Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Anarchy in the U.K. - Part Two

Smash decided he would limp through the show – swollen knee and all. I was sitting at the light board, anticipating a rough opening performance. The theatre seats only 81 and there were maybe 20 people in the audience. Half of those were students from another high school performing in the festival. They go for free.

When I brought the lights up, the boys playing Forest Rangers marched on stage. Smash, unbeknownst to me, had wrapped his knee in a towel with fake blood on it. Everyone who knew of the injury just lost it! It set the tone for the rest of the evening, to be sure. He worked the injury into the show, getting many laughs. The kids fed off the manic energy and delivered a good performance.

The rest of Monday and most of Tuesday saw no drama.

Conflict, however, found us at the last night’s performance. Allow me to do a bit of exposition…

The Festival Fringe is held every August and features 10,000 or so performers doing what they do best in several venues, large and small. The larger festival contains several smaller ones, including film, art and music. The one we’re part of is the American High School Theatre Festival.

Several high schools bring musicals, comedies and dramas here to perform. Each school does the show four times. Throughout the week, each school also sees performances by 4 other schools. Each school is allotted a two hour time slot. 15 minutes to load in, 90 minutes to do the show and 15 minutes to load out.

Our musical director chose “Little Mary Sunshine” to do. I agreed. It is a spoof of operettas that was written and produced originally in the late fifties. The characters are U.S. Forest Rangers, young finishing school ladies and Indians from the Kadota tribe. Each of these characters is written with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Each is performed that way too.

When we arrived in Scotland, there was a director’s meeting. Among the attendees were 3 students and a chaperone from Arizona. They are here to perform a dance and monologue performance titled “Native Women”. They are most definitely Native American. As everyone introduced themselves to the large group (fifty or so), I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be uncomfortable if this group of Native Americans was scheduled to attend our show?” I also thought, “Gee, I should have sent a script for the schedulers to read.”

Sure enough, when we got to the theatre space tonight, the Native American group was sitting in the audience. The chaperone took several pictures whenever one of our kids was playing an Indian. Their students laughed a couple of times during the show, but never applauded. About halfway through the song “Me A Heap Big Injun” (yes, I’m rethinking the entire show now), the students and their chaperone got out of their seats and left the room. I wanted to crawl into a hole and curl up into a fetal position.
It only got better. They rode back to the dorms on the chartered bus with our cast. A few of our parents spoke with their chaperone. I only heard snippets of his dialogue. I think he said the kids were talented. But he also mentioned the word “insensitive”. Hindsight is twenty-twenty isn’t it? I must be blind…


PreppyGirl said...

I'm getting uncomfortable just reading it. But seriously, I can't see myself getting upset in the same instance. Say, for example, I went to a show which depicted Irish people as drunk little leprechauns. Who cares? It's just an interpretation. A representation of the way Indians may have been viewed in the 50's. No offense was intended by the performance (let's face it, it's pretty tame material). I feel badly they were offended though.

-R- said...

Oh no! I can understand why they would be offended, but I also assume that it is a satire, so... Ugh. I'm glad the kids are doing a great job performing!

Galoot said...

Thanks, both! The show is a spoof!