‘The Thanksgiving Play’ challenges tradition

Cast members Reese Oliver, junior theater and rhetoric and communications studies major; Robby Meredith, junior theater and philosophy major; and Mario Aguayo, freshman music major, perform a scene in "The Thanksgiving Play" on Wednesday in Dailey Theatre. The production runs weekends through Nov. 19. / photo by Sheridan Lambrook
Cast members Reese Oliver, junior theater and rhetoric and communications studies major; Robby Meredith, junior theater and philosophy major; and Mario Aguayo, freshman music major, perform a scene in “The Thanksgiving Play” on Wednesday in Dailey Theatre. The production runs weekends through Nov. 19. / photo by Sheridan Lambrook

Sheridan Lambrook
Staff Writer

The theatre department’s production of “The Thanksgiving Play” opened last night and runs this weekend and next just in time for the holiday.

A unique opening of the show set the intentions and purpose of the theatrics, correcting the announcer welcoming “ladies and gentleman,” replacing it with a more inclusive words, “Hello everyone,” while also acknowledging the native land the University lays on, Tongvas, and providing resources in the play bill.

Its woke-inspired satire written by Larissa FastHorse, centers on four white people who work together to write a politically correct Thanksgiving play for an elementary school to present during Native American Heritage Month. FastHorse was inspired by their struggles in obtaining Native American actors for her earlier productions. 

The production highlights topics of privilege, beauty standards, allyship and political correctness. It also calls out the specific stereotypes of Native Americans, like using the term redskins.

Freshman theater major Alexandria Peters, who plays one of the characters, Alicia, said she learned from working on the production.

“(We) balance between being politically correct and acknowledging all the wrongs in the world, but also not taking it so far that it damages the overall message and process,” Peters said.

With wit and comedic timing, the play’s humor is modern, and it pokes fun at everyone. 

The play has one setting, the rehearsal space and a cast of four characters.

The characters consist of the director, Logan, who is an educator and determined to get the concept right; Jaxton the yogi, supportive boyfriend of Logan; Caden, the history teacher on hand to ensure the story’s accurate accounts; and the stereotypical Hollywood actress, Alicia, who is anything but the Native American actress Logan had in mind.

Between scenes, indigenous music plays. 

Junior theater and rhetoric and communications studies major Reese Oliver plays Logan in “The Thanksgiving Play” during a rehearsal Wednesday. The play runs over the next two weekends at Dailey Theatre. / photo by Sheridan Lambrook

In between acts, the lights dimmed with unexpected musical numbers about the fall holiday in a childish wardrobe. They performed a rendition of the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” but the Thanksgiving version, including the lyrics, “Four bows of arrows the Natives gave to me,” and the Pledge of Allegiance.

Reese Oliver, a junior theater and rhetoric communications major who plays Logan, reflected on what she learned from her character.

“I think ironically enough Logan has taught me self-awareness, ” Oliver said. “It is important to check yourself, what can I be doing to serve the community best at my seat at the table.”

In the creative writing process, while trying different methods, they realize how appalling the history and truth is. As well as realizing they can not have a play without the view or participation of someone from Native American dissent.   

Robby Meredith, a junior theater and philosophy major who plays Caden, saw the importance of the play in current events.

“It is hard to be everything and nothing all at once, and to do it correctly,” Meredith said. “I think where we are politically and socially in the world now, it is hard to cover all the bases and to be as correct of a person as you can be.”

Adding on, Mario Aguayo, a freshman music major who plays Jaxton said, “You can not be right on everything, but the areas you can be right, push that forward. To keep improving.”

With a twist of an ending, the collective creatives find the answer in simplicity and nothingness.

Three words to describe the show, “funny, awkward, raunchy,” Peters said. 

Professor of Theatre Arts Sean Dillon directs the show. 

The “Thanksgiving Play” opened Thursday and runs at 7:30 this Friday and Saturday, as well as  Nov. 16 through 18, with a closing with a matinée at 2 p.m., Nov. 19, in the Dailey Theatre. 

Admission is by donation. For more information, visit eventbrite.com

Sheridan Lambrook can be reached at sheridan.grenda@laverne.edu.

Cast members of “The Thanksgiving Play” – junior theater and philosophy major Robby Meredith, freshman theater major Alexandria Peters and junior theater and rhetoric and communications studies major Reese Oliver – rehearse a scene from the play Wednesday in Dailey Theatre. The play opened Thursday and runs at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday, Nov. 16-18, and at 2 p.m. Nov. 19. / photo by Sheridan Lambrook
Cast members of “The Thanksgiving Play” re-enact a scene of the first Thanksgiving during a rehearsal Wednesday. The play is a holiday satire and runs over the next two weekends in Dailey Theatre. / photo by Sheridan Lambrook

Sheridan Lambrook, a senior journalism major with a concentration in visual journalism, is photography editor and a staff writer for the Campus Times.

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