Three strikes and you’re OUT!


Three strikes and you’re OUT! I have protested this show three times now, and am exhausted and sick that it has come back to our Twin Cities. In the 90’s, we worked hard to “educate” and dialogue with the Ordway. The administration there took the various comments and decided to create four Cultural Community Groups (four for every “food group”). Their intent was to be advised about racial issues and to be a curatorial advisory to the Ordway’s programming. Lots of good art came from these, including Planet Ordway and several main stage and McKnight Stage performances.

Visiting performance artist Ken Choy curated a cabaret in response at the Walker Art Center, then with Performing Curator John Killacky. Several of us performed. My piece was called, “Just Kidding’, and featured me pointing out people in the audience and saying all the stupid things white people have assumed of me. I ended all of these comments too, with their final stab: “I hope I didn’t offend you, you know I was just kidding. Why can’t you just get over it?”

In the early 2000’s, it came BACK under the directorship of Keven McCollum. Back then, I was on the Asian Pacific Cultural Advisory Team thinking that we had to work in tandem to create change, so I’d put my time where my heart was. What a slap in the face! One of two Asians working at the Ordway at the time, called me, whispering that they were bringing MS back, that no one was to leak the season line up and that McCollum was to announce the season at a PR event (dog and pony show for certain). He did his best Broadway impression, announcing the season, brushing over any mention of MS, then promptly left the stage, not taking any questions or comments from the audience. I was there.

I approached his assistants with a packet of information from the previous protest and said that this was the second slap in the face and that we had no more cheeks left. The reply was a one page letter, written by the director, chastising the employee for leaking the news. He ended the letter saying that until there were worthy shows….this would continue to be presented.

And here we are now. The new Ordway director thinks this is a personal attack on her position and privileged lifestyle. What’s sad is that the piece is not only in poor taste and extremely offensive, but it is an abhorrent piece of performance and waste of time. With all the great performances possible, they have to bring this back, put their staff in awkward positions and then, act as though we are taking something away from them.

I couldn’t believe the lack of any grace or acknowledgement from the Ex Dir. I COULD, however, believe that there are staff there that are in a precarious position, but then, their leader can’t even acknowledge that.

I feel some ease that funder-allies were in the house, namely Vickie Benson from the McKnight Foundation. It is not necessarily their job to attend events like this, but I hope their presence means SOMETHING to the Ordway’s upper wing.

What to do next? Write letters to the State Arts Board and let them know that we don’t want our precious Legacy dollars supporting schlock like Miss Saigon. Write to Travelers Foundation (Mike Newman) and St.Paul Foundation via Sharon DeMark and let them know we appreciate them being present and that we hope they’ll consider – greatly – the impact of this show on the health and welfare of the Asian American (in particular) community.

To rising above it all and our Pan Asian pride.
And then, to common sense and a state of grace
….wherever it is!

Sandy Agustin, independent arts and civic dialogue consultant, was formerly the Artistic Director at Intermedia Arts and adjunct faculty at Augsburg College. Agustin holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Dance Therapy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Trained in the Hanya Holm/Nikolais aesthetic of modern dance, Agustin has danced and toured professionally since 1984 throughout the Midwest and in Mexico City.