Welcome To Berlin

 “The bigger the issue, the smaller you write. Remember that. You don’t write about the horrors of war. No. You write about a kid’s burnt socks lying on the road. You pick the smallest manageable part of the big thing, and work off the resonance.”

– Richard Price

World War II may have officially ended in 1945, but the world continued to remember it vividly for decades to follow. Several prominent Nazi officers faced lengthy trials that lasted until 1966, the same year that a hit Broadway musical by the name of Cabaret first opened. Based on the 1951 play I Am A Camera and the 1939 novel Goodbye to Berlin, Cabaret follows an American novelist named Cliff Bradshaw as he visits Weimar Germany during the Nazi’s rise to power. The show explores themes of homosexuality and queerness, sexuality and sexual promiscuity, and most notably, Jewishness. These areas were highly stigmatized, coming to a head with the systematic murder of 6,000,000 Jews and over 10,000,000 other “political enemies” of the Nazi party in the years that followed. But, as author Richard Price says, “the bigger the issue, the smaller you write.” These astronomical figures are simply beyond comprehension, especially in the context of living, breathing people. By focusing on the “smallest manageable part of the big thing,” in this case a seedy little cabaret and its regulars, Cabaret is able to tell an emotionally complex story and “work off the resonance” to apply that empathy to the other millions of murders by the Nazi party. Cabaret explores socially stigmatized people and cultures to build empathy on the small scale of the Kit Kat Club so that audiences can better comprehend the mass persecution of Jews, queers, and political dissidents in Nazi Germany, all culminating in a powerful message against political apathy. 

Cabaret is a raunchy show. Something you never would’ve guessed given the name, I know. The show opens with “Willkommen,” a number that sets the tone for the sexual explicitness of the following two hours. Alan Cumming, who plays The Emcee in the 1993 revival production, wastes no time in sexually touching, thrusting on, and making obscene comments to the employees of his cabaret. Sexual acts are mimed and visually referenced throughout the number, and the lyrics encourage the audience to relax and enjoy the festivities. Off the bat, the cabaret girls (and boys) and the Emcee are distinctly libertine and contrasting to the more traditional and tight-laced characters we see in the following scenes. This casual approach to controversial topics persists throughout the show, most notably in portraying abortion, prostitution, promiscuity, and queerness. Sally Bowles, a cabaret singer and romantic partner of Cliff, explains to him early in the show that she’s gotten abortions “thousands of times,” while tossing back her hair and laughing nonchalantly. Later in the show, Sally ends up getting an abortion against Cliff’s wishes, causing a rift between the two. The discussion of abortion shifts in tone from lightheartedness and triviality to an expression of Sally giving up on Cliff and reverting to the unhappy life she knew before him, tied up neatly with the following musical number, “I Don’t Care Much” in the 1987 and subsequent productions. Sally’s choice to get an abortion may have been controversial, but the complexity the issue brings out in her character causes the audience to empathize with her struggles and inner turmoil.

Meanwhile, prostitution and sexual promiscuity are explored as examples of the bacchanalia of Berlin, and as symptoms of the period’s strained economy. Among Sally’s first words to Cliff are, “[Max is] the man I’m sleeping with… this week,” in reference not only to her sexual relationship but also to her limited options in housing. Cliff’s neighbor, Fraulein Kost, is later revealed to be a prostitute after telling her landlady, Fraulein Schneider, “No [prostitution], no rent.” It’s an occupation Kost is clearly not pleased with, but she has no other options. Each of these circumstances unify the characters of the show under the umbrella of social deviance, one way or another. The audience begins to empathize with a set of characters living contrary to social standards, and recognize the overlapping consistencies between Sally, Kost, Cliff, the Emcee, and the other sexually charged characters of the show. This consistency becomes relevant in the second act, when Nazism begins turning these peers against each other, ignoring the similarities of their circumstances and cultivating hate where there was none before. But we’ll get to that soon enough; first, we have to acknowledge the elephant in the cabaret, so to speak.

