Archives for posts with tag: The Mikado Project

The Fairy Princess woke up this morning and read that NYGASP – NY GILBERT AND SULLIVAN PLAYERS – has cancelled their production of THE MIKADO that was to be at The Skirball Center, and replaced it with PIRATES OF PENZANCE.

Now, one might think, as TFP has been quoted a few times in various articles (here, here, here) that she is thrilled with the news and looking all like


But one would be wrong.


TFP is not at all happy about the cancellation…er…replacement of THE MIKADO by NYGASP, even though their statement…

New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players announces that the production of The Mikado, planned for December 26, 2015-January 2, 2016, is cancelled. We are pleased to announce that The Pirates of Penzance will run in its place for 6 performances over the same dates.

NYGASP never intended to give offense and the company regrets the missed opportunity to responsively adapt this December. Our patrons can be sure we will contact them as soon as we are able, and answer any questions they may have.

We will now look to the future, focusing on how we can affect a production that is imaginative, smart, loyal to Gilbert and Sullivan’s beautiful words, music, and story, and that eliminates elements of performance practice that are offensive.

Thanks to all for the constructive criticism. We sincerely hope that the living legacy of Gilbert & Sullivan remains a source of joy for many generations to come.

David Wannen Executive Director New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players

is well written.


It seems sad to TFP that a ‘request’ that was made by API Bloggers, and covered so well by and  and NBC Asian America was not able to be easily made by December.

Because it is September currently.


This was the ‘request’ – please stop using exaggerated makeup and gestures, and please remove the HIDEOUS addition of a character called “The Axe Coolie”.


That was it.

No one said “Please never do this again”, no one said “Please halt your production”.


All that was said was – please look closer at the fact that you are mocking Asians when you use exaggerated paint and gestures, and try and bring it closer to the first production of THE MIKADO, which was supposed to be respectful and elegant.


So what is the


That in 3 months, they cannot change their makeup?


In 3 months, they cannot ‘axe’ The Axe Coolie?


Just refusing to do the production – with three months to go – seems…well…


slightly immature.

You can see why TFP has concerns, especially if you peruse the comments section of their FB page…the attitude now is that those “big, bad Asians are taking away our show”, the general theme is “thank goodness I saw it as it was meant to be before those thin skinned prickly Asians interrupted all our fun’ and ‘what is the world coming to?”


Well, the world is coming to be more diverse, frankly.  America especially.


Cancelling a production does not negate the very real discussion which is – HOW did NYGASP arrive at their ‘standard’ production of THE MIKADO, which is so very far off the mark from the intent of Gilbert & Sullivan?


Why is it that NYGASP, which yes, is a premiere standard of Gilbert & Sullivan performances here in the United States, why is it they can do a beautiful IOLANTHE, or a super fun PIRATES, or giggly in moments H.M.S. PINAFORE, but when they get to THE MIKADO, they kind of all seem to lose their damned minds as to what is appropriate for our multicultured New York City.

TFP is puzzled about where authentic performance begins, and where stereotype and racial mockery becomes known as ‘authentic’, thus ending it.


Exchanging one production for another is but a band aid on a boil – it might help soothe temporarily, but underneath there is something festering, and why – honestly – WHY in a work of ART – was it SOOOOOOOO easy to get there?


TFP is not a social scientist, so she is just going to lay out those questions and hope that someone at NYGASP does take a good look at them.

Because you see, Dear Reader – just because they are not doing THE MIKADO that they wanted in NYC, does not mean it is over.


NYGASP has the exact same production of THE MIKADO, the “Just as they like it” version and it’s booked for FLORIDA. 


Next week – September 23, 2015!

At The Sharon Performing Arts Center




TFP wonders if The Axe Coolie will make an appearance?

She’s pretty sure that some people in Florida will love The Axe Coolie.


Which is actually the issue. The issue is – are we always going to have to ‘catch’ people with these kinds of productions? Is the rest of the country so afraid, or so intimidated by Asian Americans that they will jump at a chance to label and mock us?


It’s an interesting thought, if a negative one, and TFP does not like negative thoughts.

This is the second production that TFP has had a bit of hand in closing – the other was (alarmingly) The National Asian Art Project’s production of SHOW BOAT, which was to feature an All API Cast to tell the story of racial divide in the United States post Civil War. That closing, NAAP’s?

TFP was ok with that.  It was the wrong thing to do, and the API community spoke up and were heard.


HOWEVER, TFP does not like the closing of productions like NYGASP’s because that is a ‘close’ of the conversation.

Why cannot there BE a conversation?

TFP has a thought (which she stole from her friend Jeffrey S., but he would totally give it to her because he hates what this represents too, which is why they are friends) (She is expanding on it though)


– what if NYGASP took a big leap and did a bare, stripped down MIKADO? Just to try it. What IF…they took off their face paint and set in on say…The Upper East Side of New York City? And Titipu was like, just the name of an area in New York like Chelsea, or Meat Packing District?

And instead of carrying fans and parasols, they carried Birkin bags with little faux dogs in them? Or pushed GIANT DOUBLE STROLLERS WHILE CARRYING A STARBUCKS AND TEXTING?


And maybe the THREE LITTLE MAIDS went to a ritzy boarding school like Gywneth Paltrow used to go to?


Because if they did that, even just this once, would it not be clear, once again – what Gilbert and Sullivan were actually writing about? Social mores and how they color our behavior? That love can find a way, even if you are not 18 with a rocking bod, that if talking to your Boss isn’t getting you anywhere, talking to the President of the Company might get you a promotion? How rich kids like to run around on the down low, escaping their responsibilities because they do not want to become their Parents?

Are those sentiments ONLY for classic productions of THE MIKADO?


For those purists, who want the traditional dress and book – that is ok. Just be respectful. Would we like more Asians playing Asians in the cast?


However, a mixed cast of a classical work is perfectly fine – they do it in Shakespeare, they can do it in Operetta.


Just lose the makeup, the pulling of the eyes, the excessive tittering, shuffling and overall remember that Asian Americans are people, and also – they are Americans. If you would not do a minstrel show in front of an African American audience, then do not do a racist Mikado in front of us.

It is that simple.


TFP has another thought, actually – what if NAPP went on and did….an All API Version of PIRATES OF PENZANCE?


