As the oldest and the largest Asian American civil rights organization in the United States, the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) objects to the use of yellowface and stereotypes in the comic opera The Mikado and condemns the decision to stage a play with such offensive rhetoric to all Asian Americans.
The Mikado, written by Gilbert & Sullivan, is currently playing at The Bagley Wright Theatre in Seattle, WA. Set in Japan, the play is being performed by an amateur troupe of 40 White actors (including two Latinos).
The term yellowface describes an inappropriate portrayal of an Asian character, similar to the practice of blackface. To be more specific, a combination of stereotypical makeup, dress, customs, and behaviors are used that inaccurately and offensively portray Asians.
Although The Mikado was written in the 19th century as a satire poking fun at the British fascination with Japan, the racist portrayal of Japanese people in this play is extremely disrespectful and misleading to those who are not familiar with Japanese culture. As such, the staging of this play furthers those demeaning stereotypes of Asian Americans in this day and age.
There is nothing timely or clever about the use of these outdated stereotypes and The Mikado should stop playing immediately.