Cabaret is a gay show. The production includes multiple bisexual characters, plenty of gay and lesbian characters, sometimes an asexual character, arguably a transgender character, and multiple uses of drag. Three years before Stonewall brought the LGBT community to the forefront of people’s minds, Cabaret was already humanizing and defending these historically persecuted people. The original 1966 production featured Joel Grey as a notably asexual character, although this was changed in the 1993 and subsequent productions, where Alan Cumming played up the character’s sexuality. In these later productions, both the Emcee and Cliff are shown to be bisexual- Cliff kisses one of the cabaret boys and implies that they once had an affair, and goes on to rediscover himself as a bisexual rather than gay man. Meanwhile, the Emcee accentuates his sexuality by performing his explicit choreography on both men and women, and by making lusty comments about both. Various other men throughout the show are implied to be queer in some respect through a permeating sense of homoeroticism and physical touching (especially men touching other men on the chest). Yet perhaps the greatest example of both queerness and sexuality throughout the show is the musical number “Two Ladies,” in which the Emcee describes his living situation with two women, and the group sex they’re implied to have. The 1998 and 2014 revivals particularly featured one of the cabaret boys playing a woman, either pulling for a bit of commentary on the sexual openness of ‘38 Berlin, or potentially implying that this second woman is in fact transgender. In discussing the day to day life of the two ladies in the song, both describe traditional gender roles and no reference is given to the existence of drag. Historically, Berlin was an epicenter for queer nightlife at the time, and gender queer and nonconforming people were treated fairly in that respect. Whether or not this was the intended implication, the Emcee was certainly wearing drag during the entr’acte and introduction of the second act. So what does all this queerness do for the show? We can surmise that it’s meant to continue painting characters as “others” in preparation for the eventual rise of Nazism in Germany,  but its greater strength is in giving queer characters depth and meaning. These are not simply token characters; many (at least of the main queer characters) have goals and fears, inner struggles, and symbolic meaning. Cliff particularly learns about the political state of Germany and chooses to flee before the Nazis come to power, and struggles in his relationship with Sally. And the Emcee has a startling symbolic meaning*, which becomes clearer and clearer as the show goes on… During the entr’acte, he makes his symbolization of Nazism evident by saluting Hitler on stage, juxtaposed with his feminine lingerie costuming. Dread begins to creep in as the audience is taken out of the fun and excitement of the Kit Kat Club and reminded where the show is set and what is certain to follow. The first act of the show sets the scene of sexual, stigmatized, and often queer characters, and the second act delivers the message by delving into the Nazism and anti-Semitism that pervaded Weimar Germany. 

Cabaret is a Jewish show. The lyrics were written by Fred Ebb, set to music by John Kander, staged by Robert Field, performed originally by Joel Grey, and augmented with a book written by Joe Masteroff, all of whom are Jewish. No doubt it was through their insights that they created the character of Herr Schultz, a German-born Jew and the subject of much anti-Semitism throughout the show. Our first look at this is when Fraulein Kost insinuates (to his face) that he’s greedy and rich, and tries to extort two Reichsmarks out of him. Immediately following this, the Emcee makes his first move representing the Nazis- he enters a darkened stage in a spotlight, sets down a record player, and plays the song “Tomorrow Belongs To Me.” Before reaching the final words, he shuts the record player off and superimposes himself and the Nazi regime into the lyrics of the song, declaring that tomorrow belongs to ME. It’s an unsettling moment to say the least, and one that goes without much explanation for some time. Later, the Emcee, acting outside of the action as more of a ghost or narrator, follows Herr Schultz across the stage during his engagement party. His mischievous smile is foreboding and heart wrenching, signaling to the audience that Herr Schultz’s engagement will not have a happy ending. Sure enough, Fraulein Kost makes another anti-Semitic comment and reveals one Herr Ludwig to be a Nazi. Kost and Ludwig then begin singing a frightening reprise of “Tomorrow Belongs to Me,” causing much of the rest of the party to join in. Schultz, Schneider, and Cliff look on speechless and frozen, in clear understanding of the implications of the song and its significant support. With a cymbal crash at the end of the song, the Emcee appears above the stage and pulls back his black trench coat to reveal a red swastika painted onto his bare backside. The Emcee soon after drops a brick through Schultz’s window in a representation of Kristallnacht, and follows it up with the number, “If You Could See Her.” During the number, the Emcee walks a gorilla dressed as a woman around the stage and sings of her virtues and how society won’t let them be together. It appears entirely out of the blue and frequently elicits confused laughter from the audience before delivering its horrifying last line**, “But if you could see her through my eyes, she wouldn’t look Jewish at all.” Definitively, we now see the Emcee representative of both the queer and/or socially deviant victims of the Nazis, and representative of the Nazis themselves. We’ve seen who is affected and who does the affecting, and have developed empathy for each of the characters, particularly through their different experiences of oppression. But rather than just presenting a sobering tale of the lives lost to the Nazis, Cabaret offers a definitive and powerful message, and suggests a way to prevent repeating the events of WWII. 

