A production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado” planned for New York this December was canceled after it drew criticism over how its largely non-Asian cast planned to portray the stereotyped Japanese characters and culture that are often seen as central to the work, the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players announced on their website.
The troupe “never intended to give offense and the company regrets the missed opportunity to responsively adapt” the show this December, the troupe’s executive director, David Wannen, wrote in a statement on the website. The company plans to mount another popular Gilbert and Sullivan work, “The Pirates of Penzance,” in its place for six performances at the Skirball Center at New York University from Dec. 26 through Jan. 2.
The decision was announced as many arts organizations are rethinking how they stage classic works that portray different races and cultures onstage in ways that are now seen as racist or offensive, in an effort to keep the jarring aspects from getting in the way of what makes those works great. When the Metropolitan Opera opens its season next week with a new production of Verdi’s “Otello,” it will break a long performance tradition by not using dark makeup on its tenor, a practice that has uncomfortable echoes of minstrelsy and blackface.
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