Community members demand apology from Ordway

Angered that the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts is bringing the musical “Miss Saigon” to the stage, dozens have demanded that the theater promise not to again book the show.

At a conversation attended by 75 people last night in Minnesota Public Radio’s UBS Forum, Asian Americans and others offended by the musical’s portrayal of Asian women as submissive asked Ordway CEO Patricia Mitchell to apologize to the community.

During a 90-minute conversation, they also told Mitchell that the Ordway should offer refunds to people who have already bought tickets but decide they don’t want to see the show after all, or who see the show and find it racist.

When asked by moderator Randy Reyes to define “Miss Saigon,” one critic offered: “It’s a pain in the ass.”

The meeting was the third in a series organized by Mu Performing Arts in the lead up to the third tour of “Miss Saigon” in Minnesota Oct. 8-13. Critics of the show say it is racist, sexist and promotes an attitude of white supremacy.

This year’s production marks the third time that the Ordway has booked or co-produced the hit Broadway musical. The show came to Minneapolis in 1994 and to St. Paul in 1999.

Mitchell agreed to offer refunds and said doing so would be consistent with the Ordway’s current ticket refund policy. However, she declined to promise the show would not return to the Twin Cities after this fall.

“Will ‘Miss Saigon’ be done again while I’m running the Ordway? No,” she said. “But can I promise that the Ordway will never do the show again? No.”

As for an apology, Mitchell responded: “If I say I’m sorry, I don’t think you’d believe me. I don’t think there’s anything I can say that would satisfy you.”

Later, after more urging, Mitchell added: “I’m sorry that it’s so hurtful to you.”

Chanida Phaengdara Potter, a Laotian American, said to Mitchell “I don’t want you to feel ashamed – I want you to be my ally against racism.”

In the audience were several members of the newly formed “Don’t Buy MISS SAIGON Coalition” and staff of the Ordway.

Also present were representatives of several area foundations; as a non-profit, the Ordway is the recipient of both state funding and foundation grants.

The Ordway will host its own community conversation Sept. 22.

Meanwhile, in a testament to “Miss Saigon’s” enduring appeal with theatergoers, a London revival of the 25-year-old production broke West End box office records yesterday, selling $6.9 million in tickets in a single day. That’s more than double the previous record, set by “The Book of Mormon.”