An Open Letter to Lamplighters Music Theatre

We, the undersigned theater artists, are concerned about your upcoming production of THE MIKADO to be produced at multiple Bay Area venues. We recently learned of your March 25 press release stating that “in the spirit of sensitivity,” you intend to alter your original plan and set the production in England.
We understand that our conversations and the resulting community pressure have prompted you to rethink your production. Yet, in light of this shift, we have a few remaining questions. 
The Background
First, we feel it important that the community know the background of this evolving conversation. About a month ago, you asked Ferocious Lotus Theatre Company to refer ethnically Asian actor/singers to your production set in Japan. We sat down with your managing director Sarah Vardigans and voiced our concerns about a) casting and b) the inherently racist elements of THE MIKADO and how the show was to be presented on stage.
Ms. Vardigans told us that Lamplighters could not commit to hiring Asian or Asian-American actors for the Asian roles. She also stated that you were trying to mitigate the opera’s racist elements by a) not using yellow-face makeup on the Caucasian actors; b) setting the play in Japan during the Meiji Era when people dressed in western clothing; and c) taking out a couple lines in the libretto.
Firstly, having non-Asian actors play Asian roles itself constitutes yellow-face; it does not matter what makeup or clothing they’re wearing. Thus, we chose not to refer performers. Secondly, we would not recommend that people in the community participate or endorse a show that perpetuates racial stereotypes.
Present Concerns
As a response, you are now setting the opera in England, but there are still lingering dramaturgical questions: THE MIKADO’s racist Japanese names were included in the plot summary published in your March 25 press release. Will those names be changed for production? Will any of your non-Asian actors be playing Asian roles and thus incorporating yellow-face? Will any Asian actors be portraying stereotypical Asian characters? How will you handle the orientalism that is present throughout the libretto and score?
We hope that you continue to address this matter with social-political awareness. We acknowledge the removal of yellow-face from your Facebook audition posting. However, your website remains full of photos of yellow-face from past productions, and even more concerning, school tours and education programs. If you are sincerely concerned about racial sensitivity, we encourage you to stop perpetuating these images.
We hope that your company appreciates the problematic aspects of this material and will work to adequately reinvent it, even in an English setting. As you know, there is a longstanding legacy of White appropriation of Asian cultures that has brought much volatility to the theatre community in recent years, namely at the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society in 2014 and the cancellation of the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players production in 2015 at NYU’s Skirball Center.
Continuing Discussion
Considering this important and sensitive conversation, which started in person, we had hoped to hear from you directly about your evolving approach to addressing our concerns. Lamplighters’ communication with us so far has been somewhat dismissive and disappointing.
For example, Ms. Vardigans implied in a March 21 email that because we didn’t recommend Asian-American actors to your show—one that would incorporate yellow-face—we forced you to forego an opportunity to expand the diversity of your company. We at Ferocious Lotus argue that that responsibility is yours, and you can still make the choice to hire actors of color, including for this current production. Moreover, we encourage you to do so and would be happy to refer talented performers once the production has adequately dealt with the racist elements of its script and presentation.
We invite you to continue this dialogue with us and our local and national allies.