That is what NAAP does – All API Productions – and that is great, that’s their mission statement, perfect – serves a need.




Then everyone would learn…together.

TFP would really like to come in for RUTH if that happens.


Also, for those out there who are interested in supporting NAAP, they are having a fundraiser on October 5th – GUESS WHERE?



ANYWAY, those are some thoughts for today…just gonna leave those here – NYGASP, TFP appreciates that you ‘heard’ us – but she’s concerned that it would take you over 3 months to remove makeup and behaviors from your production. It seems it is a bit of a ‘dodge the bullet’ tactic….HOWEVER – TFP is serious about that All API Pirates with NAAP – you should really get on that, it’s a good idea, even if it came from someone you are not entirely pleased with right about now.

TFP out.


The Fairy Princess is getting pretty sick of writing this blog.

Yes, she said it. Because every day she tries to get excited about advances for Diversity – such as ABC giving FRESH OFF THE BOAT a historic second season order, or HAMILTON or SCHOOL OF ROCK and then she turns on her computer, or her phone, or opens the paper and thinks…


There are 2 items of abject f*ckery today, that she has to chime in on


TFP needs a dance break…


Ok, much better, let’s get this blog rollin’….

First up – for the theater folk – The Mikado.


TFP actually loves The Mikado – not as much as Pirates of Penzance, but she does love the music and what the intentions of Gilbert and Sullivan were when they wrote it. What were they, oh neophytes?


Well, to mock the Victorian mores of the time in which it was written. All they were trying to do was to shake it up a bit when they placed it in Japan – and they used words like Poo, yes, rather generously because at the time, verbal naughtiness was being able to slip in the word ‘poo’ surreptitiously because that is what people laughed at then.



The Brits, they love it.

Meant absolutely nothing at all in terms of trying to insult Japanese people, it was a British joke, for British people.

TFP wrote extensively about it when they did that awful production in Seattle, so let’s not repeat.


TFP does not want to take away anyone’s chance to hear the music of THE MIKADO – but it is in the performance of the work that people often fall sh…er, racist.



The performances are often very racist  – because everyone wants to be Asian onstage – don’t ask why, TFP still has not figured that one out yet, but they do not really want to be Asian, or in this case, Japanese – what they want to do, and what they continually do, is dress up to make Japanese heritaged people the butt of a badly performed joke.


TFP never gets why this is funny.

But then TFP does not get why Donald Trump is a viable contender for President of the United States either.


People who do The Mikado with exaggerated makeup, stereotyped gestures, and general disrespect to Japanese people are racist.


Let’s focus on one specific company – The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players, aka NYGASP.

Those are their production stills above.


Now, whether or not NYGASP knows it, TFP has seen quite a few of their productions, because she has had, over the years, many friends in their productions. TFP knows what she saw on the stage, and she knows quite a bit about the personalities backstage, and what you need to know, dear Reader, is that the Artistic Director, Albert Bergeret, is fully pleased with himself and everything that he has put up on stage, and here is an example.

Now here is something quite a few people do not know,  rumor has it more singers have left NYGASP vowing never to sing G&S again than have stayed with NYGASP – it’s like Scientology for operetta – allegedly.



As it is a repertory company they are again doing The Mikado – and when people called to ask “Are there any Asians in the Cast?”, they were told that there were 2, but that the company is made of Gilbert and Sullivan experts and they were doing it the traditional way – which is that awful ‘historical accuracy’ excuse that was so recently used by Trevor Nunn in his The Wars of the Roses Shakespeare mash up in England.


Here is the thing though – TFP saw the last time they did The Mikado –  she can tell you this – the one she saw was NOT historically accurate, or in any way what G&S would have wanted.The photos are above.

Gilbert wanted the representation of Japanese people to be respectful and elegant, and when TFP viewed it, Mr. Bergeret had added a character….




The Axe Coolie was NOT a character created by Gilbert and Sullivan. First of all, “Coolie’ is a term used to refer to Chinese workers at a time in America, and The Mikado is supposed to take place in Japan.


Those are two entirely different countries.


The Axe Coolie was a small female child who ran around the stage dressed as a male, er, an Asian male, waving a GIANT paper machie axe and shouting “High Ya” whenever she was on stage.


Needless to say, “High ya” also not Japanese.

Therefore, to give credence to their claim of ‘professionalism’ or ‘historical accuracy’ would be false. They are neither. They played The Mikado for cheap laughs at the expense of Japanese Heritage. Their mounting it the same year ALLEGIANCE is making it’s Broadway debut is insulting to Japanese Americans if they are continuing to include this character and the same ‘jokes’ she was witness to. TFP has checked with a past NYGASP member, that addition is a staple of Mr. Bergeret’s productions of this operetta. The conversation went something like this:

TFP: There was this kid dressed as a boy holding a giant (Gets cut off)

TFP’s Friend: “Oh, the Axe Coolie? Yeah, he’s always in there.”


Seeing NYGASP’s production of THE MIKADO convinced one of the Artistic Directors of Lodestone Theater Ensemble to choose THE MIKADO PROJECT as a play to do,

and later, TFP helped co-write the screenplay when it was made into a indie film.

Yes, THE MIKADO PROJECT‘s first green light came after TFP and Chil Kong viewed NYGASP’s hideously shuffling, yellowfaced, pulling their eyes, rescinding their lower lip to make their front teeth look bigger, and of course, the unforgettable Axe Coolie laden production of The Mikado. They left the theater, and immediately thought that something had to be done.


TFP has now given you the backstory of the first production of THE MIKADO PROJECT written by Doris Baizley and Ken Narasaki, and how it eventually became a screenplay, and then an indie film directed by Chil Kong. Doris and Ken had submitted it, but it was a first draft that Mr. Kong was not sure about – after seeing NYGASP, he was sure it had to be done.


Now, as previously stated, TFP has no issue with The Mikado as written – it is the way in which it is performed. It is also the fact that several Asian American singers she knows, who are excellent, have applied over the years for auditions with NYGASP, and not been given appointments.

NYGASP is located in New York City, one of the most diverse cities on the planet – and yet they continue to shout about historical accuracy as they paint themselves yellow and, in the production viewed by TFP, add characters that spoke only to the lowest common denominator.

