Wrong way to think about race onstage
We are distressed by the insensitive language in the Boston Globe’s review of our play “Edith Can Shoot Things And Hit Them” (“The kids rule in Company One’s ‘Edith Can Shoot,’ ” ThursdayArts, June 11). The criticisms that the play lacks Filipino culture “on display,” and that the story is implausible because the characters don’t encounter racially based prejudice is troubling. This assumes characters of color must face racial problems, and the play should focus on those. It assumes because they are Filipino, more parts of their lives should be demonstrably “ethnic” than what’s seen on stage. A play featuring characters of color doesn’t require a “display” of culture, nor is it required to explore prejudice.
This is part of a larger conversation taking place now where artists of color choose to position characters in narratives acknowledging, but not centered on, ethnicity. These works are often met with responses similar to the review, responses that presume the experiences of people of color solely center on their relationship to default American whiteness.
The language is unfortunate because it directly counteracts the benefit playwright A. Rey Pamatmat’s writing provides. The review speaks to the ways in which public discourse surrounding race must continue to evolve to keep up with the ever-growing range of “American” stories.
Company One Theatre, Boston
In his review, Jeffrey Gantz wished that “more of their [Filipino-American] culture were on display” and remarked that it was “odd that they have no racial problems at school.” This poor choice of words suggests that there is a singular Filipino-American experience. The playwright made it clear in his program note: “They’re American, you know? This play is about American children.”
Mr. Gantz’s expectation that there is a single story for the many different experiences of the millions of individuals that inhabit our pluralistic society is, at best, extremely limiting.
Part of the value of art, and theater in particular, is its ability to build bridges of compassion between individuals and experiences we may never experience directly — to unite us as humans. In her TED Talk, author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie warns of the danger of a single narrative to describe both an individual and a nation. “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”
producing artistic director
Lyric Stage Company
I’m dismayed to see that the review of “Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them” contains both a complaint that American kids of Filipino descent don’t show “their culture” enough and a concern that the show omits the “racial problems” Jeffrey Gantz feels they should face in school. These statements feed the continually harmful myth of an America in which all nonwhite or multiethnic people are required to present totems of otherness to be visible and any story that includes us must conform to a template which has been designed to make the viewer feel better. It’s disturbing that neither Gantz nor his editor at the Globe caught how casually retrograde and intellectually limiting this passage is. The real racial problem here is the privileged culture on display in the review.
DAVID VALDES GREENWOOD
Believe your ears
OMG! It is 2015 and we are still having the arguments of digital versus analog (“Spin cycle,” SundayArts, May 31)! Please stop assuming that I don’t know what sounds better. I am 63, and have a basement full of LPs, some of the finest classical recordings ranging from the ’50s to the early ’80s. I won’t go back to them. These audio fundamentalists seem to forget all the inherent problems of vinyl. I remember the days of going back to Sam Goody two or three times to replace an album that had me pulling out my hair because of the noise on the first play.
Whether sound is created by a flowing wave or a crunched binary code is beside the fact. Fundamentalists can’t face the fact that they are listening to music from their hearts and not their ears. It is difficult to acknowledge that time has passed and methods have improved. I won’t go back to pulling out my hair (I’ve lost enough of it as it is). I’m fine with the way digital music sounds.