A local theatre group in Southern Maine found themselves in a bit of hot water with local residents after promoting an upcoming musical revue show titled "Oh Susanna", which would be a celebration of the Confederacy. If there was any debate about that, the group's advertisements confirmed what the evening would entail. In now-deleted postings, the advertisements featured a Confederate flag along with the following text,
“You won’t want to miss this show as we return to a time long past … a time of charm and grace, master and slave, the Confederacy & the war between the North and the South, with all the music of the time.”
The show would have featured performances of songs including “Old Black Joe,” “Dixie,” “Ol’ Man River” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot".
Obviously, there were many in the community who found both the theme of the show and advertisements offensive and voiced their concerns with the Nasson Community Center, where the show would have been performed. After discussions regarding the response to the show, the theatre decided to cancel the production.
Some in the area were thrilled with the decision, others were not. Comments on the theatre's Facebook page swayed both ways,
“I hope anyone can understand that there is no fond remembrance of that horrific time for non-white people,” wrote Kael Parker. “Your message, and the performance of many of these songs without any historical reckoning, is tone deaf at best. To combine it with the image of a flag which has so often been a symbol of racism and white supremacy was doubly insulting.”
Others thought this was another example of social justice warriors complaining,
“To use that quote is an honest reflection of the production,” wrote Mike Trumble. “It’s not a history lesson, it’s a show. Not everything needs to be made politically correct. People try way too hard to be offended these days.”
Here's my take on the situation. Not knowing anyone involved, I'm going to assume that no one at the Sanford Maine Stage is a racist. However, I do believe they showed a lack of judgment when putting together a show that was a celebration of the Confederacy in 2018.
There is a massive debate in this country about how we have honored the Confederacy and those who fought for it. We've seen violent protests over the tearing down of statues and laws being rushed through courts to take them down or protect them.
The belief that not honoring the Confederacy will somehow cleanse our history is moronic. No one is going to forget what the Confederacy was about and why it succeeded from the Union. You can drum up all the "Gone With The Wind" romanticism you want, the Confederacy was about protecting the institution of slavery. That's why anything celebrating the Confederacy or the culture surrounding that is problematic 2018.
John Oliver made a great point about this on his show. We can't ignore the fact that the Confederacy existed, but at the same time, we shouldn't celebrate it. And calling it a time of "charm and grace" which Sanford Maine Stage did, was incredibly shortsighted.
I'm glad they canceled it. I wish they displayed a little more understanding in doing so rather than their director, Mary Stair, stating she did it because people were offended.