TFP is dismayed that a prestigious theater like NYU’s Skirball Center would joyfully mount those production stills upon their website – but then she believes they do not have any idea about The Axe Coolie.

Who would?

There are so many ways that THE MIKADO has been done, so many brilliant ways to stage it – without all these tired tropes, without exaggerated paint, that she finds it incredibly frustrating that NYGASP would trot this production out again, clearly out of step with New York City and all it’s citizens, and our incredible Arts scene that celebrates Diversity.

NO! No oh Operetta Singers of NYGASP – do not come gunning for me with an “that is just the way it is done’ – you of ALL people know very well that is NOT, actually, how it is done. Not at all.


Fifty whacks of the Princess wand for each of you, and no, TFP is not coming to the show again, the Axe Coolie might be there.


Now we come to the second bit of INANE F*CKERY that happened today…and it has to do with Matt Damon telling his African American Producer, Effie Brown, on PROJECT GREENLIGHT where Diversity belongs, and apparently it only belongs on Project Greenlight when he says it does, and not anywhere else.


….TFP watched it a few times, because she was told that previous articles that pointed out this behavior were skewered or did not present the truth of the matter.


So TFP is just gonna put up the clip:

Now to be fair to Matt Damon, this clip was edited from the show – they cut out some of the ‘air’ of Ms. Brown’s plea for them to consider Diversity, and they cut out Mr. Damon’s beginning response to Ms. Brown – which was that the Team she wanted – which was Leo Kei Angelos and Kristen Brancaccio – were the ones that were most enthusiastic about the script ‘as is’.

All the other Directors that came in, and The Farrelly Brothers, Mr. Damon himself, and Jennifer Todd, President of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s production company, Pearl Street Films, all think that there is an issue with the female character of Harmony.

He then tries to catch Ms. Brown in a you say you want diversity but they are our most diverse team and we can’t pick them based on that because we might wind up with a more typical film than we want kind of thing since they already like the script as is and we all think there are problems with it.


Which was not what happened either in their interview.


Before their interview, those in the room agreed that “Team Diversity” were the most solid filmmakers. Then they walked in the door and started their interview, and what they really wanted to know was “Well where did you guys meet?”

Which, to TFP read like a “Well what country are you from?” kind of question for Mr. Angelos – but they knew they could not ask it. “Team Diversity” did say they really liked the script, all of it, but to be fair to them, most people would not walk in and tell the people who could potentially hire them and hand them 3 million dollars to make a film of a script that they had already chosen, well we HATE it. Their opener was that they liked it, and then they got a bit more ‘into’ some concerns.

Ms. Brancaccio specifically said that one of the concerns she had about this broad comedy which has a black female prostitute getting slapped by her pimp, was that she wanted to make sure that the film did not ‘slut shame’ this character. To his credit, Mr. Angelos added that there were things, since meeting Ms. Brancaccio, that he had never thought about as a Director and that he valued her point of view.


“Slut shame’ was not at all what the other directors interviewing seemed to be concerned about – and that is an example of how a female voice at the helm – can start to treat a story differently from the very beginning. It also speaks to the way they work as a Directing team, they listen to one another and can ‘give’ on issues and compromise.

Mr. Damon was not recalling that in his rebuttal to Ms. Brown – because he liked the emaciated-difficult-to-work-with Director who is uber Caucasian and named, hilariously, Jason Mann.

Matt Damon wanted THE MANN and he got him. Jason Mann, the selected director.


THE MANN was able to walk in and say he hated the script, and still they hired him, because….THE MANN.

The Farrellys did not like THE MANN, and they will probably be prophetic, but they have only made bajillions of dollars in comedy, and are the mentors on the show, so…what do they know, anyway?


On his way to…well, getting HIS way – Mr. Damon said these words in regards to Diversity:

“When we’re talking about diversity, you do it in the casting of the film, not in the casting of the show!”


Meaning, they’ll hire actors to show that they are acknowledging that Diversity on film broadens it’s appeal, but here in the back room where the decisions are made, things will always remain as they are, because in the back room, no one cares about Diversity because there is none and they are FINE with that.


 They might hire one diverse person on a project by project basis who they then can talk over, even though they hired her for her taste and knowledge and success rate, but it will ONLY be one person, and they better not speak up!


So what we are now going to see on Project Greenlight is a bunch of white guys, making a broad comedy where one of the main characters is a Black prostitute. Who gets slapped. By a pimp.


Just kidding. Please don’t kill Matt Damon, there are lots of Bourne books that have not made it to the big screen yet – and TFP has read all those books! Anyway – here is our ‘Team’, here is the White Guys that chose another White Guy and Effie Brown who has real credits, taste, and concerns that they are probably going to ignore all season.


At the end of the day, this is very typical of Hollywood, where you are more likely to get into a accident on the 405 than hired as a Female Person of Color who directs feature films. This is very typical of the mindset – “Diversity only when people can give us credit for it’.

Here’s what – Diversity in front and behind the camera, on the page, and on the stage is important. It’s vitally important because if there is only one kind of person telling stories, then only one kind of story gets told. This is how we get Directors trying to convince us that Emma Stone is a Chinese Hawaiian Hapa- a story, btw, that Director Cameron Crowe made up!


Only Caucasians telling stories…even stories based on previous existing artistic works like comics that show what a character looks like means that Tilda Swinton is now at 500 year old Tibetan man,


and then she turned around and said that it was a win for Diversity because a woman got a part over a man!

tumblr_lijgebRYLP1qadkreo1_500When only Caucasians tell stories, when they are the gate keepers and the tastemakers, without fail, it opens the door for casual societal racism that it becomes ‘impolite’ to acknowledge.

When film goers riot because a little girl in a film looks like the description of the character from the book. A book they were too busy reading to realize that everyone in the book was not white, that even the lead character was supposed to be Native American, but was not cast that way – we, as a society, have a problem. Part of that problem, is that Diversity is left to the imaginations of people who think like Matt Damon.


Matt Damon chose THE MANN in all the possible ways he could by talking over Ms. Brown, and that was surprising, since he usually defaults to ‘loveable movie star who awww shucks just happened to make good’.