The final number of Cabaret is more powerful than any other theatrical moment I’ve experienced. As Cliff boards the train to Paris, escaping Germany before it gets too bad, he begins to write his novel:

“There was a cabaret, and there was a master of ceremonies, and there was a city called Berlin in a country called Germany. It was the end of the world. And I was dancing with Sally Bowles, and we were both fast asleep.”

Cliff can no longer continue dancing, fast asleep, keeping his eyes closed to the changing political climate. I am reminded of another of Cliff’s lines earlier in the show. “If you’re not against all this, you’re for it. Or you might as well be.” The finale continues into an eerie reprise of the opening number, and shows physically and auditorily what happens when you allow yourself to be ambivalent to politics. The music becomes discordant and off-beat, the lighting breaks down and becomes irregular, and the staging falls apart. Through political ambivalence and in the context of the play, it is literally the end of the world. One by one, the cast recites the most important quotes of the show, connecting very clearly to the message of political engagement. Herr Schultz ignores the reality of Kristallnacht by calling his broken windows the results of “mischievous children…” Fraulein Schneider recounts her choice to break off an engagement to a Jew with her lines “One does what one must” and “I must be sensible.” Most directly, Sally Bowles says, “It’ll work itself out… It’s only politics, what’s that got to do with us?” In the most haunting moment of the show, the Emcee then takes the spotlight and does a short striptease, before dropping his trench coat to reveal a striped concentration camp uniform. He’s marked with three symbols- a yellow Star of David, marking him a Jew, a red star, marking him a Socialist or Communist, and a pink triangle, marking him a homosexual or sexual deviant. Right before us, it is clear that nearly every one of these characters we’ve grown to love will be killed. The Emcee proceeds to turn slowly around to the other characters, whose inactions allowed this to happen, before taking an elaborate bow reminiscent of a crucifixion. The lights flash white, a cymbal crashes, and we move to blackout. Cabaret is over, and as the audience exits the theatre, they’re drawn to think of what happens next. The Emcee will die. The cabaret girls and the cabaret boys will die. Herr Schultz will die. Fraulein Schneider may very possibly be labeled a “race defiler” and die.

This is what politics has got to do with us. As Cliff pointed out, “If you’re not against all this, you’re for it. Or you might as well be.”

*It should be noted that this analysis is based primarily off of the later revival productions of Cabaret, featuring Alan Cumming as The Emcee. These productions took on a darker tone than their predecessors, but as no recordings of the originals exist, I can not say whether or not all of the symbolism was consistent between productions.

**The word “Jewish” in this line was changed to the less recognizable Yiddish insult “meeskite” in the 1966 production for fear of too much controversy, but was changed back to “Jewish” in later productions.

Hamilton- Casting, Culture, and Racial Support

By Ben Damir

Most plays and musicals that explode from the theatrical world into broader American culture have not needed cultural or social relevance to succeed. Just look at the top grossing musicals and you’ll see – The Lion King, Wicked, The Phantom of the Opera – all decent shows, but each generally disconnected from the world at the time of their release. What made Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit 2015 musical Hamilton so much more than any of these other shows was its emphasis on current racial issues. Highly publicized KKK rallies, black activist movements, and protests swamped the year of its release, giving Hamilton the perfect opportunity to discuss these weighty questions of race. It was catchy, well-written, beautifully choreographed, and as successful critically as it was socially and fiscally. Yet between the incomprehensible amount of money it made, its 16 Tony nominations, 11 wins, and Pulitzer, Hamilton’s greatest achievement came in the form of its racial implications and empowerments. Hamilton empowers people of color by disrupting norms regarding historical racial accuracy, by celebrating black bodies and legitimizing black culture to wider audiences, and by paving the way for a culture of equity rather than equality. 