Ferocious Lotus Theatre Company and Undersigned Theatre Artists & Theatre Goers
Lily Tung Crystal, founding artistic director; actor/singer
Mina Morita, artistic director of Crowded Fire Theatre Company
Rinabeth Apostol, actor
Christopher Chen, playwright
Desdemona Chiang, director
Tiffany Cothran, managing director of Crowded Fire Theatre Company
Eric Crystal, musician
Will Dao, actor
Leon Goertzen, founding associate artistic director; actor
Lauren Gunderson, playwright
David Henry Hwang, playwright
Cindy Im, actor
Min Kahng, playwright/composer
May Liang, literary manager/director
Jeffrey Lo, playwright/director; company manager/casting associate of TheatreWorks
Karen Altree Piemme, director/actor/dramaturg
Nonoko Sato, former board member of Asian American Theater Co; community leader
Susan Shay, actor/singer
M. Graham Smith, director
Valerie Weak, actor
Phil Wong, actor/musician
Ogie Zulueta, actor
Marie Apostol-Bernardo, Executive Assistant

Abdulrahim Harara, Actor. Writer. Activist. Palestinian
Adam Sussman
Alan Olejniczak, Playwright / Producer of At Last Theatre
Alison Vasquez, Theatre Professor/Playwright
Alleluia Panis, Director KULARTS
Amy Cortright, Singer/Educator
Amy Mihyang Ginther, Assistant Professor and Theatre Maker, UC Santa Cruz
Amy Prosser
Andrea Romano, Writer/Journalist
Andrew Page, Grants Manager, Cal Shakes
Anna Lee, Actor
Anne Hallinan, Actor
Anonymous, Bay Area, CA
Anonymous, Brooklyn, NY
Anonymous, San Francisco, CA
Anthony Clarvoe, Playwright
Ashley Smiley, Freelance Technician/SM/ASM/Director
Ben Landmesser
Bert van Aalsburg, Stage Manager/Actor
Beverly Sotelo, Theater education administrator/actor
Blair Leatherwood, Actor
Bob Young, Lighting designer and collective member of Sapphic Underground
Bobby August Jr., Actor/Teacher
Brian P. Luce, Theater administrator at Cal Shakes
Brooke Jennings, Costume Designer
Caitlin McGarty, Casting Director at TheatreFIRST
Carla Corona, Theatre Educator/Arts Admin
Carla Pantoja, Actor/Fight Director
Carlos Aceves, Set Designer
Carlos Aguilar, Set Designer
Casey Worthington, Actor
Cassidy Brown, Actor
Chloe Bronzan, Actor/Director
Chongren Fan, Stage Director
Chris Mahle, Theatre educator
Christian Cagigal
Christine Tanabe, Actor
Christopher Morrison, Writer/Director
laire Tran, Playwright
Clive Worsley, Director, Artistic Learning, California Shakespeare Theater
Cody Rishell, Graphic Artist
Conrad Panganiban, Playwright
Consuelo Brennan, actor
Cordelia Miller, Stage Manager
Corey Ruzicano, Artist/Teacher/Administrator
Courtney Flores, Costume Designer
Cristina Anselmo, Actor/Educator
Crystal Whybark, Actor
Daniel Olson
Danielle Gray, Actor/Variety Performer
Danielle Perata, Actor
David Milligan, Production Manager, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley
Deanna Zibello, Scenic Designer/Educator
Dennis Markam, Actor/Teaching Artist
Dennis Yen, Actor
Devon LaBelle
Elizabeth Sung, actor/director/teacher
Ellicia Elliott, Artistic Director of The Rude Mechanicals (WA)
Emliya Cachapero, Director of Artistic and International Programs, Theatre Communications Group
Esther Hyun, Special Ed. Teacher
Eugenie Chan, Playwright
Eunhye Kim, Acupuncturist and herbalist
Fred Tung, Law Professor, Boston University
Giovannie Espiritu, Actor/Educator
Guy Tiphane
Hanah Zahner-Isenberg, Production Manager / Stage Manager
Hannah Birch Carl, Multi-Disciplinary Theatre Artist
Hesed Kim, Acting & Dance Student
Jai Sahai, Actor/Musician
Jamie Asdorian
