Dave Ross defends allegedly racist play ‘The Mikado’

Jul 14, 2014, 1:18 PM | Updated: Jul 15, 2014, 1:41 pm
LISTEN:

In a play from 1885, put on by a society dedicated to keeping these shows alive, accusations of racism have appeared where someone might normally see a show review.

According to Seattle Times’ Sharon Pian Chan:

“The Mikado” is the same shtick, different race. A black wig and white face powder stand in for shoeshine. Bowing and shuffling replaces tap dancing. Fans flutter where banjos would be strummed.

“The Mikado” is the latest production being put on by the Gilbert & Sullivan Society. It’s the ninth time the society has performed the play, the first was in 1955, and it’s the sixth time Dave Ross has had a part in the production.

Chan writes:

All 40 Japanese characters are being played by white actors, including two Latinos. KIRO radio host Dave Ross is in the cast.
It’s yellowface, in your face.

“People are wearing pink makeup. I don’t know where the yellow comes from,” KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross told the Tom & Curley Show.

John Curley told Dave it looked like he’d been harmed by the editorial. But Dave said he was just confused.

“It’s completely out of left field, dare I say, because we’re doing British accents. The piece implies that we’re somehow doing a Japanese gibberish dialect-sort of line. This is a British play, written for British actors speaking in fake British. So we are satirizing British people mercilessly, especially British bureaucrats in this piece. Tyrants take it on the chin in this piece. There’s a lot of execution talk going around, but the audiences mostly laugh.”

The names Chan questions: Titipu, Nanki Poo, Yum-Yum and Pish-Tush. She even draws on controversy surrounding the Asiana Airlines crash, where you might remember a San Francisco television station wrongly read fake Asian names on the air. She uses “wong” instead of wrong, when talking about the perceived racism in “The Mikado.”

As for offense that Chan took from the names of places and characters in the G&S classic, Dave credits Gilbert, a humorist and writer for Punch Magazine with an attempt at silliness. “Humor was his specialty.”

According to Dave, racism implies a group that considers itself superior is trying to humiliate a group that is on the outs.

“We have a history in this country that makes it inappropriate for us to do blackface,” he said. “But there is not perception that the Japanese minority group in this country is somehow a failed minority group.”

There were plays written with the intention of its actors doing blackface. The Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society is not doing those plays.

“We’re accused of doing whiteface […] If you’ve ever been to Japan, Kubuki art is done in whiteface and deliberately so, which is not racist,” said Dave.

The costumes, according to Dave, are designed to make the actors look like samurais.

“The whole idea, is that I am the executioner. I carry this huge snickersnee. I dress in a kimono. We all dress in kimonos. I wear pink makeup, so that I stick out on stage. Then I use a brown eyebrow pencil. I use a little rouge on the cheeks to denote my taste for sake, and that’s pretty much it,” he said.

He compared it to a Yoyogi Park in Tokyo, where people dress up like Elvis, and by the standards set forth by Chan, those Elvises are making fun of the American icon.

“But I always thought they did it because they enjoyed dressing as Elvis. It’s fun to dress as something you’re not,” said Dave. “I’ve never played myself in any role. I’ve always played someone else that I’m not, including a Spanish Catholic priest and a Hungarian king, and various British personnel.”

In “The Mikado,” Dave plays Ko-Ko, the The Grand High Executioner of Titipu. It’s “a position that doesn’t exist in a town that doesn’t exist.”

Tom and Curley on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM
  • listen to tom and curleyTune in to KIRO Radio weekdays at 3pm for The Tom and Curley Show.

Tom and Curley Show

Local News

Truck crash on SB I-5. (KTTH listener submitted photo)...
MyNorthwest Staff

Semi-truck collision on SB I-5 in Lynnwood clear after blocking three lanes

On the I-5 southbound on-ramp at 44th Avenue, there was a truck collision Tuesday that had been blocking the two right lanes.
1 day ago
troyer...
MyNorthwest Staff

Investigation finds Pierce County Sheriff Troyer violated department standards

In an independent investigation, Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer has been found to have violated the department’s policies and standards.
1 day ago
Kim Wyman...
Nicole Jennings

Washington state GOP worried about state’s future as Kim Wyman leaves for Biden administration

As Secretary of State Kim Wyman announces she has taken a job with the Biden administration, the chair of the Republican Party is concerned.
1 day ago
stolen school bus...
MyNorthwest Staff

Man arrested in Seattle after stealing empty school bus, ramming vehicles

Seattle police arrested a man in the Central District on Tuesday after he stole an empty school bus and rammed it into other vehicles.
1 day ago
covid pill, vaccines, vaccination...
Kathryn Altena

Seattle to open new COVID vaccination clinic in West Seattle

The City of Seattle will be opening a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Neighborhood House in the High Point neighborhood, in West Seattle.
1 day ago
Lorena Gonzalez...
MyNorthwest Staff

Lorena Gonzalez removes campaign ad labeled ‘racial stereotype’ by opponent

Seattle mayoral candidate Lorena Gonzalez apologizes for a campaign advertisement criticized by Black civic leaders for perpetuating racial stereotypes
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Medicare open enrollment for 2022 starts Oct. 15 and SHIBA can help!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
...

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
...
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
...
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
...
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.
...
Comcast

Small, Minority-Owned Businesses in King County and Pierce County Can Now Apply For $10,000 Relief Grants Through Comcast RISE

Businesses in King County and Pierce County can apply beginning on October 1, 2021, at www.ComcastRISE.com for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
Dave Ross defends allegedly racist play ‘The Mikado’