Allendale Columbia’s Middle School students aren’t just building community and an understanding of theatrical productions in this weekend’s Peter Pan JR. They have been engaged in an interesting dialogue about cultural representation.
In the original stage productions of Peter Pan, written by J.M. Barrie in the early 20th century, the people of Neverland were often depicted as caricatures of Native American stereotypes. This was a common trope in the literature and entertainment of the era, though these types of depictions would be decried as offensive today.
Since its initial stage performances, the show has been adapted several times for both stage and film, most famously with the animated Disney film from 1953. Even in this depiction, the people of Neverland are exaggerated and culturally insensitive versions of Native Americans in their appearance, customs, and language. For Disney’s Peter Pan JR. adaptation for the stage, there were notable efforts to reduce the misinformed and insensitive representations of Native Americans, but as a school, we felt even these efforts fell short.
While some of the more distasteful language had been cut for the junior edition, and the song “What Makes the Red Man Red” altered to “What Makes the Brave Ones Brave”, the people of Neverland are still referred to as “Indians”, which harkens back to the story’s history of misrepresentation of culture. Rather than allowing these issues to prevent us from performing an otherwise excellent show, the production team chose to rework the depiction of these characters. We opened up a dialogue with Middle School students about why it is important to properly represent cultures and the reasoning behind the decision to make the changes we did.
The process began when we realized that, if AC is a school that truly values other cultures, it was our job to present a telling of this story that reflected these values. The word “Indians” was still in the script we received, but we felt that this was not an accurate description of the people of Neverland nor the role we wanted to present. In the program, we chose to call them “Neverlanders”.
We discussed with the cast how we could develop Neverlanders’ culture in a way that did not draw from existing cultures, but rather was unique to life in Neverland. As the Neverlanders’ main song has a recurring message of “what makes the brave girl brave?”, we cast all our Neverlanders as girls. We highlighted the idea of strong female role models while developing their characters. This worked with the material in the script and reflected a positive message, replacing the image that was previously intended to poke fun at stereotypes.
The discussions that took place within the cast and in the Middle School as a whole will hopefully continue and build a more educated and culturally engaged environment.
Cassidy DraperCassidy Draper '19 is the Middle School musical's Student Director. Between her Science Research and Writing Project, participation in the regional TEAMS competition, and work for the Global Engagement Diploma, she has performed in 10 AC theater productions between Middle and Upper School and has now decided to bring her theater experience to the next generation of AC's performers. She has enjoyed taking on the Student Director role and the opportunity to build connections between the Middle and Upper School that she hopes will last far beyond her graduation this June.
Posted in: Eighth Grade, Highlights, Middle School, PACK, Seventh Grade, Sixth Grade
Allendale Columbia’s production of The Sound of Music received a number of recognitions at Rochester Broadway Theatre League’s (RBTL) Stars of Tomorrow ceremony on May 10th, 2018. Catherine Kennedy ’18, who played Maria, was one of four to win Outstanding Leading Actress nods in AC’s Division C, and she received her second nomination in a row to compete for a trip to the Stars of Tomorrow “Jimmy Awards” competition in New York City.
You can help elect Catherine as a Fan Favorite at Stars of Tomorrow NYC Bound by sending the text SOT06 (that’s letter S, letter O, letter T, number 0, number 6) to 75327. The contest allows one vote per phone number per day, so please set a reminder to vote every day! Go to http://www.rochesterfirst.com/stars-of-tomorrow-2018 for details.
Before the evening got underway, the Children’s Ensemble from The Sound of Music learned from the program that they received a Future Stars recognition for Outstanding Performance by Elementary and Middle School students in a High School Musical. Also given a “Tip of the Hat” in the program was Assistant Stage Manager Connor Surkau-Parkinson ’18.
Allendale Columbia received a recognition for Outstanding Singing Ensemble. Senior Rebecca McQuilken was one of the Outstanding Supporting Actresses recognized for her role as Mother Abbess, despite having been in a wheelchair after undergoing knee surgery shortly before the performances.
Kennedy next competes on Thursday, May 24th, at RBTL in Stars for Tomorrow NYC Bound. In the first round that evening, she sings a segment of one of her songs from The Sound of Music. If she makes it to the second round, she sings a song she selects from a list provided by the judges. She might then advance to the final round, as she did last year, to perform once again. The judges select just one male actor and one female actress to advance to the competition in New York. Tickets will be available soon; return to this page or http://www.rbtl.org/stars-of-tomorrow-nyc-bound/ for details when they are made available.
(Revised May 13th, 2018)
Posted in: Eighth Grade, Eleventh Grade, Fifth Grade, First Grade, Fourth Grade, Highlights, Kindergarten, Lower School, Middle School, Ninth Grade, Second Grade, Seventh Grade, Sixth Grade, Tenth Grade, Third Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School
Posted in: Middle School