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I am proud of our production of “The Fantasticks.”

August 28, 2015
This is me.

This is me.

I started out yesterday feeling grief and shame for the comic portrayal of Native Americans in the musical play I have an acting role in, ”The Fantasticks.”
I had recently attended a day-long symposium on race relations in Billings put on by Adrian Jawort and Russell Rowland, two Montana authors whom I look up to. I idolize them. Additionally, I have experience. I worked on the Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations for years, with some knowledge of people in both places.
My grandchildren are Crow. I feel strongly against negative stereotypes. Positive ones too.

My grandson is heroic, but I don’t know why I love him so much. Perhaps because he is so good at soccer? Because he pushed me up the hill when I was too tired to pedal my bike? Lots of reasons. Because he is my grandson? Yes. I think I’m closing in on the reason I love my granddaughter so much too.
But I felt shame and I felt grief. I admit that I am inclined toward cowardice. I want to fit in. However, I could not abide the portrayal of a “comic Indian” with the head dress, band with feather and red long johns like I saw in a UTube video of “The Fantasticks,” one done in 2014, I think. Maybe it was 2011. It made me cringe.
So I phoned our director, Gerry Roe. I poured out my heart to him. I told him how horrible I felt about the racism in our play. He was sympathetic and said he thought the problem would be easily fixed. (!)
I also talked to our theater company manager, Dodie Rife. She was clear-headed, helpful.
In the end I feel proud of our theater and of our play and of our cast and of our director. Gerry modified the script to remove the offensive material altogether.
I thanked him, but he seemed more irritated when I did, so I went out into the hall and sat by myself. I shouldn’t rub his nose in it, should I?
Now I am feeling better. However, after meeting with Dodie I went home, felt really rugged, took a nap, ate popcorn and an ice-cream sandwich for comfort. I also felt sort of sheepish that I had felt such grief and shame earlier. Fear, really.
I had had tears running down my cheeks. My ace card was my saying that my daughter-in-law and grandchildren are Crow.
True progress in racial relations will come when I don’t have to play that card.

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