TFP actually met him in a Coffee Bean on Sunset Blvd a long time ago, he was behind her in line and tapped her shoulder to say he left his wallet in the car, could she hold his place in line. She said yes, without looking up from the book she was reading, and so imagine her surprise that when he touched her shoulder so she DID look up, to say thank you – it was MATT DAMON. Getting his own iced mochas. And when they asked his name for his drink he said Matt, and then he slunk down at a table really low pretending he wasn’t Matt Damon. So he missed them calling his drink. The Barista was yelling “Matt! Matt!” and by now all of us had realized it was him, so we all kind of hissed “MATT” at the same time. At which point he flushed, jumped up, got his two giant frozen drinks and raced out. Ever since then, TFP liked him because he used his real name to get his drinks.


Acknowledging that you look for diversity does not weaken anyone’s talent or ability, everyone there was in the Top 10. If Jason Mann was the best choice, he was the best choice – but to not realize that there are issues that may be better handled when told by a person with a different viewpoint? That IS an issue. To not WANT to hear that Diversity may help tell a story? That is an issue as well.

The color of one’s skin and one’s gender influences many things – if your opinion is considered on a regular basis, if you feel safe at night walking to your car, your ability to get a raise, your ability to get hired, your ability to rise within a company…. to inspire people to strive for their dreams, for their very American dreams, they have to be shown a possibility.

Even if it is ‘only’ a television show.


Even if it is ‘only’ a film.


Even if it is ‘only’ a play or a musical.


Diversity matters behind the camera, because there are more stories in the world than Matt Damon and his buddies can tell.

TFP for one, is ready to hear more of them.

Fifty Whacks of the wand to Matt Damon – you don’t browbeat a Producer expressing an opinion, and you should ask yourself Mr. Damon – would you have responded to Effie Brown’s question quite so stridently if it had been expressed by a Farrelly Brother?

Methinks not.

Also, you looked like a jerk.


Hold your head UP, Ms. Effie Brown – we all saw your struggle, and you kept it together and professional. Made your points, and we all see what you are up against – hope the season winds up working out well (but it won’t because it is Project Greenlight) and that you go on to bigger and more diverse stories to tell!

Applause for Ms. Brown, Children – Respect and let’s dance it out!


As someday it may happen that a victim must be found,

I’ve got a little list, I’ve got a little list.

Of Society’s Offenders who live proudly above ground,

and who never would be missed, who never would be missed.


There’s pestilential productions who take hatred as their guide,

Who upon their being ‘caught’ then moan ’bout ‘history and pride’.

The ones who giggle with their fans, their makeup all askew

Who never seem to question,  or accept another’s view,

Their one response it seems is  “Look, don’t tell me what to do!”

They’d none of them be missed, they’d none of them be missed.


She’s got them on the list, she’s got them on the list

And they’ll none of them be missed, they’ll none of them be missed.


There’s the self righteous Director, who proceeds without concept,

The Yellowfaced soloist – I’ve got them on the list!

Those who praise the music, but perform it quite racist –

They never would be missed, they never would be missed!

There’s the Baritone who defends his lack of knowledge and of taste,

Who oft asserts his ‘ given right’ to play another race;


And the lady from the suburbs, who dresses like a Maid,

Who knows she does not  look Asian, but finds Caucasians ‘staid’,

She’d rather paint ‘exotic‘ than go play a Cockney maid…

I don’t think she’d be missed – I’m sure she’d not be missed!


She’s got them on the list, she’s got them on the list;

And they’d none of them be missed, they’d none of them be missed.

Finally, let’s all agree this topic is just rife,

with charges, counter charges, all which causes strife.

Does no one see in fact that Sullivan and Gilbert would be pissed!


For that you’re on the list!

They wrote the show to mock society’s rigid chain of thought,

To say what we learn should shape us, not just what we’re taught.

The show says use your brain and heart, but it seems it’s all for naught.

For that you’re on the list! For that you’re on the list!


It’s not enough to say you ‘want to’ and then go see it done,

We do not live in places where of opinion there’s just one.

And frankly, if you have to scream and rail about so loud,

It means that of your performance there is little to be proud.

Your show is not ‘authentic’ if you’ve re-written “Little List”

Racist shows won’t be missed, they’d none of them be missed.

I’ve put you on the list – I’ve put you on the list,

You’d none of you’d be missed, you would NONE of you’d be missed.

 The Fairy Princess is a bit late to the game about writing about The Mikado Production in Seattle, or perhaps she was ahead of her time, because she co-wrote the screenplay, The Mikado Project, several years and several film festivals ago.

(There is a lovely review  of the DVD from The Huffington Post, here)

(You may purchase it on here)


There have been many, many articles about The Mikado recently, since the first piece for the Seattle Times by Sharon Pian Chan (The Yellowface of The Mikado In Your Face) .

Journalist, Jeff Yang, wrote a thoughtful response (Yellowface Staging of The Mikado Has To End) which The Fairy Princess was interviewed for that appeared on

Another (The Problem With The Mikado) by Brendan Kiley from The Seattle Stranger, quotes Jeff’s article, but makes other wonderful points.

NBCNews also highlighted the issue, (Stereotypes in The Mikado Stir Controversy) and in fact, the film of The Mikado Project, in discussing it – many thanks.

Each time that someone has written about this situation, the wagons around the Seattle Gilbert and Sullivan company have been circled, and they have defended themselves from charges of racism and yellowface makeup.

They even went so far as to have their African American Female Business Manager write an open letter to try to shame the Asian American community into accepting Yellowface makeup, which is a classic technique, turning the minorities against one another.

One wonders if Seattle G&S expands their repertoire to include a blackface Porgy & Bess, if she would still hold her own opinion?

Still, that was impressive, Seattle G&S. Well played.

The Fairy Princess chuckled a bit at that, because it is a technique ripped right from the Andrew Jackson playbook. Then she heard the radio interview with the DJ, Dan Ross, who refused to accept, in any way, that he might be a part of a racially tinged performance. Not surprising, the ones who know they are wrong usually shout the loudest – it is called ‘deflection’.

The Fairy Princess was still not moved enough to write about this issue.

