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G-block – Black Box: BETCO performance “It’s Not Fair”
March 17, 2016
Brookline Educational Theater Company teacher Mark Vanderzee started off the block by introducing the upcoming pieces. Vanderzee explained that the four scenes that the members of BETCO, a drama class for juniors and seniors, had written and would perform were part of a larger cycle of vignettes exploring fairness and inequality. He expressed his desire to push boundaries and explore topics that might make people uncomfortable.
The first scene, featuring seniors Maeve Forti, Samantha Higgins and Stephanie Coyle, was a satire about two White students who say racially ignorant and insensitive things, referring to “the Blacks” and complaining about “reverse racism.” The teacher then berated them for talking about race, saying that since they were White, they couldn’t mention it due to an “unspoken rule.” The scene ended with one of the students sighing at how hard it was to be White, a statement that was met with laughter from the audience.
The second scene began with a “Work Bank,” which sold words to people for their speaking use throughout the day. Two characters were in competition for the same job, but one could afford only 55 words for her interview and the other could afford unlimited words. The first interviewee carefully rationed her words, gave minimal answers and was anxious about running out. The second character chatted confidently, but seemed to have less experience and to be less responsible. The interviewer, played by junior Océanne Fry, chose the second character over the first for the job.
The third scene was about a little boy, played by Higgins, who loves the movie “Cinderella” and dreams of marrying Prince Charming. His older sister, played by junior Gracie Western, walks in distraught from a fight with their mother and angrily tells him he cannot marry a prince because he is a boy. A slip of the tongue, saying “the princess won’t love you,” revealed that Western’s character was gay herself and wasn’t accepted by their mother.
The final scene included Higgins, Forti, Western, Fry, Coyle and junior Kayla McKeon. They stood in a line at the “Birth Portal” to receive their umbilical cords and be born. Each was asked what kind of life they would want to live, and each gave an exciting answer from being a bandit to starting a bath products company. However, they were each met with derision as they were told their future race and ethnicity and relegated to cruel stereotypes. The character who wanted to be “badass” was told she would be Asian so at least she would be smart and develop a taste for dog. But the final character, after stating her aspirations, was told that she would be White and thus could accomplish whatever she wanted.
The show was followed by a Q&A with Vanderzee, the members of BETCO, English teacher Jen Rose-Wood, senior Jose Merida and other students on the themes of the scenes, Whiteness, the discomfort of talking about race and of doing provocative theater.