High school students walked out of a traveling performance of “The Fantasticks” at the University of Wyoming, charging the production was racist.
The walkout took place during a Thursday performance of the musical during the intermission, the Associated Press reported. The students were part of a week-long Native American Summer Institute program that gives youth an introduction of college.
“The show especially demeans Native American cultures with outdated stereotypes of Native American appropriation by non-native actors wearing headdresses/warbonnets,” the United Multicultural Council said in a statement. “It also portrays Native American and Latino/Hispanic characters as the villains or antagonists of the show.”
The “liberties” the show took with the script, however, might also be illegal, according to the AP.
“With historical productions, we see a ‘point in time,’ which is different from the one in which we live,” a new insert now in the program reads. “We see portrayals of characters that are painful to watch as 21st-century audiences. The challenge then, in producing historical works, is to help audiences understand the context and/or story for the play without taking undue or illegal liberties with the script.”
The musical is a 1960s story of two fathers who trick their children into falling in love by faking a feud. The fathers then hire actors to fake an abduction, so the son can swoop in to save her and end the family fight. The children ultimately find out about the plot and reject the relationship. After living their lives apart they ultimately come back together and fall in love.
“It was, in my view, inappropriate,” said Tim Nichols, who helped set up the Native American Summer Institute. “We shared our concerns with the theater department and we shared our concerns with the students and, you know, we’re OK.”