Open Forum

Curtains the Musical--Offensive?

  • 1.  Curtains the Musical--Offensive?

    Posted 09-09-2019 16:07
    I have been reading through the Curtains: School Edition, and I am loving it! But THEN I got to "Kansasland" with Princess Kickapoo, and that gave me great pause. It seems like putting a white student in Native American garb would not be received well, especially in 2019. Even if it were an actor of color, I feel like the representation of Native Americans here is not flattering.

    Has anyone produced this show? Thoughts on this issue? I love a lot of the show, so I was disappointed to see this part.

    Lily McGill
    Theatre Teacher/Drama Club Moderator
    Baton Rouge LA

  • 2.  RE: Curtains the Musical--Offensive?

    Posted 09-10-2019 08:07

    We produced the show several years ago and did not encounter any issues with the song. That being said, our community is not terribly diverse and
    issues like this are not likely to raise any eyebrows. If we live (happily) in a world that can support colorblind casting, does this not fall into the same context?
    In this instance, it is a single song, not a characterization carried throughout the show. Additionally, curtains is a period piece and I think there are elements here that
    can be forgiven.



    Dana Taylor
    Dana W. Taylor Consulting, LLC
    Evansville IN

  • 3.  RE: Curtains the Musical--Offensive?

    Posted 09-10-2019 15:59
    I have discussed this topic with a few directors, and here are a few things to consider about the character, Princess Kickapoo (who was a real Native American in history) in the song "Kansasland" from the musical Curtains.

    1.) The character is not a "real" character in Curtains but is a dance character in the 1959 musical-within-the-musical Robbin' Hood;
    2.) She has no dialogue whatsoever.
    3.) Her wardrobe is whatever the production wants it to be.
    4.) Finally, the character "evaporates" when the number is interrupted, and the actor-character playing her, Bambi Bernet, then speaks, as herself.

    So, the character is twice-removed from reality, as opposed to, say,  Annie Get Your Gun and Peter Pan where the Native American characters are presented as "real" (although in the latter, no more real than the fairy tale pirates of Neverland and a crocodile who swallowed a clock). The authors, for the purposes of parody, created the kind of production number for a character who might have popped up in a Golden Age Broadway show with a "western" format like Destry or Whoop-up.

    With all of that being said, TRW is currently working with the authors and a current high school production on a possible alternative verse if needed. Feel free to contact me for more information.

    Jim Hoare
    Vice President, Education & Community Initiatives
    Levittown NY

  • 4.  RE: Curtains the Musical--Offensive?

    Posted 09-10-2019 22:07
    Thank you for asking this question!  I also have a concern about this scene.  Has anyone reached out to TRW about making changes to this scene?

    Kristina Cummins
    Olympia WA

  • 5.  RE: Curtains the Musical--Offensive?

    Posted 09-14-2019 21:38
    I concur with all that Jim Hoare stated in his reply. It’s one dance (no lines) and it’s in a musical that is not supposed to be “good”. We had no issues with it and since it’s such a heavy dance part, the costume we made was all about dance worthiness. I’m Native American and I was not offended in the least. She was a real person, after all. I wouldn’t worry about it. The musical is fantastic. It quickly became one of my favorites to direct. Go for it!!

    Megan Weeks
    Huron Valley Schools
    Milford MI

  • 6.  RE: Curtains the Musical--Offensive?

    Posted 09-18-2019 09:50
    We did it at Crowley High School a couple years back, and kept the line.  It goes so fast, that it is almost a throwaway line. The show is a hoot to put together and watch.  Have fun!

    Ricardo Gutierrez
    Fort Worth TX

  • 7.  RE: Curtains the Musical--Offensive?

    Posted 10-20-2019 15:21
    If you're asking this question I suspect you know the answer.  What is the message sent by the character and the song (absent all of the context of when the show was written, etc.)?  Are you OK with it?

    Theatre Director
    St. John's College High School

    Luc Hotaling
    Theatre Director
    Washington DC