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PEMCo Understands Racial Sensitivities

Kevin Murphy | Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Admittedly, I was first tempted to write a response to Mr. Fink’s ill-conceived notion that this campus wants to revisit the Viewpoint war and the accompanying debate over President Obama’s visit and the abortion issue (It doesn’t. Seriously, leave it alone for everyone’s sake). However, I cannot in good conscience sit idly by and let Ms. Francillon’s condemnation of PEMCO’s staff, choice of show, and that show’s message (“Need for diversity in the arts,” Feb. 8) go unchallenged.

First and foremost, it must be stated that “Parade” is not about “a black man on trial for murder.” It centers on Leo Frank, a Jew raised in New York who is falsely put on trial as a scapegoat for the murder of a young girl in the Deep South. These Southerners fall prey to the mob mentality and its lust for blood, and focus their rage on the one man who is most unlike them within the community. Accusations that are made based on hearsay and without the necessary background research to back them up shouldn’t be tolerated, and it angers me that such false and inflammatory remarks were written.

I fully understand the issue at hand regarding ethnicity and the casting of shows at the college level and beyond. So too does PEMCo. In 2008’s production of “Kiss Me, Kate!” the lead role of Fred Graham was played by Kyle Carter, a black male in what has historically been a white role. Surely one example does not make a compelling or airtight argument, but can it truly be said that a show as racially charged as “Parade” or “Ragtime” would have its intended impact without that glaring dichotomy on stage? I submit that it would not, and that the place for breaking ethnic barriers in theatre are elsewhere.

Regarding the workshop mentioned in the previous letter, I wholeheartedly support a dialogue examining the choices that exist to create theatre experiences that support actors of any race. However, if choosing “Parade” as this season’s PEMCo Mainstage is going to be under fire, then it must be stated that this show was chosen for a reason: on a campus where diversity remains such an issue, what better way to stimulate dialogue than by performing a show that preaches the importance — nay, necessity — of racial sensitivity?

Indeed, Jason Robert Brown, the writer and composer behind “Parade” will be on campus and holding a discussion following Sunday’s performance. He will most certainly be touching on the racial implications of performing this show. I encourage everyone, and particularly Ms. Francillon, to attend and get some first hand knowledge about this sure-to-be impressive production.

Break a leg, guys.

 

Kevin Murphy
junior
Stanford Hall
Feb. 9