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About the event

Rethinking strict casting in theatre based on assumptions about the proper way to represent racial identity or the appropriate role of objects in performance, this conversation challenges traditionally held categories and processes running throughout theatre and performance practice. Casting a Caucasian actor in the role of a Eurasian engineer in Miss Saigon in 1991 led to one of the biggest controversies in the history of Broadway theatre. Two and half decades later, how do we criticize the current and more creative forms of yellowface? When is it efficacious to reinforce racial and cultural boundaries, and when is it appropriate to eliminate them?

The discussion moderated by Peter Eckersall (Ph.D. Program in Theatre and Performance) will respond to the return of Miss Saigon on Broadway, the cancellation of Show Boat with an all-Asian cast, and John Cage’s performances that call attention to the ways that disparate objects reverberate and auto-enunciate. Esther Kim Lee (University of Maryland) will examine the history of Eurasian as an archetypical character in theatre, film, and television and analyze how the archetype has evolved in the last 150 years, especially as a justification of the practice of yellowface. Sissi Liu (Ph.D. Program in Theatre and Performance) will trace the origins of yellowface in the US, explore risks of extremist anti-yellowface ethos, and introduce “Wukongist casting.” Edward Miller (Ph.D. Program in Theatre and Performance) will discuss the implications of staging objects and reflect upon the ramifications of the re-valued object on cultural identities.

This event is co-sponsored by the Ph.D. Program in Theatre and Performance, The Graduate Center, CUNY, and the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center.



Sissi Liu

Presidential Research Fellow for The James Gallery