Wednesday, 12 December 2018 16:39

Small theatre group cuts "Avenue Q," garners national attention Featured

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ORONO - A small local theatre company decided to pull its upcoming production and is now receiving praise from people across the nation.

The Orono-based Some Theatre Company has cut "Avenue Q" after the group felt it was unable to adequately portray the role of the show's character "Christmas Eve."

"The show deals with a lot of dark issues and it deals with racism and it deals with people struggling," said Some Theatre Company actor and board member, Stacy Laflin. "And that's something I think the entire world can relate to."

The rights holder, Music Theatre International, gave the group the go-ahead to cast the roles of characters Christmas Eve and Gary Coleman with no specific cultural requirement.

Gary Coleman is traditionally played by an African-American cast member and Christmas Eve is traditionally played by someone with an Asian background.

When the group couldn't find someone to fit the traditional role for Christmas Eve, group members made the collective decision to pull the show from its lineup.

"These two roles actually make fun of their own ethnicity and if we put somebody else in those roles, then we are essentially adding to that problem of not being true to what the story is trying to say," said Elaine Bard, Executive Producing Artistic Director with Some Theatre Company. 

"If you put a white actor in there and they are making fun of that ethnicity," added Laflin, "then what message does that send?"

Some Theatre Company made an announcement through Facebook last week that garnered the attention of people across the United States, including Broadway actors and original cast members of "Avenue Q."

"We're such a teeny-tiny little company here in Maine," said Bard, "so to get this recognition all across the USA is pretty heartwarming, but it also says we have a problem here, and that problem still has not been addressed."

With nearly 95% of the state's population identifying as Caucasian, many in the Maine theatre community would say it is difficult to find the right people for certain ethnic roles.

One instructor at Husson University says Some Theatre Company was faced with a difficult choice.

"Everyone loves to talk about Patrick Stewart doing a white "Othello," said Ken Stack, Entertainment Production Instructor at Husson. "Was that right, was that wrong, who knows?"

 

Blake Lipton

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