She felt that journalists were doing a fair job of keeping the story alive and accountable, and as she had been quoted numerous times in these articles, she thought she had made herself clear – when you have a production in which satire is sacrificed in favor of racial mockery, you turn a much beloved operetta into “a racist piece of crap’.

And she was fine with that, she was.

Until this morning, when she read the response from Seattle G&S’s Producer, Mike Storie – in which he loudly proclaims two things:

1. They have an Asian American on the Board of the company who has played a variety of parts

2. The Mikado should continue to be done.

Now The Fairy Princess is mad. She is truly, deeply mad, and now she IS going to respond.


In response to the first – who cares if you have an Asian American Board Member?

He’s played an Italian?  So what?  Italy is a seafaring nation, or was, and they traded with Asia, so there is a likelihood that there were Asians in Italy. It’s not so far fetched. That we are supposed to incredulously proclaim “Well, if an Asian American played a Gondolier, then the Company cannot have racist moments“, well, that is a failure on your part to even comprehend the issues at play here.

In addition, this API Board Member is not in The Mikado, which seems telling. There is no statement from him highlighting how he felt, walking in and seeing the show. You have cited him, fine – he’s there. Not in a visible way during this controversy, but he’s there…somewhere….lurking.

Fine, you have one.

Goody, goody.

That first proclamation was not what engendered this response, no, we’ll get to that…hold on, prepare yourself.

This is what made The Fairy Princess’s tiara tilt – none of the articles cited mentioned banning The Mikado from being performed ever again – and yet, that is what Producer, Mike Storie is intimating with his answer “It is worth performing and preserving, and can be a catalyst for better understanding“.

Aha. You see, Mr. Storie is implying that we, the ‘awful and actual’ Asians of America, are trying to reach out our little yellow hands and remove an operetta from the lily white fingers of those who would perform it with authenticity and dignity.

L-R: Dave Ross as Koko, William Darkow as Pish Tush, and Craig Cantley as Poo Bah

L-R: Dave Ross as Koko, William Darkow as Pish Tush, and Craig Cantley as Poo Bah


He is so convinced of this narrative, he has not only shared it, he has compelled his Business Manager to brandish her “As a woman of color…‘ sword in defense of this poor, beleaguered operetta, so sadly under attack.


Hopefully she will be able to pick the right one, because you know, Japanese swords all have...oh who am I kidding, they wouldn't try and get this right either.

Hopefully she will be able to pick the right one, because you know, Japanese swords all have…oh who am I kidding, they wouldn’t try and get this right either.


This is not the case, Mr. Storie – and this is why you have finally roused The Fairy Princess to share her personal thoughts on this issue.

You are threatening people with the thought that Asian Americans are out to erase an operetta that they very much enjoy – and this is not what happened. Asian Americans do not want to ‘kill’ The Mikado, we want you all to do better. We want you to make a Mikado that everyone can go and see, regardless of race, and feel good about seeing.

We want you to put together a production of The Mikado that we can bring our children to proudly as an example of music and art – not one where we have to usher them out of the theater and have the ‘yes, you are different and people will make fun of you for that‘ talk.

That is NOT a talk we want to have after dropping a bunch of $$$ on tickets.

Asian Americans have the HIGHEST disposable income of any group, so while you are moaning about not being able to pay your Actors for four months, you may want to adjust your thinking on who your audience is, at least in Seattle.

The argument that you are performing the piece with love and authenticity is a false one. Yes, your company may love performing it, but as every good Gilbert and Sullivan expert knows, Gilbert never intended to mock Japanese people. He went through every effort to have ‘authentic’ costumes and had visiting Japanese artists come in and advise his Cast members as to how to walk and act.

Have you followed the examples set forth by Gilbert himself in this matter? Did you have Japanese Artists come and advise you as to the the authenticity of your costumes and scenery and mannerisms? Did you even try?


You live and work in Seattle, a city which counts 14% of the population as having Asian heritage. Seattle also has a huge International District, which, amongst other attractions, has the Wing Luke Museum which is dedicated to telling the Asian stories of the Pacific Northwest.  The population of that area alone, just in the I.D.  is 56% Asian American. So, very easily, you could have looked in your own backyard so to speak, and found advisers if authenticity was an issue for you.

Was authenticity an issue for Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society?

The Fairy Princess guesses not.

Because here is an actual Japanese woman in the 1800’s

Vintage Photo of a Japanese Woman, circa 1880

Vintage Photo of a Japanese Woman, circa 1880

And here is what Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan did:

Production Still: Seattle Gilbert and Sullivan's Production of THE MIKADO

Production Still: Seattle Gilbert and Sullivan’s Production of THE MIKADO

Again, here are some actual Japanese women studying, so, ostensibly “Maids”

Hard at work at Geisha School, studying the art of Singing, circa 1880

Hard at work at Geisha School, studying the art of Singing, circa 1880

And…back to Seattle…


So no, your production is not authentic to memory of Gilbert, because you have not tried to do the extra work that he did at the time it was written. In point of fact, he had much less ability to BE accurate, due to language barriers, yet he tried. You have the I.D. in your backyard, and you did not pick up a phone or send a text or even go visit the museum to see if you have the correct obis now, did you?

“Fess up. No, you didn’t.

We can tell from the photos.

Your production is also not authentic because you have likely rewritten “A Little List” and made it palatable to local Seattle audiences – which is one of the hallmarks of the show. Once a show has had a rewrite of any kind, you cannot say it’s an authentic recreation of what someone did back in the 1880’s because you have done your best to ensure it is not.

This is what is infuriating to The Fairy Princess about Gilbert and Sullivan Societies in general, and of course, specific to this production in Seattle. Citing ‘history’ as an opportunity to prance about dressed as totally inaccurate and unauthentic Japanese people, is not supposed to be the take away from The Mikado.

The lesson to be learned from The Mikado, is that blindly following something because it has ‘always’ been done that way, is wrong. The Mikado is supposed to inspire you to see the ludicrous possibilities of what can happen when people do NOT think for themselves – executions, forced marriages, breaking the law, and so on.

The Mikado is not supposed to be used as a weapon to encourage racial mockery, it is not supposed to be the last bastion of visible hatred of Asian people which is left over from the invasion of Pearl Harbor.


