SAINT PAUL, Minn. - The October performances of the musical "Miss Saigon" has renewed the passions of some Asian-Americans who regard the play as promoting stereotypes of Asian women.
Miss Saigon is to run at the Ordway Theater from October 8-13.
This is the third presentation of Miss Saigon on an Ordway stage.
The first was in 1994 at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, the second in 1998.
"All the Asian women in Miss Saigon are prostitutes," commented Randy Reyes, Artistic Director of the Mu Performing Arts of Minneapolis. "There is the romanticization of human trafficking. There are adoption issues. There is the perpetuation of the narrative of the Asian woman killing herself for a white man."
Marlina Gonzalez, Arts Curator, agreed. "What about this play is what it is not about. It is not about the human trafficking that is it really about."
Miss Saigon depicts a young, caucasian American G.I. during the Vietnam War meeting a Vietnamese girl in a Saigon brothel. She becomes pregnant as he returns to the United States. Later, he returns to Saigon with his American wife. The young Asian woman gives the former G.I. and his wife her child, hoping for a better life and then kills herself. The play is an updated version of the opera "Madam Butterfly".
Playwright Marina Feleo-Gonzalez, who knew Lea Salonga, the original performer of Miss Saigon in London and on Broadway, said "Miss Saigon is a violation of women's rights and human rights, but it has been prettified. Personally, I protest the way it is being shown, being told, completely erasing the real, the real story."
However, the Ordway management takes a different approach to the performances. Patricia Mitchell, President of the Ordway, declined protesters demands that the Ordway apologize, offer refunds to ticket holders who wish them and promise never to show Miss Saigon again.
"We put is on because it is a really, in our judgement, a really compelling piece of musical theater," said Mitchell. "It neither romanticizes, nor trivializes sex trafficking, which is, by the way, going on in this town and it does not only involve Asian women. It involves girls and women of every race.
"Whereas, I do not apologize for presenting the work, of course, we regret that it is painful for some, but many theater works, anything that is interesting, is going to have some element of controversy. If it did not, we would all be watching 'Leave it to Beaver' retuns, which I do not think anybody wants."
The Ordway will host a discussion at the Theater on Sunday, September 22 at 6:30 which anyone is allowed to attend. The discussion will focus on the play and its plot.
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