About 20 Asian Americans and allies, mostly University of Wisconsin faculty and students, handed out about 700 copies of an essay written by Asian American Studies professor Timothy Yu explaining why Asian Americans find the musical Miss Saigon patronizing and problematic outside Overture Center Tuesday as patrons filed in for opening night of the one-week run of the touring Broadway production.
The essay was initially to be printed in the program for the eight performances, but Overture Center officials said the show’s producers have ultimate say over the programs and did not allow it to be printed.
Yu said it was a generally positive experience.
“People have been pretty friendly about it,” he said. “A surprising number of people have said, ‘Oh, yes, I’ve heard about this.'”
The issue has received significant media attention since Overture cancelled a panel discussion scheduled for last Wednesday because CEO Sandra Gajic and others felt the questions posed by moderator Leslie Bow were “inflammatory.” Activists held a “teach-in” outside Overture Center instead, and Gajic has since apologized for cancelling the panel and hopes to reschedule it.
“Overture wanted to let people see this note,” Yu said of his essay. “I think Madison theatergoers can handle a little debate. A lot of people are engaged in this.”
“As someone who’s Southeast Asian, I think it’s extremely important to advocate for a community that I identify with,” said Solinna Chong, a graduate student in the UW School of Social Work who joined the effort to hand out the flyers. “The Vietnam War had a huge impact on my family because my parents were children during that time. It’s important knowledge for the public to be able to hear a different perspective about it.”
Overture officials have said the do not expect a drop in ticket sales over the controversy, though Edgewood College cancelled a planned group outing to see the show, for which the school had already bought tickets and does not expect a refund.