In the realm of contemporary theater, Larissa FastHorse's "The Thanksgiving Play" stands as a thought-provoking and satirical exploration of cultural sensitivity, political correctness, and the complexities of the Thanksgiving holiday. FastHorse, a prominent playwright and member of the Sicangu Lakota Nation, is the first Native American Woman to bring a show to Broadway. The play invites audiences to embark on a semi-humorous yet introspective journey, shedding light on the challenges of navigating cultural appropriation in the pursuit of good intentions. For more details about FastHorse click here.
Setting the Stage:
"The Thanksgiving Play” premiered in 2015. This version, done by the Square One Theatre Company in Stratford, CT and directed by Tom Holehan, unfolds in the context of a seemingly straightforward mission—a group of well-intentioned artists endeavor to create an inclusive and culturally sensitive Thanksgiving play for an elementary school. The play-within-a-play structure examines the blurred lines between genuine cultural appreciation and unintentional appropriation, providing ample room for both comedic moments and deeper reflections.
The ensemble cast comprises four distinct characters, each embodying a facet of the challenges surrounding cultural representation. Jaxton, an earnest and slightly clueless elementary school teacher; Logan, an actress with a passion for social justice; Alicia, a "woke" artist with a penchant for cultural sensitivity; and Caden, an expert in all things Native American, despite being of Serbian descent. Together, they navigate the tricky terrain of political correctness, exposing their own biases and assumptions along the way. I enjoyed the actors in this play, perhaps more than the play itself.
Satire and Humor:
The comedic elements emerge as the characters grapple with the inherent contradictions and pitfalls of their well-meaning efforts. From awkward attempts at Native American spirituality to over-the-top displays of allyship, the play expertly highlights the often misguided nature of good intentions.
The Uncomfortable Truths:
As the play unfolds, uncomfortable truths emerge, forcing both the characters and the audience to confront the deeply ingrained issues surrounding cultural appropriation. FastHorse's narrative exposes the tension between honoring diverse perspectives and inadvertently perpetuating harmful stereotypes, creating moments of discomfort that prompt meaningful introspection.
The Thanksgiving Play runs through November 19. A discussion with the actors and director about the play is scheduled noon-1:00pm on Monday, November 27 at the Stratford Library.
Larissa FastHorse's "The Thanksgiving Play" weaves humor and social commentary into a tapestry of cultural exploration. The ending twist on how the play within-a-play ends is good and not something I will spoil here.
While this play challenges us to think critically about how we approach and celebrate cultural diversity, making it relevant addition to the contemporary theatrical landscape, I give it 🦃 🦃 🦃 out of 5. Good company, a ticket cost of just $20, and actors that were likeable made it worthwhile.
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