CMU School of Drama

Thursday, September 15, 2016

From the Executive Director: Dirty Words

Theatre Bay Area: Early in the spring, conversations began to circulate around a local upcoming production of The Mikado by Lamplighters Music Theatre. In the past few years the Gilbert and Sullivan favorite has become a touchstone for protest and controversy. A Seattle production in 2014 inflamed and bitterly divided the city's artistic community, drawing attention from the national press.


William Lowe said...

Lamplighters Music Theatre did an amazing thing in this process by pulling in and developing a dialogue around their production, especially with a show like The Mikado. Many, if not all, theatre companies who produce The Mikado do not take these vitally important steps towards making the production more acceptable. I think that Lamplighters took an incredible approach to the show by changing the location because – as they mention in their comment – the location is not vitally important to the show. Theatre should show progress, so since there is nothing that we can do about the past, we can control what we do today. Lamplighters defines this statement as they are attempting to make The Mikado not about its racism, but about what the show’s authors intended the show to be about. It is bringing new life to a show which has been scared by its productions and lack of sensibility.

Emma Reichard said...

It is not often that one sees an article like this end well, but I was pleasantly surprised by the final paragraph. The understanding and compassion showed by this community is something to admire. I do believe, when it comes to artistic dialogue, that it is important to hear what critics have to say. This is especially true if you are in a position of privilege. The fact that the Lamplighters worked so diligently to remove the orientalism in The Mikado shows how artists do not need hold fast to problematic classics, but can instead work with the community to create a better version. There may be some who believe even the slightest change to a classic would detract from its authenticity and beauty. But to be frank, the beauty of a show can only greatly appreciated once you’ve removed the (often overpowering) racist undertones. And while I do believe that in this situation, dialogue and compromise worked extremely well, I should note that that is not always the case. There are some matter so blatant, and so urgent, that compromise and dialogue implies both sides are right in some way, which is not always the case. So while this strategy works well in low stake environments (like the arts, where no one faces risk of injury or death) it does not transfer well into other major issues in our society.