The Heat Is On: Touring Production of Miss Saigon Met With Protests at Minnesota's Ordway Theater

By Carey Purcell
08 Oct 2013

Daphne Valenta and Orville Mendoza
Photo by Bob Compton Photography
Along with objections to the depiction of Asian women, the way in which Miss Saigon portrays the Vietnam War has also met with criticism; however, cast members have received positive feedback from audience members. Orville Mendoza, who has performed in two previous productions of Miss Saigon and plays the Engineer in the Ordway production, said in a statement that people who lived through the Vietnam War have expressed gratitude after seeing the show. "Even though Miss Saigon is a work of fiction, they thank us for putting 'a version' of their story onstage," he said.

In a letter published in Twin Cities Daily Planet, Mendoza responded to the protests against the production, sharing his experiences as a Filipino-American who immigrated to the United States with his family at the age of two.

"There is also the suggestion that we Asian artists involved in the show are 'selling out.' I, for one, do not believe I am 'selling out.' That term has the connotation that I'm doing something against my will or morals for monetary gain," he wrote.  "I whole-heartedly believe in this show. The show deals with racism but it isn't racist, in my opinion. The tone of the show is very specific. It neither glorifies prostitution, or war, nor does it whitewash a very real historical event in Asian and American history. To do so would be insulting to those who lived it. Yes, it is a work of fiction based on another work of fiction set in a less than flattering world. But the underlying motives and themes of the show are very different."

Manna Nichols, who plays Kim, emphasized her character's strength while describing Miss Saigon as telling "an incredibly powerful historical story, as well as an absolutely beautiful love story.

"I love every scene in Kim's journey," she said in a statement. "She triumphs through love and loss and each scene shows her growing stronger and stronger in the face of adversity."

Along with its significance in relation to current events, Mitchell said Miss Saigon serves as a powerful reminder of the past. 

"At its core, it is a dramatic love story set during the Vietnam War. Obviously, as it takes place during a tragic period in Vietnam and U.S. history, there are many complex issues — including those ugly sides of war — present in the show's themes," Mitchell said. "For me, personally, it is a reminder of events of those times. Following long involvements in other wars, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, I believe the themes are still relevant today."

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Photo by Bob Compton Photography