Last week I went to the opening of a play here in Podunk. The kids of Podunk were putting on a limited engagement of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, ending today. A coworker of mine had a child in the production, and described rehearsals to us at work. Since they sounded cute, I wanted to go.
So I walk in to the theater and take my seat and do my normal look-see. You know, after a few moments, I look around and check out the demographics. Podunk did not disappoint. Grey-haired ladies, soccer moms with some kids that didn’t make the show, a thirtysomething couple on a date, probably about 120 people (~2xs the kids in the cast) – which is good. Not a lot of brown people, which is normal. There was an Indian family, and two other brown people besides me. So I notice.
Other people notice, right?
There were some star performers in the roles of Mr. Tumnus, the Witch, and Lucy. Mr. Tumnus also had the best costume – he really looked like a faun. But he was comical and cute. The Witch was excellent – screaming at the exactly right points. And Lucy – from start to finish – had impeccable timing, incredible delivery, complete believability. Yeah – I liked Lucy.
There was also a cutie-patootie in the role of one of the woodland creatures. In one scene, some unfortunate woodland creatures [and Mr. Tumnus] were frozen in various positions in the courtyard of the Queen/Witch’s palace. All the kids were supposed to be stationary as Edmund walked through. But there was one little girl (probably about 6) who had struck a pose with her arms up in the air, and the scene got a little long for her. So first one arm dropped – then the other. And so she stood there, slouching a little, until the Queen/Witch came on stage. [Snow starts to fall whenever the Miss Winter comes onstage, to remind us all of her coldness.] So as the snow fell, little miss cutiepants starts raising her arms again – this time to try and catch some of the fake snow that’s falling. Which she did. The entire scene was hilarious, and I didn’t hear a word of the dialogue, because I was focused on this adorable child – surrounded by other woodland creatures of various ages who had all managed to be still.
Then Aslan appears and he’s one of the three cast members of color. It’s all good until the time comes for Aslan to sacrifice himself. The Witch and all her followers descend upon Aslan in a kind of mob scene. He’s shaved, beaten, and tied to the Stone Table. The tie-down and the killing part was behind a screen – for the kids in the audience, I guess.
But that scene was really awful for me to watch. It scared me and brought tears to my eyes. Because I wasn’t just watching Aslan being selfless – I was watching a group of white kids and teens simulate beating and killing a black teenage boy. I knew the story – I knew he was coming back – but I still could barely bare to watch that.
And when he did reappear, everyone was hugging him and it was all lovely, and of course good triumphs in the end.
In fact, the loudest roar of applause at the end was for Aslan. I didn’t think he was that great of an actor, but I think a lot of people just really like his character.
The play was good, overall, and I enjoyed it. But I do wonder if it that scene affected anyone else the way it affected me. Sometimes I wonder if I’m being too sensitive. Should that kind of imagery have been avoided? How?