Wednesday, November 30, 2011

He ain't talkin 'bout me...

Lately I've been feeling like a sell out.

I used to work in theatre, producing, directing, and stage managing. Theatre is an addiction, and not just the performing aspects- it's not all about getting applause and acceptance from strangers. For me, the draw has always been the artistic process- the best times are had in rehearsal where all of the wonderful moments are discovered and the real magic is made. By the time the audience becomes part of the equation, I'm pretty much done. The magic has already happened.  It's been a few years since I was involved in a show and I'd been feeling that itch again. I put it out in the universe that I was in the mood to do a show. However, I wasn't very specific. The Universe gave me exactly what I asked for: A week later I got a phone call from a company I'd worked with in the past. Actually, it was the last company I had done a show with. They needed a stage manager, it was a two week commitment, would I be interested. Sure! What's the show?

Hansel and Gretel.

Yeah, that one... the one with the "Evil Gobbling Witch" who turns children into gingerbread and eats them...

Really fucking funny, Universe!

I get my show, just like I asked, but I need to sit through smack talk about Witches? And a show that condemns Witches as "evil" and baby eaters where she is ultimately killed? *headdesk*

We're in rehearsal and the music is great, the singers are amazing and I'm having a good time. But... We haven't yet staged the scenes with "The Witch." So here I am, completely tense about what this is going to be like. In the score there are pages and pages of music where "The Witch" waves her wand around and "bespells" Hansel and Gretel. Of course, before this, she's turned two dozen children into gingerbread cookies.  I've already had to sit through the scene with the Father telling the Mother about this horrifying cannibalistic Witch who lives in the woods and flies on a broom. Not that fun, but I've just concentrated on the music and the blocking. Funny tho, if there's someone in the woods cannibalizing children, and they've known this, why hasn't anyone done anything about it before? Funnier still, the Father seems to know an awful lot about what this cannibal does and how she "flies on her broom." And even funnier: the father is a broom maker! Before he shows up on stage, the father has allegedly been out selling brooms and buying food for the otherwise starving, desperate family. I think he's been off schtupping his mistress in the woods. The children are out in the woods and will discover his affair, so he tells his wife this tall tale to cover his own ass and eliminate his mistress.

Also, there's a scene where Hansel and Gretel are in the forest and Gretel is singing a song about a wild mushroom. I think the starving kids eat the mushroom and the rest of the show, including the gingerbread house and cannibal, are just a psychotropic trip. See how easy it is to spin things? lol This version is particularly vexing because in the "traditional/original" version, the father plans to abandon the kids in the woods, and leave them to die. So who is the real bad guy in this story?

But seriously, I've had this terrible debate with myself: Am I selling out? Is this the kind of thing contributing to discrimination? How can I, as the President of NYC Pagan Pride, do this show??? Are more women going to be killed in South Africa because I'm contributing to the production of a show which reinforces a dangerous stereotype and glorifies killing Witches as the enemy? Would it make a difference if I wasn't involved in this production? Nope. The show would still go on without me. At least this way, I can educate a few people as to how things really are, should it come up.

I remembered a scene from Six Feet Under where the artsy aunt tells the sister that she's not a good photographer and the sister freaks out about how insulting that is. The aunt points out that if the sister really was a good photographer, she wouldn't have been offended, she would have laughed it off as ridiculous. Then again, women aren't being killed because they're bad photographers...

Chris Rock talks about songs which are incredibly mysogynistic that women like anyway- they'll sing and dance to these songs, enjoying them instead of getting offended. And if you ask the woman how she could like the song, what does she say? "He ain't talkin bout me."

That's where I am right now. They're not talking about me. They're not talking about us. My point is, this show isn't going to make much of an impact on the progress Witches have made, and might actually start a new dialogue about what Witches really are and what we actually do. This version was written in the 1890's (again with me and things written in the 1890's!) almost 100 years before we really started coming into our own. Maybe I'm biased because of my age, but I really feel like it was 1990 before Witches were starting to become "mainstream."

I wonder if this issue comes up with Merchant of Venice and its inherent antisemitism?

Anyway, I'm doing the show, and I'm not going to feel bad about having fun with it. In fact, I'm thinking about decking myself out in full moon regalia, pentacles, cimaruta and all, on opening night and bringing a huge plate of gingerbread cookies with me! Ha!

Hubby suggested putting an ad in the playbill about the misconceptions surrounding Witches. That's not a bad idea. It might make a few people think and at the same time, support a theatre company that does wonderful work on a shoestring budget.

While I write that up, enjoy my Chris Rock inspiration! (NSFW!)


  1. Great post :)

    I like the idea of changing the story a little bit, and putting the emphasis on the Father who seems to be a just a tad too involved ;)

  2. Yeah, I think those changes put a definitive edge on things. Sorry you have to go through something so conflicting, though! And I do like the bit about taking out an ad.

  3. If it were me directing it, the kids would eat the mushroom and the entire third act would be a trip: it's not a candy house, it's their home and that's not a mean child eating woman, it's their mom trying to get the drugs out of their system! Alas, I don't get to make the call, I just get to write it down and call the cues. Tho now I'm inspired to do an acid trip version OR the Politically Correct Fairy Tale version!