CMU School of Drama

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Chicago Opera Theater’s ‘Perfect American’ brings American icon Walt down to earth

www.chicagolandmusicaltheatre.com: Walt Disney. By the end of the year, odds are every person reading this review will have partaken in some form of entertainment from one of the many offshoots and subsidiaries of the company that bares his name.

In his life, the man reached the pinnacle of fame and built a brand centered on wholesome, thoughtful entertainment that persists to this day. However, he was also a bigoted perfectionist whose company was built on the backs of thousands of employees who received no credit for their contribution to the cultural landscape of America. This dichotomy is the chief concern of Chicago Opera Theater’s The Perfect American.

7 comments:

Katherine Sharpless said...

I find the plot of this show really intriguing and disturbing- we've all enjoyed Disney films and franchises shamelessly at some point in our lives and I've heard about some of Walt Disney's shadier moments with low wages and US Congress copyright destruction (although he was not directly involved)- but I've always saw, or wanted to see, the American "hero" above all of that. You start to think that Disney is the wholesome characters he originated, or at least shares their values. The article mentioned "reimagined stories" along with recreations of his actual life stories. I worry that those one or two variations will keep the audience in the desired age old mindset that Disney was this "Perfect American"- if one thing is fake why believe any story is real? While it may be an unavoidable and slowly revealed truth that Disney was a dictating perfectionist, we can still love the films and keep those stories true.

Claire Krueger said...

When I think of Walt Disney the story of comes to mind is of Adriana Caselotti, the voice actress of the original Snow White. After her underpaid performance with Disney she was forced to sign a contract to never use her voice again to ‘preserve’ the individuality of Snow White’s voice. Similar to big shows like The Voice and American Idol that force participants and finalists to sign a contract forbidding them to perform in public, which gives the winner tons of recognition but destroys everyone else's careers. Long story short Walt Disney is not a kind man in my eyes. Seeing a show that honors that side of his without glossing over all of the individual suffering Disney grew out of is incredible. I’m surprised I haven’t heard about it despite it premiering in 2011. Either it wasn't anything special or it hit too close to home with Walt Disney’s unpleasantries.

Rebecca Meckler said...

I never would have thought to do a Walt Disney opera, but this production sounds very exciting. However, I was surprised that the author described the piece as an impressionistic interpretation of Disney’s story. I understand that history often needs to be dramatized for theater, but I wonder how the writer chose where to depart from history. Also, I think the concept of having scenes that are happening the characters mind, would give an interesting insight into the character. It sounds like it would work well with the idea that the entire play takes place in Disney’s hospital room as her dues. Another thing that I think is interesting is the title and how it would affect seeing the production. The concept that the perfect american is extremely flawed, yet very successful says something about the way we as people think about our society. To me, it highlights that our culture seems to value success over character.

Julian Goldman said...

I think we have this tendency to want to idolize historical figures, and we tend ignore their shortcomings in order to make things less complex. We like the overall impact that Walt Disney left on the world, and so we ignore the harm he did. I think writing an opera that forces us to address that complexity is a really cool idea, especially given that, as this article mentions, opera tends to have less of a reputation for being new and relevant. The title of the opera is also very fitting, as it presents the idea that we have made Disney into this idealized American in our minds, and the show itself will break down that false imagined version of him. Also, it isn’t discussed in the article, but based on the photograph at the top of the article, the design for the show is very bold and visually interesting. I’d be interested to hear about audience reactions to this opera and its impact on their perceptions of Disney.

Alexa James-Cardenas said...

(Reaction to the picture before reading the article…) Oh F*ck…. (After reading) I am a big Disney fan, but I don’t have any delusions of Disney’s not so ethical/moral wrong doings/ sort “Imperial” mindset ( I mean look at Pixar, LucasFilm, etc.). And I have also heard of Walt Disney’s bigotry and greatly possible dark mentality. But holy crap, I want to see this. Will it ruin my childhood, maybe, but I think that has already happen a many of times. I want to see this because I think it is important. Whether you are a fan of Disney or not, there is one thing that is fact and that is that Disney has made a staple in the lives of many generations from not just America but all over the world and thus has been staple in history itself. But as of most things that is viewed in greatness there is a history human immorality. Kind of like a country, where it’s greatness comes from the ocean of blood of those who fought to control the land, Disney came from the dishonesty, thievery, and belittling of others. So why watch and contribute to the power and popularity of Disney? Well, one, the movies (not all, but a lot of them) have positive messages about courage, love, and individuality of human beings (though, there is a lot of progress that needs to be made, they are on the way to become more and more diverse). There are a lot of good messages and images that could inspire or support those who really need it. And two, to remember that not everything is not what is seems. In life, we get hurt or hurt others, step on others or get stepped on ourselves, there are times where the pain and darkness surrounds every corner, and there are times where morality and happiness are way more powerful than anyone could have thought. Life and human beings are filled with complexities and are capable of many things, and we need to embrace the good and the horrible things that we do to keep on continuing with life. The blood may never dry, but at least we can to grow and slowly plug up the leaks.

Annie Scheuermann said...

This article was very interesting. Based on the first paragraph I assumed it was going to be looking more into the life of Walt Disney and the choices he made on his journey to creating the brand of Disney. However this is also a conversation about the world of opera. I think its a very interesting subject, no body is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes that have consequences, I am not too familiar with the life that Disney lead and this article does not go in depth enough that I feel I can form any thoughts on that. I will say that anyone who is a building a business empire, part of the entertainment industry, and a public figure has so much on their plate that of course he/she is going to be making choices that have huge effects and not always positive. The opera is show I would be interesting in seeing as the subject matter is very compelling. As far as the life of Walt Disney, I want to know if the rumors of his body or head frozen to one day be re awaken are true.

Helena Hewitt said...

To be honest, I could not agree more with the sentiment in Julian’s comment that we tend to idolize historical figures, particularly historical figures that can help give shape to our national identity. For example, FDR is often cited as one of the greatest presidents in American history, and well he did many good things for this country, he also was president during the Japanese internment camps, a horrible moment in our country’s legacy. This habit of viewing our own past and legacy through rose-colored lens lends itself to the manufacture of the American myth. I love to see more shows that portray our history and our legacy as both complex and challenging. It sounds to me as though this opera does just that with a piece of American history so ingrained in us that most of us were aware of his presence in our cultural landscape before we ever picked up a history book.