EDITOR’S DESK | Comments of the week focus on Hmong 18 Clan Council, Miss Saigon

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With more than 60,000 page views and more than 750 comments, Tiffany Vang’s Community Voices article on the Hmong 18 Clan Council and bride prices leads in all categories. Not surprising: Many commenters who missed the point or had little to say. More surprising: The sheer number of comments, and the many who took the time to respond thoughtfully and at length, either agreeing or disagreeing, and also Tiffany Vang’s dedication to taking the time to respond to several comments, also thoughtfully and at length. Take a look!

A comment and response to Denise Hanh Huynh’s Miss Saigon article also deserve attention. It’s great to see people engaging in actual conversation about the issues, in a respectful way that shows they are thinking about what the other person said. Continue below for a bit of that comment and response, or click to read the whole conversation here:

Austin Ku (Actor) • … It’s a complicated issue, and it’s bigger than this one show. If we were to take away all of the inauthentic portrayals of Asians (much less Vietnamese specifically), written by non-Asians, in media such as film, television, theater, opera… we would have very little left, and certainly nothing written before our current generation–not just for Asian creatives to work, but for audiences of any race to see Asians in the media reflecting the society now around them.

I would hope anyone reading this who is singularly “anti-Miss Saigon” would think about how they might redirect their energy and resources towards positive change–support a theatre that commissions new works by diverse authors and/or hires diverse cast and creatives, ask a theatre lacking in audience diversity how you might help them reach out to your community, etc. In keeping with your action item #1, I think the two keys are diverse audiences and diverse creatives (not only theatre staff but also diverse programming, and diverse cast and creatives for different shows), and we must ask ourselves how we can advance those causes. …

Denise Hạnh Huỳnh • I was actually just going to ask about whether the actors knew about the factual, historical, or cultural inaccuracies in the show and how the actors felt about these inaccuracies – especially Vietnamese cast members. I know if I were in your shoes, that it would drive me crazy, so I was honestly interested in what you had to say, since there are many times where actors of colors are presented with opportunities that are far less than perfect. I did get to speak to a few people about this afterward, so I have some insight into this, even if the answers are less than satisfying. …

At what point though will the creators of the show listen? And allow for real revisions (like with turning Madame Butterfly into M. Butterfly)? Is it feasible to believe they do not care because it brings in so much money? I think the answer to this is clearly yes. The current popularity of this show seems aligned with the popularity of a lot of old, racist shows lately. I am no theatre expert and cannot discuss these issues at length in a productive way, but you may be interested in Sarah Bellamy’s piece on TCG recently: http://www.tcgcircle.org/2013/10/establishing-cultural-norms-our-role-and-responsibility/


Reporting for this article supported in part by Bush Foundation.

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