Mu drew a line for you, and it was all yellow

Mu Performing Arts’ new production “Yellow Face” deals with issues of cultural identity and representation.

PHOTO COURTESY MU PERFORMING ARTS

PHOTO COURTESY MU PERFORMING ARTS

John Sand

YELLOWFACE âÄúYellow FaceâÄù WHERE: Guthrie Theater, 818 2nd St. S. WHEN: Feb. 4 – 21 TICKETS: $18-30 Yellow face refers to a white actor going on stage in makeup in order to portray an Asian character, but the term means more than that to playwright and writer of the new Guthrie production âÄúYellow Face,âÄù David Henry Hwang. As he told The Asia Society in a video interview, âÄúThe play takes the idea of ‘yellow face’ and tries to look at its many different possible permutations âĦ My entire adult life I have been associated in some way with being Asian, being part of this community, being a ‘role model’ … I have been in yellow face.âÄù The play is based on the accidental casting of a white man as the Eurasian pimp in a Broadway production and the reaction that ensues. The casting directors of the play-within-a-play must then grapple with how to deal with protestors, cultural identity and underlying racism. Rick Shiomi, the Artistic Director of Mu Performing Arts and director of the show, says, âÄúIt’s a very contemporary issue for students. 20 years ago many people in theater thought issues of identity and race would sort of fade awayâÄù says Shiomi, âÄú[but] that sort of understanding and shared experience is becoming more important.âÄù Though the production floats around a handful of central characters, Shiomi says there are nearly 60 roles, with each actor playing eight or ten. âÄúIt could easily be chaotic,âÄù he admits. âÄúYellow FaceâÄù uses minimalistic set design, so scenes change in a flurry, with the flip of a light switch and the toss of a different coat. Shiomi believes the pieceâÄôs snappy writing and frenetic pace could prove to work against its coherency, but the simplicity of the set aids in centering the precision. Full of hilariously sensitive racial tension and expertly executed stage direction, âÄúYellow FaceâÄù grapples with the sensitive structures that uphold culturally propagated racism, while always remembering to keep a sense of humor.