The Mikado is supposed to let you know that if you follow your true self, everything will work out. It says that even if you are considered too old for love, you can find it. It says that the silliness of society’s rules, are to be taken with a grain of salt, and approached with caution. Finally, it says that if one can reason with whomsoever is in charge, and present their case, wrongs will be righted.

The Mikado ‘works’ with or without faux Japanese mannerisms – because the script and the music ring true. It has been performed in a variety of temperatures, with ethnic casts, without ethnic casts, and so it is puzzling, with the myriad of creative ways that one can perform The Mikado, that this allegiance to behavior from a different era lingers on. Not only does it linger, it seems to perpetuate and multiply.

Still from Seattle G&S Mikado

Still from Seattle G&S Mikado

The Fairy Princess does not hate The Mikado – it would be impossible to do so given it’s message of hope.

The Mikado has been present in her personal journey for years – and in fact, she was encouraged as a Vocal Performance Major at Carnegie Mellon University’s Music School to study The Mikado, because her instructors felt that at some point, her background of multi-ethnicity would lend itself to being cast in The Mikado.

You would THINK, right?

You would THINK, right?

(That this has not yet happened, despite a Broadway resume and an ability to appear Asian (ahem), is perhaps a question for the Theater Gods.)

The Fairy Princess has spent a lifetime mulling over the whys and wherefores of The Mikado, she owns giant vintage theater posters of it courtesy of the gallery FULLER + ROBERTS, she appeared in the original play by Doris Baizley and Ken Narasaki of THE MIKADO PROJECT produced by Lodestone Theatre Ensemble, she co-wrote and appeared in the movie version of the same title. She is, somewhat of an expert on The Mikado, and she has been a G&S fan since the age of 11, when she appeared in her grade school production of The Pirates of Penzance. (Which, honestly is still her favorite, and which, had she gotten to play Ruth and not a generic daughter of the Major General, may have led her on a totally different career path, perhaps accounting?)

The Fairy Princess does not hate The Mikado.

She hates the way The Mikado is often performed.


The Mikado, as written, is not racist.

The Mikado, as performed, often is.

The Fairy Princess knows that it is fun to play dress up, and to become other characters. She has seen productions of other G&S pieces, and in those works, it seems the Actors try harder to inhabit the characters – in The Mikado, she has seen shuffling of feet, batting of fans, bowing, and giggling and scraping, but little performance. When she has seen it, it becomes about the race being portrayed, and not about the singing.

Why is that?

The Mikado is in danger of turning into the last place where Caucasians can openly mock another race without getting accused of racism.

However, if the subject arises, as it did in Seattle, everyone involved is affronted!  They cannot even begin to have a conversation about it, because it is just mean little Asian American people who ‘cannot take a joke‘, who ‘have no idea what Gilbert and Sullivan is‘, who ‘do not understand‘ the art-form.

Brace yourselves,


The Fairy Princess is your worst nightmare – she is a conservatory trained singer, she is a scholar, she is a big G&S fan, and she is Asian American. She has worked in comedy, she knows a joke.

We are not being ‘sensitive’, we are speaking up.

We are not ‘unable to take a joke’, we are unwilling to be the butt of it.

We are not ignorant of either this piece, it’s music, or it’s message, what we ARE is wary of what productions like yours do to average Asian Americans who are trying to go about their day. Will people mock them to their faces, the way you revel in mocking them on stage? Will our children go to school and have some child who has been taken to see your production, shuffle their feet at them, and make the awful faces at them that your Katisha is making in the photos above?

If you are bemoaning that no Asian Americans came and auditioned to be in your Mikado, did you at any time, wonder why? Have you considered that the way it has been portrayed on American stages in the past years has been painful for APIs to watch?

Your stance that APIs are wrong to speak up is a huge injustice to The Mikado and it’s creators, who had much to say about tolerance and kindness, and the ability to see beyond what is presented as fact.


America is changing, and if G&S Societies wish to survive and flourish, they are going to have to become more sensitive to diversity – both in casting and in performance.

If you are willing, she asks that you watch her speech from LA Stage Day…


She also asks that you take a look at these clips from The English National Opera’s production of The Mikado.




Seems to me that the E.N.O. did a bang up job there, and they made their concept work totally and completely.

It seems to me that that is truly the issue  – making the show work without making it offensive.

You can do it –  but you have to want to, and sadly, the ‘circle the wagons’ stance really implies that you are unwilling to entertain the notion of alternate viewpoints. What is saddest is that, with Seattle’s large Asian American population, you had a real opportunity here to introduce some great music to people who may not have been familiar with it – and instead, you blew it. Will you get an opportunity to grow your audience with the largest minority population in Seattle again?

Doubtful. Not impossible, but doubtful.

10 smacks of the wand to Seattle’s Gilbert & Sullivan Society – on top of what seems to be a questionable production in terms of sensitivity, you had your Business Manager write a ridiculous letter, you had your Koko on the radio blustering and posturing about that which he clearly knows nothing, AND you did exactly what they did in the 1940’s – you threatened people with what would happen if ‘those Asian people‘ had their way.

By Jingo you did.


Finally, here is a message for you, from Asian America – stop trying to scare people with what will happen if we are allowed to speak our minds – we are going to continue to speak them, we do not CARE if you don’t like it –

in FACT….


The Fairy Princess would like to talk a moment about Diversity in Casting.

Yes, it seems odd, given that this blog tends to be about Women who love Gay Men who love them back just as much, but one must have outside interests, and I did state at the beginning, that I would perhaps sound off on this issue.

To give a brief background on my particular tiara and wings, my heritage is Chinese, Irish, and Welsh and I am a dual citizen of the United States and Australia. I am married to a (straight) man who was born in Korea and came to the USA when he was 8 years old. I have traveled to countries that include Turkey, Greece, Australia, Ireland, Canada, China, Japan and I plan to add Europe in general when my son is a bit older.

