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  • 1.  Wa Tan Ye in The Music Man

    Posted 02-28-2018 17:05
    Hello everyone,
    I'm looking for some advice, perhaps some of you have had experience with this issue. We are performing The Music Man at my school. I have a native American student in the ensemble. She asked me to be taken out of the Wa Tan Ye section (she is in the ensemble, so this is not a problem). But with tears in my eyes, I could tell she was looking for more than just to be taken out of the scene. I saw this coming and have been trying to figure out what, if any, are my options.  I know everyone may have their own opinion on this, but I'm really looking for answers from anyone who may have had this experience, or one like it, and how you handled it. I want to preserve the work, but I also don't want to be racially insensitive. Please share how you may have handled this type of situation.
    Thank you,
    Cherie Ducote Firmin

    Cherie Ducote
    Metairie LA Ducote

  • 2.  RE: Wa Tan Ye in The Music Man

    Posted 02-28-2018 17:16
    Did you ask MTI if they have an alternative or permission to leave it out?

    John Perry
    Drama Instructor
    Atherton High School
    Louisville KY

  • 3.  RE: Wa Tan Ye in The Music Man

    Posted 03-01-2018 09:54
    You might try having a talk back after the show about the historical elements of the show and how society has changed, or not, in the intervening years. This would allow an open dialogue for the subject to be addressed in an educational and positive way without negating a part of our history or changing the show. Perhaps you could invite people from the local tribes in your area (if possible) to come and speak a little about their history to the cast and crew. You could also address the use of stereotypes for different groups of people in theatre and how prevalent it has been in the past. 

    I'll second checking with MTI about removing it entirely if it will cause people to be uncomfortable. It really depends on your community.

    Shira Schwartz
    Chandler Unified School District
    Chandler AZ

  • 4.  RE: Wa Tan Ye in The Music Man

    Posted 03-01-2018 15:39
    Thanks everyone! Another teacher just emailed me that he had the same experience, and sent me a solution they had gotten approved by MTI. So now I'm communicating with them to figure out our solution. I figured another director had probably had the same experience. Our old classic musicals are getting more challenging to produce these days. I really appreciate the feedback!

    Cherie Ducote
    Metairie LADucoteDucote

  • 5.  RE: Wa Tan Ye in The Music Man

    Posted 03-07-2018 09:42
    I had similar issues with Anything Goes, considering the abundance of racially-tinged chinoiserie in that script and I had some students of Asian descent.  I was upfront with the entire cast, as well as the Asian students, that the "butt of the joke" in that instance was going to be the western priest who thought our two non-Asian students in the convert roles were actually of Chinese descent when they clearly weren't.  Similarly, the leads not "trying" on the broken English at the end was meant to communicate they didn't think the plan would work.

    Similarly, with The Music Man, we leaned into Mrs. Shin thinking she's a great artist, and everyone else in town is uncomfortable with her "artistic" choices, particularly with the "Wan Tan Ye" sequence.  IE: She's the well-intentioned white lady who doesn't realize how offensive she's being. 

    I don't know if it helped us or helps your situation, but it was definitely intended to make Mrs. Shin the butt of the joke rather than the students doing the routine or the culture they're (mis)representing.

    Russell Paulette
    Rappahannock County Public Schools
    Washington VA

  • 6.  RE: Wa Tan Ye in The Music Man

    Posted 01-11-2022 09:16
    Would you mind sharing the solution the other director shared with you? I'm producing Music Man right now and found this looking for a solution that someone may have found for this same situation.

    Thank you!

    Petra Pearce
    Theatre Arts Teacher and Director
    Cornerstone Christian Schools

  • 7.  RE: Wa Tan Ye in The Music Man

    Posted 03-13-2018 02:15
    I am currently directing The Music Man and Wa Tan Ye is the name of a service organization for women in Iowa.  It means service foremost.  I am attaching some articles about the organization for you.

    Kathy Cannnarozzi Harris
    Theater Director - Mission Viejo HS
    VAPA Coordinator K-12
    Saddleback Valley USD
    Mission Viejo, CA