Throw in a President Trump look alike as the bad guy and all is well.
Native American high school students — attending a weeklong summer institute at the University of Wyoming that aims to give them a first taste of college — walked out of the Department of Theater and Dance’s production of “The Fantasticks” on Thursday during intermission after taking offense at the play’s content.
The production — first performed in 1960 — contains a scene in which characters dress up as and villainize Native Americans. Attendees said they were also shocked at the casual use of the word “rape” in the play’s dialogue.
The walkout prompted a response from UW’s United Multicultural Council, hasty scene edits before the next performance and a boycott of the play by another summer camp. Upward Bound — a summer camp aimed at recruiting low income and first generation students to UW — will no longer be attending the Saturday performance its participants were previously scheduled to attend.
“Our program has students from diverse backgrounds and cultures and we decided it would be inappropriate to attend the play,” said Trevor Montgomery, a dorm director for Upward Bound. “We didn’t want to dismiss the offensiveness of outdated stereotypes by taking our kids to see this performance.”
UMC Co-Chair Tyler Wolfgang was in attendance and said the play contained rape jokes in addition to inappropriate comments about Native Americans.
The UMC’s statement, authored by Wolfgang, condemns the production for projecting cultural stereotypes of both Native American and Latinos/Hispanics.
“The show especially demeans Native American cultures with outdated stereotypes of Native American appropriation by non-native actors wearing headdresses/warbonnets,” the statement reads. “It also portrays Native American and Latino/Hispanic characters as the villains or antagonists of the show.”
UW President Laurie Nichols and her husband, Tim, were also in attendance. Although he is not employed by UW, Tim Nichols was instrumental in setting up the Native American Summer Institute.
He said that the derogatory content of the production hurt — but did not undo — the progress the institute has made toward welcoming Native American students from the Wind River Indian Reservation and elsewhere in the state.
“It’s a 1960s play, but it was, in my view, inappropriate,” he said. “ … (But) we shared our concerns with the theater department and we shared our concerns with the students and, you know, we’re OK. We’re going to have a good week. … We’re going to finish strong here and not let that drag it down.”
Despite wide condemnation of the production’s content, Nichols, Wolfgang and students said they did not want to throw the actors under the bus.