My point is, I’m well aware of what the world looks like – would that Musical Theater looked the same. Broadway is not where one goes to find much diversity in casting. For example, I, (see me, I’m posting a photo of me as well as a little performance done for the 50th Anniversary of Flower Drum Song )

This is me, Erin Quill

This is TFP, Erin Quill

am not going to be called in for a lead in some of these shows currently on Broadway, shows like Once, Memphis, War Horse, Book of Mormon, Clybourne Park, End of the Rainbow, Evita, Fela, Porgy & Bess, Ghost the Musical, Harvey, Jersey Boys, Mary Poppins, Nice Work If You Can Get It, One Man Two Guvnors, Streetcar Named Desire, Peter & the Starcatcher…I would make a fierce Elphaba, and who would know what I look like, but to my knowledge there has never been an Asian American Elphaba, and it was only recently they had the first African American Elphaba, Saycon Sengbloh, so…I’m not holding my breath. I could go into Sister Act as a Nun, but it is closing, and I have not been asked…I could go into Mamma Mia as Rosie, but that part is currently being played by Lauren Cohn.

So with all the opportunities currently available to Asian Americans on Broadway, ahem, imagine how excited TFP was when she learned that La Jolla Playhouse is going to produce a new musical by Duncan Sheik & Steven Sater, creators of the hit show, Spring Awakening!

What? It is going to be directed by acclaimed New York director, Moises Kaufman, who helped create The Laramie Project. Awesome!  It is called The Nightingale, and it is based on a Hans Christian Anderson fable about AN EMPEROR IN CHINA WHO IS CONFINED WITHIN THE WALLS OF THE FORBIDDEN CITY AND THE BIRD THAT CHANGES HIS LIFE.


Well, TFP happens to be CHINESE! Which would mean, in a perfect world, that she should get a call…or other Asian American Musical Theater friends should get a call – because it’s set in China.

Please read that last sentence again –  China. In Feudal China. The play is set in Feudal China. Guess who is playing The Emperor?  Not living legend  Chinese American Actor Extraordinaire, Alvin Ing, the man who holds the record for the MOST Flower Drum Song appearances, EVER. Nope.

They went with  This guy:


Meet Jonathan Hammond, the Emperor of China.

Now, this story has a Young Emperor, he’s the one who falls in thrall with the Nightingale, and let’s face it, I’m Eurasian, my Daddy is white, so let’s give them a second shot at correctly representing those who might actually rule Feudal China….it is…Bobby Steggart…sorry, what?

Screen Shot 2020-02-13 at 9.28.31 PM

Oh…my…ok, WELL…let’s take a look at the casting notice from Tara Rubin’s office. Aha! There is an EMPRESS DOWAGER! Which means that is the ruling Emperor of China’s Mom. What do they look like? Let’s find one – oh HERE’s one…Imperial Empress Dowager, aka Dowager Empress Cixi…


If I were to think of who might be fabulous as the Empress Dowager, TFP might call in Jodi Long who was on Broadway as Madame Liang in Flower Drum Song

Screen Shot 2020-02-13 at 9.34.32 PM

OR perhaps Amy Hill

Screen Shot 2020-02-13 at 9.35.33 PM

OR Christine Toy Johnson, who is not LA Based, but who did the National Tour of Flower Drum Song and is a longtime NYC Stage Actress

Screen Shot 2020-02-13 at 9.36.03 PM

…….but here’s who they went with for the Empress Dowager of China:

Screen Shot 2020-02-13 at 9.39.29 PM

Charlayne Woodard, Dowager Empress of China.

You are probably sensing my frustration…and if you are not, your name is probably Moises Kaufman. Now, I have read that La Jolla Playhouse is calling the casting of this show “A Rainbow”. Here’s the funny thing about rainbows – the color yellow is rarely in that rainbow when it falls on other shows. Also, diversity has a time and a place – it’s usually an unnamed place in the future, in a multi-racial world, or set in modern times – it’s not in Feudal China. Let’s get one thing straight about Feudal China – diversity was never an issue.

But here – take a look at the article from Broadwayworld. It’s a little perturbing to see that only Kimiko Glenn has been cast in a show set in China, Feudal China – and for those who may not have picked up on it, Kimiko is  a Japanese name – don’t care, happy she is working, I’m just using it to point out – there are NO CHINESE PEOPLE IN A SHOW SET IN CHINA.

This is not, Folks, like the time a Texas Children’s theater did an All Caucasian Production of HAIRSPRAY and you can claim, as they did, that they had no African Americans around to cast – this is a professional theater with a budget and access to any and every Asian American Actor in the country. It also boasts a Director of International Fame (a New York City based Director) and a Writing Team that have won TONY Awards – all they had to do was say, “Hey, this show is set in China, let’s cast some Asians up in here .”

OR, if you are simply going to use the concept of the fairy tale, just do not set it in China, Feudal China!

Let me be clear – TFP does not have any thoughts on the talents of the Actors hired, she has worked with some of them and they are ALL great – ALL! Actors have no power in terms of Casting, they are brought in, they sing, and they wait. This Diversity Debacle I lay directly at the door of the Creative Team – at ANY point, someone in the process could have stated the obvious, that if no Asian Americans were to be Cast, perhaps the setting should change from China, Feudal China!

So five spanks with the wand to Moises Kaufman, he is the Director, the buck stops with him and…looking at his past castings, doesn’t look like he would ever hire me anyway, as I AM MY OWN ASIAN AMERICAN!

And Moises can Kiss my Fan Tan Fannie!


UPDATE: I posted this in comments, but there are a lot of comments, and so I will post it here as well, as not everyone wants to scroll all the way through:

Hi All,

As you know, the initial objection that I had and wrote about on this blog – this post – stirred a lot of people and as the objections grew and were written about, La Jolla Playhouse decided to have a talk back to discuss the casting. Over 19,000 people have read this post, for which I thank them.

There were many articles written on what started as my own annoyance, and I am going to post the links here, in case you want to read them.

I would hope that the people who wrote anonymously and bitterly of the notion that Asian Americans would and should speak up, would pay particular attention to the fact that both the Artistic Director of La Jolla Playhouse and the Director of the play itself, Moises Kaufman, apologized. Also in the audience but not on the panel was the writer, Steven Sater, and the Composer, Duncan Sheik.

