File puptcrit/puptcrit.0907, message 54


Date: Thu, 9 Jul 2009 13:07:54 -0400
To: puptcrit-AT-puptcrit.org
Subject: [Puptcrit] Minstrelsy


I have very much enjoyed the discussion on black face minstrelsy. 
Alan Cook=B9s and Dr. John Bell=B9s discussion was most enlightening.  I 
found the concept very insightful of the Wikipedia article on the 
Original American Theater starting with Minstrelsy as an opportunity 
for White America to look into Black American cultural.

When  so many are giving justifiable credit to Michael Jackson at 
this time for bringing black culture into mainstream America=B9s homes 
thus making careers for more African-Americas to close that gap, It 
is good to remember that our current culture was based on a 
foundation of many years of progress originating in what some would 
consider racism and stereotyping. It occurs to me that sometimes we 
must go down a dark alley in order to get on a main and wide 
boulevard.=A0

Dr. Bell mentioned in one of his statements regarding the 
African-Americans laughing at stereotyped characters in Transformers, 
a current action movie. That made me think that often progressive 
people may layer their =B3liberal=B2 views onto minorities when it is 
unwanted.  It is easy for us to try to expect others to conform to 
what we think they should at the same time ignoring their right to 
laugh at themselves or even the stereotype of themselves.

When I toured my African-American Red Riding Hood Musical in South 
Central Los Angeles, I was very concerned with NOT stereotyping or 
slipping into racism. It was a tight rope I walked.  Being obviously 
white but performing in a largely African-American community, I was 
very conscious of not wanting to offend.=A0

  Multiculturalism was just beginning to be made aware. Since in those 
days I had little background in African or African-American culture, 
I did not even think of  African literature.  My concept of building 
African-American puppets was so that the children could identify more 
easily with the characters than if they were the standard white 
version of Little Red Riding Hood.  I concluded that  a black version 
of any fairy tale would validate the African-American existence in a 
predominately white media environment of that time.  I came to this 
conclusion after touring my white oriented shows for about five 
years. Self-conciousness made me analyze and give the children what I 
perceived they needed or had a right to.  It did not occur easily or 
overnight.

Fortunately for me, it was a success and served it=B9s purpose very 
well.  The audiences were wonderful and often I received standing 
ovations in large school theaters.   I learned in those late nineteen 
sixties that African-American audiences were very appreciative and 
demonstrative.  THEY widened my perspective and made me realize how 
much we all benefit with positive efforts.

Charles Taylor



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