Racial Profiling

The Troubles and Triumphs of Oklahoma!

Comments

1
Agreed. Satliffe seems to be a talented actor with a beautiful booming voice...this was just not the right casting for him. His over-intense portrayal of Judd comes off as rapey, dangerous and unsettling...and far too shakey/twitchy. The interracial casting in this instance was really distracting. When Curly is showing Jud how to make a noose to hang himself in the claustrophobic shack scene, you could hear gasps throughout the audience, like, "Did they really just go there?"
In my opinion the choreography was far too humpy. I've never considered Oklahoma to be an overtly sexual show, so I was a little put off by all the hip thrusting. A thrust or two would have been fine, but the choreography reminded me of my neighbor's horny, leg-humping dog. At first it's funny and a little awkward, then it's just annoying.
2
Funny, my daughter's high school did Oklahoma with a solid black actor as Jud last year. He was twitchy and creepy as all hell, and, just like you said, it added a distracting racial element to the show. Now, the year before, they did Damn Yankees and doughy old white Joe got transformed into a young black Willie Mays-type athlete. The actor perfectly caught the ebullience of the early days of the first black major leaguers coming over from the Negro Leagues. It was absolutely spot-on period correct and a marvelous thing to see in a high school production.
3
I agree with you, Goldy. I kept feeling weird about feeling weird that a very large black man was sexually harrassing a white female yet the man's race doesnt enter into context anywhere. I kept waiting for Curly to change the words to Poor Jud to include the n-word, since that is want I would assume would actually BE curly's reaction in that time. it just felt odd.

Now, Curly played by a black actor as well would have been easier to understand that we were not supposed to take the race of the actors into account.

AS a history major, I am usually thrown when black actors have parts in period movies, tv shows and stage productions when the reaction of the characters would be very different. You should hear me go off while watching Dirty Dancing about how the white and black employees of the vacation place would NOT have intermingled, either in early 1960s or even now.
I actually screamed out loud in the movie theater when Russell Crowe showed onscreen in Gladiator with a beard. No roman military leader would have a beard on campaign.

Yes, I am that much fun.
4
I thought it was an excellent production (I love theater, but I'm by no means a legitimate critic, so grain of sand and all...) Not once did race enter my mind.

For those of you that had race on your mind during this show, you are racist. Only a racist would be having those thoughts. But it's ok, as a Mexican, I still love you all. We all have flaws, and there is a good bit of data that suggests that racism isn't learned, but rather, that we're born with it: Strong evidence shows that white and black babies treat each other in seemingly racist ways compared to their treatment of same race babies. It's ok to be racist, but it's not ok to treat other races differently. Give yourself a hug, you racist son of a bitch.
5
In 'Green Grow the Lilacs', the play Oklahoma was based on, the Jud character was pretty expressly not-white. The first description of his appearance is when Curly calls him "that bullet colored growly man". I read somewhere that Lynn Riggs, the author, had in mind a socially displaced, mixed-race, Native acquaintance of his-- which makes a lot of sense considering the play and musical are set in not-yet-a-US-state Oklahoma Indian Territory.

Even if Rodgers and Hammerstein whitewashed the living hell out of the text in their adaptation (like they do), the show was, in one incarnation or another, intended to "go there". Audiences are obviously supposed to feel uncomfortable with Jud, but the Rodgers-and-Hammersteinized version of the character is pretty blatantly less sympathetic.

Anyway. The point is, I like how a threatening, twitchy, rapey, "othered" Jud is making people uncomfortable. It nicely points out the fact that Oklahoma! is problematic as fuck.

And you thought my arts school degree would go to waste, Mom! LOOK AT ME NOW!
6
scratchmaster = stephen colbert!
7
@5 I didn't know the history, but I've had the same impression for years--that the "bullet colored growly man," and the way he was treated, were code for Jud being a black man, no matter how he was cast. The animosity towards Jud is clearly prejudice, especially at the beginning of the show. (I always had strong sympathies for Jud because when I ran a spotlight in my high school's production, I was MADLY in love with the kid who played him. So I had a lot of time to think about the social dynamics.)
8
Might want to learn a bit about Donald Byrd's body of work.
9
I saw the show in previews and found it far more distracting that Ali Hakim was played so gay that I couldn't conceivably believe that he wanted to shag Ado Annie. Also the bad accents. Having a black Jud was, in fact, the only interesting thing about this production.
10
@9 ftw

"I couldn't conceivably believe that he wanted to shag Ado Annie"

lol.
11
I appreciate color-blind casting, and I recognized my own discomfort with a white man holding a rope noose over a black man's head on stage. I squirmed a bit in my chair when a black male dancer threatened a petite white ballerina. And bile raised up in my throat as a black man's murder was adjudicated in a quick kangaroo court on stage. This casting made me spend more time than I enjoyed pondering my own racism, and my hate and fear of it. So I had mixed feelings about the production, but sided on the positive because I like theatre that challenges the audience, until I read the production notes in the the program at home the next day. The producers rationalized the casting because there were many African-Americans in Oklahoma at the turn of the century. What? Turn of the century Oklahomans would never have allowed the possibility of a romance between a white Laurie and black Jud. It would have been a very different plot. No need to rationalize unconventional casting, it is a theatre experience. Sometime Theatre is there to provoke at the same time as entertained. I enjoyed the production, but I hated the opening set. Why would the set designer have an audience stare at a dirt brown wood wall for 15 minutes before the production started? Why not a vista of the Oklahoma prairie to set the tone of the opening stains of "Oh what a beautiful morning!"
12
Opps, I mean opening "strain" of "Oh what a....."
13
Oh white guilt. Look beyond the skin color and the true emotions the actors are trying to show the audience and it isn't awkward at all ... You effin racists. Poor guy just wants to play a role in a musical, get over yourselves.
14
Hmm...comments are now 'closed' on Goldy's SLOG post regarding this. I guess his 'blacks should stick to basketball and rap' attitude isn't something the Stranger wants to hear about.
15
If Jud was Asian, I wonder if there would be such a brouhaha.
16
As an Asian, I have to wonder if it would be such a brouhaha if Jud was played by an Asian actor instead.
17
Wow, what a bunch bigots.

Afraid of strong person of color. Oh no! He be kissin' da white wimmen!

Jud Fry is the most dynamic character in O! And if you could judge Mr. Scatliffe on something other than color, and your own insecurities, you'd see that.
18
@15, If Jud were played by an Asian actor, no, I don't think there would have been a brouhaha. If Jud were Asian, the idea of holding a rope to him and suggesting he hang himself, wouldn't have evoked the images of lynching, for example.
19
@14, The comment thread was never open on that post, because the intent was to drive the discussion here. We often do that when linking to articles in the paper from posts on Slog.
20
performed to near-Broadway standards: sets, lighting, costumes, performances, and all.

Goldy,
What was there about this performence that was of near-Broadway standards as opposed to Broadway standards.
21
please try this casting with "seven brides for seven brothers!" saw that in Seattle in 1981:) i'm all for destroying typecasting - e.g., put portly people in roles for the svelte, more unexpected racial differences, etc. it's a great idea! if it confuses people or makes them uncomfortable - so much the better! Good on 'em! i think they did a fantastic job & i vote for more!
22
I thoroughly enjoyed the show, and the actor who was "Jud" was wonderful. Great dancing and singing. I think it was a poor choice for the only major black actor, however. What if Curly were black, or any of the others? With the "Poor Jud" song, I thought it was very poor taste. If Jud had to be black, then they should have used something other than a noose to indicate suicide. And considering the races involve, the sham court seemed rather ... poor. Left a bad taste on the honeymoon for me.