Thursday, March 27, 2014

trying to do things right

The doctor says I have a nasty virus that is just lingering... my Hong Kong posts are going to have to be very belated as this sickness is just beating me down. But these recent articles about ethnic stereotypes in plays make me feel obligated to force myself out of the brain fog at least for a short post.

Just in case you missed it, Newton High School put on the play "Thoroughly Modern Millie" to the horror of many in the Asian-American community there. The play (I have not seen it but I have heard from many sources I trust)  is rife with horrible Asian stereotypes, including a "a farcical Chinese accent." (When reading the accounts, the thing that makes me the saddest is how so many think "these people are just being too sensitive," which --to me-- shows a lack of empathy. I can understand if you personally don't find the play offensive but to dismiss someone else's obviously sincere distress is probably what started this fiasco in the first place.)

So, with this in the news and knowing that the Where the Mountain Meets the Moon production will soon be opening, friends have asked me if I am worried.

I'm not worried at all.  

I trust the people at Wheelock Family Theatre. How do I know my trust is not misplaced?

Jane Staab, the director of the Wheelock production, came to see me before they started to work.  During our conversation, Jane told me that before their production of Peter Pan she seeked out leaders of the Wampanoag tribe, met with them and went over the entire script. There were many reasons why the Wampanoag refused to take their children to any Peter Pan production and Jane addressed them. Small reasons like removing of a feather to replace an ostrich feather (as feathers had meanings and an Indian--they did not find the use of that term offensive--would not do that). Jane also added words from their language into the script, such as "aquine" which means peace. And, most of all, Jane rewrote the lyrics to the offensive song "Ugg-a-Wug," keeping the lovely music and important message but removing the offensive word usage.   

me & Jane Staab, the director of the Where the Mountain Meets the Moon production at Wheelock

The end result, Jane told me, was two rows of Wampanoag Indians at their Peter Pan performance who all gave it a big thumbs up. I suspect the entire audience would've given the same review. 

Which makes me so proud that Where the Mountain Meets the Moon will be produced by them.  If they give Where the Mountain Meets the Moon production even half the consideration they did with Peter Pan, it's going to be fine. In fact, I know it's going to be much, much better than fine. It's going to be great! I can't wait!