The Geisha Next Door is billed as "a one-woman comedy in which a modern-day Japanese-American actress discovers astonishing parallels between herself and the traditional Japanese geisha, and confronts the possibility that when she excavates beneath the stereotype, they are both simply, as Webster defines it, 'Japanese women who sing, dance, and talk amusingly,'" according to production notes.
The piece is designed as a work for the theatre, despite its current cabaret home. Yamashita said the basic themes are intact, but she's hoping a larger budget will help the show be more fully realized.
The Geisha Next Door was originally created to be more of a musical comedy, but the non-musical elements came to dominate it, she said. Now, musical snippets survive, from traditional Japanese folk song to Whitney Houston.
Mira Kingsley directs the show, which was seen in Manhattan in summer 2002 at Performance Space NBC at Here.
"Being 4-foot-10-inches and Asian, there were very few opportunities for me in musical theatre and beyond," Yamashita told Playbill On-Line. "I came to create this show out of sheer necessity: in order to solve the problem of my being extremely passionate, driven, and marketable, yet extremely hard to cast. The Geisha Next Door shows me exactly as I am, and in all the ways I need to be seen: as a writer, a comedian, a singer, a dancer and an actress. Weaving the theme of the geisha throughout the show as my alter ego, my mentor, and a symbol of my artistic soul, I have discovered a way to confront, explore, challenge, make fun of, and even revere the image that to this day remains a striking representation of the Asian woman." Yamashita was born in western Massachusetts to two Ivy League-educated professors, and grew up splitting her time between the quiet town of South Hadley, MA, and her parents homeland in Japan. She currently maintains dual citizenship.
She was a classical voice major at New England Conservatory of Music, studied drama at Yale University and liberal arts at Mount Holyoke College. Her credits as an actress include Maria in West Side Story, and Tuptim in The King and I.Yamashita was seen in a national tour of A Chorus Line, directed by Baayork Lee (in the role of Connie Wong, inspired by Lee's life).
Earlier performances played Red's upstairs cabaret space April 9 and 16. Shows April 23 and 30 are at 8 PM. Admission is $15 cover with two drink minimum or $35 prix-fixe dinner (no drink minimum). Dinner seating is 6 PM. Show-only seating is at 7:30 PM. Performances are at Upstairs at Red, 356 W. 44th Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenue. For reservations, call (212) 868-4444.