March 16: racial strife and musical notes
I want to let you in on a little surprise that no one else knows...
I was offered a musical director position for the children's theatre troupe
I'm working with now. They offered me a tidy sum for about three weeks worth
of work for next spring's show. The show is about Spiders, but it's centering
on the human reality of Prejudice and Oppression. Weighty material for 5-9 yr olds,
but I guess they need to be taught at some point. Should be interesting.
They are going for the real balls this time and not just racial/opression incidents.
Oh wait you have no idea what i'm talking about. Okay, in wheelchair
dancer--the current jelly show, I'm playing Douglas, the owner of this
dance studio. I have two current dancers (a black male and a white
female) in the troupe (as theatre background: another dancer recently left
the troupe so i'm looking to expand...he was a white male, but no one
knows that). I hire this black female dancer on the spot. And then amy
(the wheelchair dancer) wants to audition. And basically i say no as do
the other dancers....except the white female. she just doesn't understand
how the girl could be a dancer in a wheelchair, but is basically nice to her
in this one scene and apologizes for being so rude.
Because of casting choices made by the director and the playwright, the play is
given a racial undertone that it's not necessarily supposed to have. Douglas, is an
egotistical choreographer. Denise is a tall girl. Lily has a scar on her arm she likes
to hide, and Jacob wears glasses. None of these characters are race specific. And certain
characteristics were changed because of who they had audition and decided to cast.
I noticed the racial implications after the first couple of rehearsals but chose not to say
anything because this company is none for NOT CARING about the color of a
person's skin in terms of casting decisions. I've had a white mother and
black father, I've been married to a white woman with a black son in the
various productions that i've done with them. And I was hoping that it wouldn't become a
big deal for the audience either.
I and the black woman (Lily) (who's done every show with this company) were hired
because we make good "snooty" characters...we're good at playing the
antagonists. I like that.
Well, an incident occured at the show last week. A teacher came up to
Denise (the nice one in the play) and said "I'm so glad YOU were the one
who was nice to her." Not, "I'm so glad you were nice to her." no that
simple phrase..."you were the one who" sets it off. I didn't get too
upset because I knew that someone at some point in time was going to put it
out. Sometimes you just come to expect certain interactions. I thought that
anyone with half a brain would see the racist implications inherent in that
statment...though our resident conservative, mormon (yes just found that out
about HER as well)said...well, maybe you don't know where this woman was coming from.
WHERE ELSE COULD SHE HAVE BEEN COMING FROM? explain and educate me, lucy.
So the script was changed somewhat. Now, instead of refering back to what
happened in the previous scene, all of us are made out to look like we
picked on her. which is fine. in that instance, those who want to read
any racial undertones into it...can.
I think I'm going to take this musical director job, it's a very scary proposition
at the moment because it would require me to reorchestrate several songs that
will all be given to me in Em. Argh, we have a whole show that we're doing in
a minor key right now because the composer can only sing that way. I think
it'll be an experience worth remembering and a way to hopefully cap off my last
year in north carolina.