-Huges & Lee Mead in concert in Glasgow in 2012)
Look, if you want to look at MISS SAIGON and see evil, you are going to see evil – but ultimately, it is a love story about a Mother and her son, and what she will do to give him a better life.
It’s not evil – and neither are the women and men who so brilliantly perform the show.
You cannot call yourself an Artist or a Producer of Art if you limit people’s ability to decide for themselves – not only as performers, but audience as well. If you are an Artist – create Art – do not ban others because you do not like their Art. If you are a Producer – produce it and let the audience decide – they vote with tickets.
In other words – have open dialogue, but no way is one group or one theater to be Judge and Jury for what we, as Asian American performers are ‘allowed’ to do.
Let me quote an earlier blog in case you are missing the point:
Let me tell you something- and this is as straight as I can say it – Asian American Actors can take ANY part they choose. Period. The End. Asian American Actors are under NO obligation to make Asian America ‘comfortable’ with their personal choices. We do not stand over your shoulder at your job and tell you that you cannot do it, merely because it is our opinion that it should not be done.
Re-read that sentence, it’s accurate, but it’s kind of insane.
We are Actors. First and FOREMOST we are Actors and WE tell stories. We do not have a group check in to get Asian American Community approval, and we do not have to have it. Because this is AMERICA.
Asian American Actors can use accents. Asian American Actors can play Pimps, Doctors, Prostitutes, Deli Owners, Thieves, Kings, and whatever else there is out there. We audition and people hire us. And if we can perform, on Broadway, or on a Television show, or in a Feature film, where it is so competitive even to get a a callback – then YOU, Mr. Joe Protestor, are not allowed to rob us of our right to do it to the highest possible level we can.
THAT is what Equality means TO US. That our choices are unlimited.
This is just sad, really, and so misguided, and hate filled – The Fairy Princess is disgusted both with the decision, The Ordway, The Aanaya Dance Theater and of course, the protestors.
10 Wacks with the Wand for all of you, and frankly, and she has rarely meant this more -
KISS MY FAN TAN FANNIE