Jeanette Harrison, Actor/Director/Producer
Jeffrey Countryman, Contracts Administrator
Jennifer Roberts, Playwright/Producer/Co-Founder Ex Nihilo Theater
Jerome Joseph Gentes, Playwright and Producer
Jessica Powell, Actor
Joel Roster, Artistic Director, Town Hall Theatre
Joel Sass, Theater director/designer
Jon Tracy, Artistic Director, TheatreFIRST
Jonathan Castanien, Stage Manager
Joseph Yang, Performing Artist
Joyce Liu-Countryman, Producer/Actor
Julie Frumkin
Julie Kuwabara, Actor/ New Media Consultant/ Resident Artist BINDLESTIFF
Jully Lee, artistic director of Cold Tofu; actor/director
Katherine Lee
Katherine Park, Actor/Singer
Kathleen Antonia, CEO, What The ... Productions; Novel Approach, LLC; filmmaker/thespian/singer/dancer
Kathryn Han, Actor
Kathryn Zdan, Actor
Katie Vroom, Theatre Artist
Keiko Carreiro, actor/costume designer
Ken Narasaki, Actor/Writer
Laura Shapiro, Marketing Manager
Lauren Spencer, Actor/Educator
Lauren Villegas, Actor, Founder Project Am I Right? For Ally Actors
Lauren Yee, Playwright
Laylah Muran de Assereto, Producer/Playwright
LeeAnn Dowd
Leslie Ishii, Stage Director/EWP Diversity Liaison/Actor/Arts Educator
Liam Vincent, Actor
Lisa Marie Rollins, Playwright / Director / Dramaturg
Lydia Garcia, Literary Manager/Resident Dramaturg, Marin Theatre Company
Maggie Whitaker, Costume Designer
Marilee Talkington
Martin Rojas Dietrich, Actor/Director
Maryssa Wanlass, Actor
Matthew McCoy, Artistic Director, Bay Area Musicals
Megan Kilian-Uttam, Actor/Product Manager
Mei Ann Teo
Melissa Locsin
Melpomene Katakalos, Professor of Theatre and Scenic Designer
Michael Locher, Designer/Educator
Michael Robertson, Managing Director, The Lark
Michelle Ianiro, Actor/Producer/Playwright
Michelle Talgarow
Midori Francis, Actor
Miyoko Sakatani, Actor
Monica Ho, Actor
Mylissa Malley, Actor/Teaching Artist
Nicholas Pilapil, Producer
Nick Kumamoto, Lighting and Video Designer
Nicole Meñez, Director/Actor/YouthAware Associate at New Conservatory Theatre Center
Nijeul Porter, Program Manager, artEquity
norman gee
Oliver Saria, Managing Director, Bindlestiff Studio
Olivia George, Communications Associate, The Lark
Patricia Garza, Artistic Development Program Manager, CTG
Patricia Milton, Playwright/Librettist/Lyricist
Paul Silverman
Perry Aliado, actor/educator
Peter J. Kuo, Director
Rachel Lu, Actor/Producer
Rebecca Apostol, Consultant
Rebecca Novick
Rey Simon-Igra, Sales Associate
Rob Seitelman, Actor/Writer/Director
Ron Muriera
Ryan Marchand, Actor/Artistic Director Handful Players
Sal Mattos, actor/writer/webmaster
Sango Tajima, Actor
Sheila Devitt, Actress/Herbalist
SK Kerastas, Visiting Artistic Associate, Berkeley Rep, TCG Leadership U
Slater Penney, Actor/Creator/Teacher
Sonia Fernandez, Associate Artistic Director/ Dramaturg
Stefanie Lau, Producing Artistic Leader, Artists at Play
Stefanie Zadravec, Playwright
Stephen Pawley, Actor/Western Principal Councilor, Actors Equity Association
Steve Workman, Manager, Security Engineering at Mozilla
Tasi Alabastro, Actor
Taylor Edelhart, Theatremaker and Activist
Tiiu Eva Rebane, Actor/Arts Administrator
Tracy Camp, actor/singer
Ty Defoe, Artist | artEquity
Velina Brown, Actor/Singer/Director/SFMT Collective Member
Vera Sloan, Director/Actor/Artistic Director Emertius Silicon Valley Shakepeare
Vikas Menon, Writer/Nonprofit fundraiser
Wahab Shayek, Performer
Wayne Lee, Actor/Educator
Wes Gabrillo, Actor / Performer-Educator
William Hodgson, Co-Artistic Director, Ubuntu Theater Project