Pirate No. 8 and Why He Is Important
(matter, matter, matter, matter, matter . . . )
Big news!!!! We got to watch an entire musical while our daughter took an afternoon nap the other day. It was incredible. The quiet, two musical nerds singing along with the score, and quipping that, while enjoyable, The Pirates of Penzance film is a bit dated (the fade-outs are kind of a give-away). Shocking that a film from the early 80s is dated, right? Anyway, as we watched Frederic, The Pirate King and entourage dancing, strutting and singing (and can I just take a moment to acknowledge the legend that is Angela Lansbury?) . . . it struck me how avant garde it must have been to have a PoC in a major motion production of a musical in the early 80s.
For those of you who have seen the film, you might wonder who the hell I'm referring to? This guy:
And no, I don't know his name, which is a damn shame. If any of our readers do, please share! But here's why I think he's important: a lot of musicals (and theater-in-general) have had a dearth of minorities cast in historically-set roles (I'm not counting the ones that center on the black experience in particular). Just look at Trevor Nunn's defense for his recent all-white casting of The War of the Roses.
So the fact that this actor was cast in something that was not a "black" musical or perhaps even so-called "appropriate" type casting, well it sure was nice to see him back in 1983. Don't get me wrong, being Pirate #8 is not sensational, but to be on screen for all of the pirate crew scenes is something. To cast him with no focus on his color and to not reference it in any way, well, it pains me to be so excited about something that is really just a table scrap. It was kind of heartbreaking that I would even notice this fact.
But I have a glimmer of hope when I think about Hamilton (which I just missed seeing, as it moved from off-Broadway to on-Broadway during my weekend birthday tour of NYC), and how powerful of a message it sends by purposefully casting PoC in roles that depict white historical figures and letting their talent show, also showing that color lines can be removed. And should have been removed decades ago. Hell, they should have never existed but we can't deny reality. We can try to change it with our dollars, praise, and good words.
Did I mention, that I now have a wicked cool idea for a musical Cthulhu scenario? Maybe I will run it at GenCon 2016 or GaryCon 2016. Time to warm up the old vocal cords. Break out your earplugs.