We all know those theatre-goers that get caught up on the littlest things. You try to talk about the meaning of the show, and they’re still stuck laughing about the time a cue was late or a microphone gave feedback. Hamilton’s success brought a similar group of individuals that could not seem to get over the casting of historically white figures as people of color. Now, I could argue all of the things that Hamilton gained by having a racially underrepresented cast (and indeed I will!), but first I’d like to reflect on the reverse. What did it miss out on by not having a white cast? Whiteness with a historically white group of people is the default, the assumption. But Hamilton proved that casting black actors to tell white people’s stories does not diminish those stories in the slightest. The narratives are true to history, and offer unique perspectives from a group of people whose perspectives have been ignored throughout history. Although the actions of the founding fathers may have caused centuries of harm to the actors and their families, they did not allow their hardships to flatly villainize anyone, but rather to consciously inform them. The actors ultimately played the founding fathers as human. Far from perfect, but not evil. They had flaws, they had triumphs, they had hopes, and families, and lives. The cast’s diversity opened up room for a plethora of character interpretations, and broke down a wall of racial casting that clearly did not need to exist to begin with, instead favoring race-conscious casting. Among the clearest examples of racially-conscious casting choices and subsequent character interpretations are Samuel Seabury and King George III, as played by Thayne Jasperson and Jonathan Groff respectively. These white actors enjoyed positions of power in their connection to British royalty, and cast the revolutionaries as the minority population- the underdogs. Audiences are encouraged to empathize with the underdog, particularly since these underdogs are widely considered national heroes. By casting the patriots as people of color, a connection is established between these two oppressed groups across history- American revolutionaries and people of color. Audiences of all ethnicities see a bit of themselves onstage and empathize with the characters, all while subconsciously supporting an interracialism that America frequently lacks. 

Hamilton supported black culture in several ways, notably in its respect for black bodies and black art. Nowhere in the show are black bodies confined to the sidelines or played down in costuming and makeup, as can be found in dozens of shows where race is not central to the plot. The founding fathers may have actually worn powdered white wigs, but in Hamilton they make no attempt to cover their natural black hair. On several instances throughout the show, particularly during “Cabinet Battle #1,” Daveed Diggs, actor for Thomas Jefferson, even pats his hair playfully, using it to convey a sense of superiority. Moreover, the simple act of placing black bodies in fancy period costuming when they were barred from such sophistication during the actual period is an empowering and political action. These bodies are then prominently shown, front and center, throughout the show, emphasizing their actors’ positions of power and importance. American culture, and by extension American musicals, has had a history of downplaying or negatively associating black bodies (see also, tokenism and “King Kong” stereotypes), so these empowering notes on black bodies are refreshing and long overdue.

Another significant aspect of black culture that is recognized in the show is the use of hip hop and rap. Hamilton uses these genres for nearly every song throughout the show, serving the double purposes of bringing excitement to otherwise dry content and representing the diverse cast and cultures that make up the show. Let’s face it- people writing essays and going to meetings are not exciting topics for a musical (1776 proved that- sorry!), so incorporating high energy, fast-paced musical forms serves to liven up some potentially boring moments. The diverse casting is also represented and appreciated through the use of the historically black genres of rap and hip hop. These genres have long been scorned by white audiences, particularly older generations, of whom 61% said that “rap music is not real music” in a debate.org online poll. Hamilton did not single-handedly fix this close-minded perception of rap music, but it did open up the genre to a larger audience and prove that it is as legitimate as any other form of musical self-expression. Perhaps not everybody enjoyed the lyrical style and quick beats, but the show at least dispelled some racist notions that rap and hip hop were genres based in sex, drugs, and violence. By writing lyrically genius rap songs about many older Americans’ heroes, Lin-Manuel Miranda forced them to acknowledge that the genres were capable of legitimate music. Yet culture was not the only thing that Hamilton brought to the world- it paved the way for genuine racial equity. 

Whenever I discuss the concept of equity, I ask people to envision a foot race, between a black man and a white man. In the first centuries of the race, the white man jogged steadily, while the black man was bound at the starting line by heavy chains. Eventually, some of the chains were removed, and every once in a while more chains would come off. Nevertheless, the chains were never fully gone, and the white man had already gotten a massive head start. Equality, as the current American system would have it, would be removing the black man’s chains and letting him run freely. Equity would be boosting the black man up to wherever the white man is, and allowing the two of them to continue running from an equal starting point. While both cases maintain that the black man’s chains should be removed, only the latter addresses how far ahead the white man got in his multi-century head start. Among Hamilton’s great achievements in racial justice was its equity-based casting call, which called for “NON-WHITE men and women…” The show’s artistic vision required that the actors be people of color, but the audition notice nevertheless stirred up controversy and prompted calls of reverse racism. There is not enough space in this essay to explain why reverse racism isn’t a real thing, so let it suffice to say that it isn’t. By supporting people of color in particular, Hamilton gave them power in an industry that has historically failed to adequately represent them time and time again (see The King and I and every other incorrectly cast character of color). It gave acknowledgement to the fact that color-blindness is not a real way to fix generational racism, poverty, and oppression, and that the only way to move to true equality is to help the marginalized get on equal footing with those in power. More than that, Hamilton was one of the clearest recent examples of equity and race-consciousness; since then, focus on equity has increased dramatically, even resulting in legislative measures to address racially-connected cycles of poverty, such as CA Prop 16 and Portland’s Racial Equity Steering Committee. I should specify that Hamilton did not invent the idea of equity or pioneer it, but its casting was a source of controversy that exposed a lot of people to it. More than that, the production put its money where its mouth is, and actively included marginalized groups to create a unique perspective and wildly successful production. 

