The Wenatchee Valley is extremely lucky to have a wonderful theatre community, presenting top-notch productions for our enjoyment. Music Theatre of Wenatchee (MTW) is arguably the leader in this regard. However, great organizations and the good people that run them sometimes fall short. Unfortunately, that is what happened with this year’s Apple Blossom Musical, “Shrek.”
The thousands of you who attended one of the 10 shows may be asking why I say this. After all, the talent on stage was outstanding, the sets were clever, the costumes were professional, the music was great and the energy of the show was palpable. You likely laughed and clapped and generally basked in the enjoyment of a night at the theatre seeing many talented familiar faces and friends perform.
But that is not the experience that I had with 14 visiting family members who planned to attend the show on the Saturday night of Apple Blossom weekend. I also happened to go to the show two days earlier with a friend and was shocked and disappointed by what I saw.
You see, I have a 13-year-old great-niece who has achondroplasia, which is the most common form of dwarfism. In other words, she is a little person.
In “Shrek,” one of the leading characters is Lord Farquaad. He is evil and unpleasant — every show needs an antagonist, after all. However, this character is also a little person. And therein lies the problem.
The costume for Lord Farquaad included a short pair of fake legs. Throughout the show, the character’s short stature was repeatedly mocked and ridiculed by word and action. At the end of the show, he was characterized as a “freak,” together with the imaginary fairytale figures who are part of the plot line.
Little people are productive, educated, and engaged members of our communities — just like the rest of us. Regardless, dwarfism is in fact a disability.
Although I am sure that MTW and the cast and crew had no malicious intent, this disrespectful portrayal of a little person and their disability harms and diminish little people everywhere. I can’t imagine that anyone in our community would find it acceptable for a show to mock any other form of disability. Thus, I am hoping to take a few minutes of your time to raise awareness and educate about dwarfism.
Historically, little people have been dehumanized and ridiculed in theatre, including in so-called “freak shows” and circuses.
I recommend an article titled “Why We Must Change the Way Dwarfism is Portrayed in Theatre” by Sarah Rupp McKee. She happens to be a little person who was studying for her master’s degree in theatre directing when she wrote the article. Ms. McKee identifies several examples of shows that portray little people in a disrespectful and discriminatory way, including “Shrek.” She explains that these shows perpetuate and contribute to ongoing discrimination against little people. She challenges us all to do better.
If we collectively choose, as a society, to stop characterizing little people as lesser beings and start casting them in roles of respect, the collective notion will start to change. If we can stop perpetuating these outdated storylines, children will not learn that dwarfism is funny…. This is a cycle that can stop now.
My family did not attend the show, choosing instead to stand up for my great niece and other little people, and for what is right.
Now, I am issuing a challenge to our community, to MTW and to each of you. Be aware when disrespect rears its ugly head. Don’t accept that it is okay to mock or ridicule a group of people based on a disability or skin color or gender identity or any other factor. Speak up when you see others falling short. Strive for respect and inclusion for all.
Discuss the news on NABUR, a place to have local conversations The Neighborhood Alliance for Better Understanding and Respect ✔ A site just for our local community ✔ Focused on facts, not misinformation ✔ Free for everyone
It is curious to me, the recent fervor over the possibility of Wenatchee following suit with the current national trend to ban certain books about LGBTQ and America’s history of racism. As if our children should be insulated from the reality we owe them. As if all citizens do not deserve the…
Round Abouts have been around for a very long time and are simply traffic circles. They eliminate traffic signals and stop signs but are far more dangerous for drivers and pedestrians when vehicles often are merging from at least three or four directions at once. The only thing that should b…
I recently had the misfortune to need to visit the Chelan County Treasurer's office and make my way through the maze of construction to get there. I'm appalled that the Chelan County Commissioners, the Courts, and other County offices permitted this plan to grossly limit access to public ser…
In a little over 7 weeks, we will be celebrating the birthday of the United States of America. It’s a great holiday. Fireworks and all. But what does it really mean? To me it means FREEDOM. Needs a little work, but hey, what doesn’t?