Seattle Rep issues statement, will host townhall on race & art regarding yellowface #Mikado

Actors from the Seattle's Gilbert & Sullivan Society revival of "The Mikado". Photo credit: Greg Wood / Getty Images.
(corrected) Actors performing “The Mikado”. Photo credit: Greg Wood / Getty Images.

Much of the Asian American community is in an uproar over this year’s production of “The Mikado” by the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society, which features unabashed yellowface. Yesterday, I published a wonderful guest-post by LA-based activist Sean Miura (@seanmiura) about the production.

Both the Gilbert & Sullivan Society and the theater where “The Mikado” is playing — the stages of the Seattle Repertory Theater — have found themselves thrust into the spotlight. Today, in response to the controversy, the Seattle Repertory Theatre issued a public statement clarifying their relationship to the production. The Seattle Rep writes that they have no relationship with the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society, and that the Bagley Wright Stage where “The Mikado” will run this month is rented to the Society by way of a contract between the Rep and the City of Seattle. Thus, the Seattle Rep clarifies that they did not authorize the Society’s yellowface production of “The Mikado”.

The Rep also commits to hosting a community townhall on race, art and cultural representation that can address some of the issues raised.

Full text of the press statement after the jump.

A Clarification and an Invitation
in regards to the production of The Mikado
by the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society
appearing on the Bagley Wright Stage
at Seattle Repertory Theatre

We have received many emails and tweets in follow up to Sharon Pian Chan’s opinion piece in the Seattle Times on Sunday, July 13th, in which she castigates the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society for staging The Mikado in our building in a racially insensitive way. A few points of clarification:

  1. The Mikado is a production of The Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society, not Seattle Repertory Theatre. We have no association with the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society and no influence over their programming or artistic decisions.
  2. While this production appears on the stage of the Bagley Wright in our facility, we did not rent the space to the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society. As a part of our lease with the City of Seattle, we are required to open up time and space on the Bagley stage every summer for productions by the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society. The Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s rental arrangement is with the City of Seattle, not with Seattle Rep.

Seattle Rep remains committed to presenting work that accurately depicts and reflects the many diverse and unique voices of our local community. Because The Mikado is being presented on the same stage where Seattle Rep’s own productions happen to appear though, we have been mistakenly implicated here. While unfortunate, we believe this provides an opportunity for Seattle Rep to exert some leadership within the Seattle cultural community on this important issue at this moment of controversy.

To that end, we will be hosting an open community conversation in early August regarding The Mikado and, more broadly, issues of race, art, and cultural representation. We are currently working on a date, a moderator, and panelists and will have specific information available very shortly.

In the meantime, please contact feedback at with any questions or for more information. We look forward to seeing you there.

  • Braden Abraham
    Acting Artistic Director
  • Jeffrey Herrmann
    Managing Director

This statement acknowledges the issues surrounding a yellowface staging of “The Mikado” and appears to sympathize with how such a production is offensive and insensitive to Asian Americans. This response stands in stark contrast with the Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s bizarre doubling-down in defense of their own yellowface.

So, as we proceed in the conversation over the inappropriateness of yellowface regarding “The Mikado”, I think that as a community we should be sure we are targeting the right folks. It seems like anger at the Seattle Rep may be largely misplaced, and we should probably focus our displeasure on the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society.

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