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UPDATE: Theatre Abruptly Cancels Asian American Panel on Miss Saigon . Teach-in Held in Protest

Miss Saigon at Overture Theatre in Madison, WI

A theatre in Wisconsin canceled without warning a panel meant to address concerns from Asian Americans about an upcoming production of Miss Saigon, reports the Badger-Herald.

In response, members of the Asian American community this morning held a teach-in in front of the theater, according to Madison.com

The cancellation Wednesday occurred the morning of the scheduled panel and days before the show’s opening at the Overture Center in Madison.

Members of the city’s Asian American community accused the theatre of misleading them.

“I’m very disappointed but I’m not surprised,” University of Wisconsin-Madison Asian American Studies professor Timothy Yu said to Madison.com . “They said they wanted to have an open and courageous conversation, but even somewhat challenging questions seemed to them like protest, over the line. That does not comport with my idea of an open conversation.”

At this morning’s teach-in, Yu’s group said the stereotypes today are still as prevalent as they were three decades ago when Miss Saigon premiered.

“It’s still everywhere, it’s entrenched,” said Bao Huynh, a teaching assistant at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “It’s so damaging to us, to our whole identity. The story is what is being told to Vietnamese women … wives, sisters, are being told that the white savior is a thing.”

Miss Saigon has long been criticized for exoticizing Asian women and also playing up the White savior story line. Yu blasted the Tony-winning play for its “sexualized, self-sacrificing Asian women and villainous Asian men.”

The Theatre said disagreements emerged over the goals of the panel and that there wasn’t enough time to work the issues out.


“This is uncharted territory for us,” said Ed Holmes of Overture to the Badger-Herald. “And although we were not able to proceed this evening, this is an important conversation for us to have, one that we will not shy away from.” .

Overture has offered to hold the panel after the show closes. It’s an offer Asian Americans dismiss.

(Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the teach-in would be held next week.)

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1 COMMENT

  1. RE:Update: Theatre Abruptly Cancels Asian American Panel on Miss Saigon. Teach-in held in protest: I feel much the same way about Miss Saigon, as a white parent of Asian daughters. I’m very uncomfortable with it. However, my 23 year old Broadway fanatic (Asian) daughter absolutely loved it and dragged me to it. (I cried through most of it, but the music IS beautiful.) I draw the line at her taking her 16 year old sister – absolutely, unequivocably, NOT. It definitely does perpetuate stereotypes that are harmful, and coming from the time period of the original piece (Puccini’s Madame Butterfly), you understand why. So much more could have been done with the story, looking at it with a modern eye. If they can “update” other classic stories, why not this one?

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