Perhaps Hamilton’s greatest achievement was making all of these intense social comments right underneath our noses. Audiences may sometimes have had to wrap their minds around black actors playing the founding fathers, or this or that regarding the casting calls, but after accepting those points, people loved the show. It’s been out for only 5 years and it’s already #7 in the list of highest grossing Broadway musicals, losing only to productions that have been running for significantly longer. I have no doubt that nearly all the readers of this essay could sing at least a few Hamilton songs all the way through, and am certain that more than a few could recite the entire show. So ultimately, Hamilton’s greatest successes in racial development and respect came from its great successes socially, critically, and financially, and vice versa. People loved seeing the show because it was beautiful and moving, and in that enjoyment gained some minor understanding of its racial points. It would have been easy to impart the show’s messages through a simple play or politically charged musical revue, but by thinly veiling them beneath the show’s catchiness and lovability, Hamilton reached untold audiences and imbued its messages with fun, grace, and charm.

Anna and Chris: Feminizing the East, and the White Savior Complex

When I watched The King and I and Miss Saigon, I was confused. People were acting as though the racially accurate casting somehow erased the stereotypically written Asian characters. The shows particularly reminded me of the black actors that broke into the early Broadway scene by wearing blackface and making fun of themselves. I’m all for oppressed groups reclaiming the terms of their oppression, like myself and the LGBTQ+ community reappropriating the term “queer” or the black community with the n-word, but these shows feature no Asian empowerment; only Asian actors playing disempowered, victimized, or otherwise unflatteringly written characters. With that, I noted how racially accurate casting highlighted the problematic nature of the few white characters- The characters of Anna and Chris, from The King and I and Miss Saigon, respectively, perpetuate stereotypes of Asian characters and fulfill the inherently racist role of the “civilizing” Westerner.

Despite being opposite genders, Anna and Chris each serve the same gender-focused purpose in their show——they each feminize their Asian cast-mates by comparison. At the beginning of The King and I, Anna is an English governess with a flare for aggressive behavior, as demonstrated in her reprimanding of the king’s advisor. When she enters Siam, she finds herself surrounded by hyper-masculinity and femininity. King Mongkut is aggressive and impulsive, his wives are beautiful and quiet, and his children are obedient. Rather than become emasculated herself, Anna “tames” the masculinity of the King, modeling his new character after the docility of an Englishman (but more on that later). In her own right, Anna brings a positive and empowering air, akin to Mary Poppins’ decisive and rigidly sophisticated nature. Chris takes a similarly masculine role in Miss Saigon, and through him the character of Kim is further feminized. By the beginning of the show, Kim is already a victim of war, and her autonomy is stripped of her when she is forced to turn to prostitution. She plays an obedient and extremely submissive role in her own story, and that fact is exacerbated by the active and assertive role that the muscle-bound Chris plays. He takes power from her particularly when he sleeps with her, not as a lover, but as a buyer. And why is it that Chris falls in love with her, anyway? He explains in the show that his trauma from the war turned him to despair, and that she was one good thing in that hell. It’s a sweet sentiment, but a little less sweet when we consider why exactly she caught his eye. Kim was “not like the other girls” because she was a pure, teenaged, virgin. She was made docile through her trauma and was taken advantage of by her supposed lover. This moment of equating Kim’s purity and worthiness to her virginity and naivety was demeaning and objectifying then, and by today’s standards it is downright sexist. Ultimately, the actions of both Anna and Chris serve to take masculinized power away from the Asians in their lives, furthering the disempowerment of Asian cultures through feminization. 

