Dear Pan family,
When Peter Pan Jr. was announced as the 2017 LHE TAG production, I could not wait to see our kids in this magical story. And today as we approach the big show, I again can't wait! That said, I had a period of trepidation as I realized the complicated history of Peter Pan productions and the text itself with culturally insensitive stereotypes.
When my daughter was cast in the Native Ensemble I asked myself, "How can I get involved and gain comfort with how this is being approached?" I decided to volunteer as Enrichment Coordinator and met to talk about how we might use this as an opportunity for cultural education. I quickly learned how the TAG Team had carefully approached some of the script (within what's legal with script licensing) and designed the sets and costumes to be sensitive so that no specific Native population or culture was being referenced. What's resulted in this production is a bright cast of nature loving kids on a magical island following Tiger Lily's strong female lead. And what’s missing are the stories about actual native cultures and histories, stories that never existed in this particular text but do elsewhere.
From our school's culture night back in September to now, I've continued to ask myself, "How can I build more cultural enrichment into my first grader's experiences?" I've found teachable moments that we continue to build on about the danger of stereotypes, about how they devalue history and erase the reality of people’s actual experiences. We’re getting more and more curious about learning and hearing stories of individuals from different backgrounds and cultures, and always trying to avoid categorizing people in any way. We have pursued cultural theater education like Seattle Children's Theater's recent production of Seedfolks, which is about a garden started in a Cleveland immigrant community by a diverse group of twelve. And we're researching and exploring resources and workshops from local organizations like Cultures Connecting, Kids and Race Seattle, and Families of Color Seattle.
The pursuit of cultural understanding is lifelong and I hope to find ongoing ways to explore this with my family and community. So today I ask myself, "How might I connect with other parents who want to have these conversations and experiences together to raise culturally aware and inclusive kids?" If you are interested in exploring ideas together, please get in touch with me!
LHE TAG 2017 Enrichment Coordinator
Next month, TAG is pleased to sponsor literacy-based choreography workshops for every LHE student, with an emphasis on Native American culture. They will be taught by a Native American educator through the Pacific Northwest Ballet which satisfies Seattle Public School’s guidelines for Physical Education and are aligned with local, state and national standards for the arts. We are grateful to the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe and Seattle Public School’s Native American Education Department for their teaching and advice on respecting Native American culture in this production. We also extend sincere thanks to our Enrichment Chair Kate Donnelly, American Sign Language instructor Whitney Hardie, Music Director Dr. David Hyre, Costume Chair Maggie Burns, and the TAG Team for their thoughtful efforts to make this production a broad cultural learning experience for all.