I also ask you to consider this – just because you may be a member of your own minority group, it does not give you a co-op experience and permission to use your own minority status to devalue or denigrate this issue. Your experiences are yours, and mine are mine. It does no good and a great deal of harm to decide that because you are a particular ‘kind’ of man/woman that you have the right to decide when and where Asian Americans belong. I take issue with that. Many of the more objectionable comments were prefaced with “Well, as a ____ man, I think…”

It is not cool to use your status to keep ours where it is now, which is barely visible. We are only doing what scores of people have done before us. When my Grandparents, my IRISH Grandparents came here, they were faced with signs that said “Irish Need Not Apply” – this is much the same thing. And Bravo to Moises Kaufman for his comments in Part 2.

Here are 2 small videos from You Tube – it is supposed to be 1-7, but I have only found 1 and 2. In 2, we have ‘our’ apologies:

Part 1:
Part 2:

And here is a video I was sent by Pun Bandhu which is the whole talk:

Article from

Article from Huffington Post:

Article from International Business Times, I am quoted twice, not by name, and called a ranting blogger (which struck me as odd, but…the writer apologized for that when I called him on it)

Article on Talkback from U-T San Diego:

Article from LA Times on the Talk Back at La Jolla:,0,6438118.story

Article from LA Times hearing from Prominent APIs in Theater:,0,7027101.story

Article from LA Times on Controversy,0,2686930.story

Article from LA Times’ Critic’s Notebook, which I emailed a response to, and I will post the response I sent:,0,4429707.story

Dear Mr. McNulty,
It was with great interest that I read your article about the controversy at La Jolla.It was because I am the person who wrote the original blog that started all this hubbub
It struck enough of a nerve that as of this writing, my blog has has over 19,000 views and it is only 2.5 weeks old.My name is Erin Quill, I was an Original Bway Cast Member of Avenue Q and I have been reviewed in the LA Times for my work in the play, The Mikado Project
, also for my work in the musical, Closer Than Ever,
which was produced by Lodestone Theater Ensemble.
I am a Graduate of Carnegie Mellon University. I am also one of the screenwriters for the feature film, The Mikado Project, avail now on DVD, which was reviewed in The Huffington Post. 

I only mention this because I am trying to show that I am a legitimate stage Actress whose work has been covered BY the Times and yet, when it was time to cast a show that could have API performers, my phone did not ring.

And, should you watch the video of the talk back, you will see that the CD will say that this show did not have a proper audition process, they made calls and offers. My friends who are API performers did not have their phones ring either.

While I would never deign to tell a Director or Creative Team who to hire, I will (and did) point out the ridiculousness of their casting choices. Not because the Actors were not fabulous – I fully believe in the talent of the Cast, but because they set the show in China.

China is not a mythical place. China is a real place with a real people. Our history looks a specific way. The titles Emperor and Dowager Empress mean something when said in China.

It is not for other minority groups (I only say that because you brought up your own status) to decide for other groups what is their ‘place’, what they are allowed to comment on. Moises Kaufman himself pointed out that usually in debates of this kind dealing with underrepresentation, that he is the one clamoring, and during the controversy he realized that he was doing the same thing that had been done to the GLBT community to Asian American Performers. He said we were right to protest, and he apologized.

The debate for us was not multi-racial casting. It was not to infringe on a Creative Team’s right to choose the cast they want, but the costumes, the sets, and the names of the characters were all Chinese. That we were asked, that all the audience was asked to please accept 2 Caucasian Emperors of China. Not a ‘mythic land’, it was CHINA.

If this was Porgy and Bess, and the leads were Caucasian, you would not think to write
“underserved communities need to recognize the right of artists to establish their own conventions of representation”

You would be scared to, even with your own minority status that you established.
You would know that using your own status and including the above quoted sentence to African American Artists would be looked upon with dismay, distrust, and anger.Yet you have used them to the Asian American Acting Community.I ask you why. It is met with just as much dismay, distrust and anger as if you said it to someone African American or Latino.
Asian Americans are angry. We are angry with the co-opting of our heritage and then being told that while our heritage is useful, our talents are not wanted.We have a right to be heard, and we have a right to not receive a ‘scolding’ from a Critic who is held in high regard.We do not need someone to tell us how to listen to the excuses of why we are not asked to be a part of a world set in OUR world.


In that audience, there was Drama Desk Winner, Deborah S. Craig, there was API Theater Luminary and the man who holds the record for most Flower Drum Songs ever, Alvin Ing. There was Tim Dang, Artistic Director of East West Players – a theater that always ‘somehow’ manages to cast with Asian Americans. Cindy Cheung who was on the panel has been in several Feature Films and Christine Toy Johnson is a staple NY Theater Actress.

There were many more with just as nice a resume and yet a Caucasian lady stood and asked if there was an Asian American Acting Talent Pool. There are API Drama Grads from Yale, CMU, Julliard, NYU, Northwestern – some of the top programs in the country, and yet here is this Caucasian Lady telling us that she ‘doesn’t see color’ and asking why we are complaining that the Emperor of China is Caucasian.

It is because when there IS debate, there is always someone, such as yourself – held in high regard, that expresses the opinion that we should ‘listen‘ or ‘stop making hubbub’. And by doing that, you are ensuring that people who are uncomfortable with APIs protesting have an excuse to dismiss WHAT we are saying – that we want to look onstage, at a production where the setting IS CHINA, and see Asian American faces.

The Nightingale is a fable, and thus, children are being taken to see it – what does it say to Asian American Children when they see that it is acceptable to make the Emperor of China a white man? It tells them they do not count.

I am a long time supporter of the GLBT Community, with fundraising efforts for The Matthew Shepard Foundation, BC/EFA, Desert AIDS Project, the LA Gay and Lesbian Center, The Trevor Project, I sing regularly at Musical Mondays in WeHo…I live and work in the GLBT Community, and yet I would never say “well, I know what it’s like to be a Gay Man”. Because I cannot. Do I know TONS of Gay men? Yes. They are my closest and dearest friends. And Always Will Be– but I cannot know what it IS to be a Gay Man. Just as you cannotknow what it is to be an Asian American Performer.I thank you for your coverage of this issue, but I was dismayed by the end of your article. Truly. And, do I think that there will be more API’s when this show continues? No, I do not. I think they will just move the setting from China and then still cast exactly the way they want.Which is totally fine. Because in a mythic land of Far, Far Away, it can be as multi- cultural as they want it to be – but they cannot have China without Chinese people. They cannot portray China without Asian Americans.

Thank you for your time,

Erin Quill