Students criticize 'Mikado' play for 'cultural appropriation'
Some students at Fort Hays State University (FHSU) in Kansas say a school-sponsored operetta production is not only “racist,” but also rife with “cultural appropriation.”
FHSU Music and Theatre describes its production of The Mikado as “a fun burlesque romp about the whimsy of love” on its Facebook page. According to the operetta’s description, the play takes place “in a mythical Japan,” where the main character “has been appointed Lord High Executioner and must find someone to execute before the arrival of the ruling Mikado.”
"The opera is about Japanese people… *BUT* … it is being performed here at Fort Hays State University with an all NON-ASIAN CAST."
However, not all FHSU students were receptive to the operetta’s comedic nature, deeming it an offensive instance of cultural appropriation.
“[S]aw this on campus earlier this morning- CRAZY how blatant racism is still happening,” tweeted an FHSU student calling herself Fatima, attaching pictures of a vandalized poster for the operetta with the word “RACISM“ scrawled across it in permanent marker, along with a typed criticism of the event attached via tape.
“The Mikado is racist for many reasons so when I saw the Dr. Joseph Perniciaro picked this for the opera I was appalled. The Mikado is cultural appropriation, it is RACIST, it is ‘yellow-face,’ and it sure as hell shouldn’t be a production that still exists,” the page reads.
“To begin, the opera is about Japanese people… *BUT* … it is being performed here at Fort Hays State University with an all NON-ASIAN CAST,” the tirade continues, declaring that “All this production is, is an exaggeration of Japanese stereotypes.”
“This production was not okay when it was created and it definitely isn’t ok today – like COME ON, it’s 2018,” the response proclaims.
Other students, though, support the production wholeheartedly.
“Everyone in Hays needs to go see FHSU’s production of the Mikado tonight! It starts at 7:30 in F/S theatre in Malloy Hall. And to everyone in the cast, break a leg tonight! I love you all and know how hard you’ve worked!” FHSU student Heath Brandyberry tweeted.
“Having fun rehearsing the Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan. Last dress rehearsal tonight and Performance on Friday at 7:30PM and Sunday at 2:30! You guys are in store for a great show!” a member of the cast wrote in a tweet.
According to the operetta’s trailer, “The Mikado is a masterpiece of comic writing with tuneful music added to the story. This show takes place in a mythical town in Japan. This show contains themes of friction between government and human relationships, as well as death, cruelty, and love for comedy’s sake.”
“This cast and crew has put in many hours and long nights into their performance. Dedication played a key role into this production,” the trailer continues, concluding, “With many comedic jokes that will make you laugh, as well as some recognizable songs, you’re guaranteed to have an enjoyable night at the theater.”
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @rMitchellGunter