Donatella Galella awarded Best Article of the Year for research on ‘yellowface’

Author: Sandra Baltazar Martinez
October 28, 2019

Donatella Galella, assistant professor of theatre history and theory at UC Riverside, was recognized by The American Theatre & Drama Society for an article providing insight into modern manifestations of yellowface. 

Donatella Galella, assistant professor of theatre history and theory at UC Riverside. (Photo courtesy of Donatella Galella)
Donatella Galella, assistant professor of theatre history and theory at UC Riverside. (Photo courtesy of Donatella Galella)

The 2019 Vera Mowry Roberts Award for Research and Publication was announced this summer. Galella’s research article, “Feeling Yellow: Responding to Contemporary Yellowface in Musical Performance,” provides poignant views regarding how certain musical performances have used non-Asian actors to play characters meant to be of Asian descent. Having non-Asian characters rely on costumes, music, martial arts, makeup, accents, and other stereotypes to portray an Asian character, is called yellowface. 

The article was published in The Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism

“I focus on yellowface in musical theatre because the genre promises to produce pleasure and, through this, facilitates the disavowal of complicity with systemic racist violence,” writes Galella, who created UCR’s first Asian American theatre course. She now serves as advisor for the student club Asian American of Riverside Theatre, or AART.  

The American Theatre & Drama Society also granted her the Publication Subvention Award, which came with $500 to help cover costs associated with her first book.

“I am grateful for this recognition and hopeful that musical theatre scholarship will make more anti-racist interventions,” said Galella, whose first book, “America in the Round: Capital, Race, and Nation at Washington DC’s Arena Stage,” was published in the spring.  

She is currently working on a second book about yellowface.