CMU School of Drama

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Let’s Play ‘Underground Railroad Game’: A Lacerating Comedy on Race

The New York Times: Our “safe word” for today is “Sojourner.”

Those three syllables are the gift of Teacher Stuart and Teacher Caroline to their fifth-grade students in Hanover, Pa., to be used in moments of distress during an especially adventurous history project. “Sojourner,” boys and girls, is what you say when you find yourself way outside your comfort zone and need to take a break.


Brennan Felbinger said...

This is a very interesting approach to addressing an issue that is important but more testy and difficult to talk about than other issues. Because slavery is such a polarizing issue, it definitely caught me by surprise when I read that this performance was a comedy, but it also excited me that people were taking new, unique approaches to talking about the issue, which I think is incredibly important for diversifying the communities that are educated on the subject. Not everyone responds the same way to information, people simply have different learning styles. The most popular approach has been to address slavery from a historical context in a dramatic style, yet this production defies both of those expectations by both presenting as a comedy as well as a modern day examination, as the show is not set in the pre-civil war period. I think by introducing productions that defy expectations for educational theatrical experiences, we can expand upon the number of members in our society that are educated on the nuances of difficult issues.

Aubrey Sirtautas said...

I was also surprised to hear that this was a comedy and was pleased with a lot of what I heard. The ability to take a complicated subject and make people laugh, whether through true comedy or pure discomfort, is powerful. People bond and heal through laughter, and they also find new ways of dealing with tragedies. If the way we talk about race and diversity and the history of race and diversity isn’t working, there is power in changing the conversation and taking it in a new direction. It seems like the creators of the show are changing the rhetoric and pointing to both historic and modern disparities in the way we discuss and learn about race. I find it no surprise that the creators chose two school-teachers as representations of the basic characters because we learn our primary biases early in school, and finding a way to change the system (even if we are uncomfortable in how we get there) will be powerful and necessary.