Representation and 21st Century Responsibilities in the Performing Arts

Representation and 21st Century Responsibilities in the Performing Arts

Clockwise: Pia Agrawal, Ryan Speedo Green, Shih-Hui Chen, Steven Wu, Patrick Summers

Location Info:

Asia Society Texas Center
1370 Southmore Blvd.
Houston, TX  77004
713-496-9901
In January, Houston Grand Opera, which can usually expect generally complimentary reviews from the Houston Chronicle, got hit with a double whammy. Chronicle theater critic and classical/opera writer Wei-Huan Chen didn’t think much of the production of Nixon in China, and said so in two articles which were more columns that reviews. He found the use of “yellowface” on white actors who performed in the opera incredibly offensive, and he complained the Asians were presented through lazy stereotypes rather than as human beings. Nixon in China, he said, “does a lot of hiding behind art to avoid social responsibility.” Given the diversity of the Houston demographic, including many of Asian ethnicity, Chen charged that minority voices were being overlooked. Why weren’t more Asians on stage in an opera, especially one set in China? Stephanie Todd Wong, director of Performing Arts & Culture for the Asia Society in Houston, thought the ensuing furor over the dust stirred up by Chen deserved some more discussion. She thought the Asia Society would be the perfect host and when she contacted the HGO, its leaders readily agreed to collaborate on it. And so, this Friday, March 31 starting at 7 p.m., Representation and 21st Century Responsibilities in the Performing Arts, which is both free and open to the public, will take place at the Asia Society’s Texas Center, 1370 Southmore. Sixto Wagan, director of the Center for Art & Social Engagement at the University of Houston, will moderate.

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