These characters also exist to perpetuate stereotypes of Asian characters through comparison, and to display the White Man’s Burden on stage. Anna is the clearest example of this cultural violence; her purpose in Siam is to educate and civilize. It was clear in her wiseacre demeanor and assertive behavior that she initially regarded the Siamese as less sophisticated than the English, and she never came to truly respect Siam as its own nation. Through the show, her only genuine respect seemed to come when King Mongkut acted European or was dying. She becomes open to understanding the people of Siam in the song “Getting To Know You,” but even in that, she only concedes that the people of Siam aren’t all that bad- she never celebrates, appreciates, or even recognizes their traditional culture as legitimate. Her only respect arrives in achieving her goal of “civilizing” and bringing European values and cultural pieces (clothing, dances, phrases, etc) to Siam. And the moment the King moves to discipline the deserting Tuptim, Anna jumps right back to calling him a barbarian. Interestingly enough, Victorian England carried the same penalty of death for desertion, whether it be for love or not. Soon after, when the King is dying, Anna’s respect for him comes out of a place of pity and guilt, yet never from a place of appreciation of legitimization of Siamese culture. Chris, meanwhile, embodies the white savior complex in a more subtle way. His role in the Vietnam war was, most simply, about protecting Western, capitalistic values and stopping the spread of communism. What he ultimately brought to Saigon was an idolization of Westernism and a negative association with the East. The Engineer actually verbalizes this negative sentiment of his own race on a couple occasions, including his lines, “Why was I born of a race that thinks only of rice and hates entrepreneurs,” and “Greasy ch*nks make life so sleazy.” Chris’ whiteness, whether or not he intended it, became a symbol for success and prosperity, and by contrast, non-whites gained the association of the opposite. Theatre critic Diep Tran described in her americantheatre.org article I Am Miss Saigon, And I Hate It how the characters of the show fall into this trap of American imperialism and white savior discourse, particularly “idolizing whiteness to the point of suicide.” Through Chris, America became synonymous with success, and Vietnam with disaster. 

Still, much of this can be chalked up to the (white) men that wrote these shows without our modern respect and understanding for multiculturalism and gender studies. So how did the actors that played these imperfect characters portray them? All in all, I thought they did a pretty good job with how the characters were written. Kelli O’Hara blended traditional masculinity into femininity, yet could only do so much to improve Anna’s questionably written character. Then again, as I said earlier, her blending of gender norms had some consequences regarding the negative feminization of the Siamese characters, but I digress. I also appreciated that she tried to portray a greater respect in the song “Getting To Know You,” even if the song itself lacks celebration of Siamese culture. She could certainly have taken a stricter, more hard-as-nails approach to the character, and I felt her softer side was well developed, making her a more likeable character than she is otherwise written. Alistair Brammer brought Chris to life as a troubled and traumatized G.I. As written, Chris is not condemned by the show for anything he does, for instance paying to sleep with a 17 year old girl with whom he has an obvious power imbalance. Yet the show wants us to regard him as a “good guy” and strives to focus on his giving Kim money in the opening number, or on his (initial) refusal to sleep with her or another prostitute, or even his return to Bangkok to see her. I felt Brammer and his production did an excellent job of adding focus to the questionable things his character did; for instance, by threatening someone that wanted to use a public telephone with a gun. It would have been easy to play Chris as a simple good guy, but Brammer portrayed him as a character with depth, flaws, and regrets. Again, both the characters of Anna and Chris are highly flawed in their writing, but I believe Brammer and O’Hara each did excellent jobs bringing some modern positivity to unavoidably problematic characters and shows. 

But let’s back up. Does any of this actually matter? In short, yes. I said earlier that Anna and Chris perpetuate stereotypes of Asian characters and that their roles are, albeit to varying extents, inherently racist in theory. Anna is a governess meant to bring English “civility” to Siam, and Chris is a drafted G.I. serving in Vietnam to instill Western economic, cultural, and social values. But do I think these reasons should cause the shows to be shunned or retired? Absolutely not. Although the playwrights may have perpetuated some unfortunate stereotypes in their shows, it is up to modern actors and producers to take those shows and perform them respectfully, with dignity, and with a focus on the timeless narratives they aim to tell. Understanding their production’s implications in race, gender, and other social areas is integral to accurately, successfully, and positively performing a piece, and it is for that reason that we as theatre and social critics do what we do.