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April 2016

Dear Friends:

Some of you may already know about the changes we are making to our 2016 production of The Mikado. For some of you this may be the first you have heard of it. We want to make sure that our most loyal supporters understand the path that has led us to this new production, and we hope you will all become as excited as we are about this opportunity to create a Mikado for everyone.

There has always been some controversy about The Mikado, but the cultural and political climate of today’s world is not that of even just a few years ago. We have seen the controversy intensify: in 2014 the Seattle Gilbert and Sullivan Society saw widespread protests against their “yellow-face” production; and last year the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players felt obliged to cancel their production of The Mikado because of a public outcry.

The Lamplighters have, of course, been aware of all of this. Although traditionally set in Japan, The Mikado is not actually about Japan – and we feel that there are ways to perform the production respectfully, while keeping all of the original humor and brilliance. Our original plan was to set this year’s Mikado in the late 19th Century Meiji period – the time when The Mikado was written, and a time of international cross-cultural exchange with the rapid westernization of Japanese culture and society.

With an eye towards inclusion, we reached out to various Japanese and Asian Bay Area organizations and scholars, as well as to the local Asian performing community, in the hopes of encouraging discussion, collaboration, and increased interest in our auditions. Instead of the hoped-for partnerships, these efforts attracted intense opposition, and ultimately resulted in threats of local and national protest, escalating to the point where we were confronted with the imminent loss of our San Francisco venue. This risked the survival of our company.

Our response was to make the decision to remove the exotic lens of Japan from this production, and to replace it with a different exotic lens – that of Renaissance Italy – the backdrop for many of Shakespeare’s greatest works.

The reaction to this decision from within the Lamplighter family, as well as from our supporters, has ranged from relief to outrage. There are some who angrily feel that the Lamplighters have capitulated to the forces of political correctness. There are others who just as strongly believe that The Mikado should never again be performed. Most people's reactions are somewhere in the middle.

We live in a diverse world, and the Lamplighters have made the decision to lead the way to ensure the continued viability of The Mikado in today’s cultural environment. We have been given an opportunity to listen, to discuss, to learn and to adapt. We are enthusiastic about looking at this classic masterpiece through a different lens – at presenting The Mikado that we all know and love, without offending anyone in our community. Non-visual changes will be minimal, and only as necessitated by our new setting.

If you would like to learn more about this exciting new production, we invite you to join us at one of our open Town Hall meetings over the next few weeks, so that we can tell you more, and answer any questions you may have. Please RSVP to if you would like to attend one of these meetings, so that we can get an idea of numbers. If you are unable to attend a meeting, please feel free to call us at 415-227-4797. We are always happy to answer your questions.

Thank you for being such loyal supporters of the Lamplighters.


Rick Williams
Rick Williams
Artistic Director

Baker Peeples
Baker Peeples
Resident Music Director

Please join us! RSVP to

Wednesday, May 11, 2016 at 7 PM
Lesher Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek, Vukasin Theatre

Monday, May 16, 2016 at 7 PM
Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, Second Stage

Wednesday, May 18, 2016 at 7 PM
Lamplighters Rehearsal Studio
469 Bryant Street, San Francisco (between 3rd & 2nd Streets)

Tuesday, May 31, 2016 at 7:30 PM
Bankhead Theater Lobby, Livermore

Sunday, June 5, 2016 at 1 PM
Lamplighters Rehearsal Studio
469 Bryant Street, San Francisco (between 3rd & 2nd Streets)