BSU dislikes School of Theatre Art’s play “Appropriate”

By Farah Bassyouni Oct 14, 2022

The School of Theatre Arts put on their first production of the semester, Appropriate by Branden Jacob-Jenkins, October 5-8. Before the opening night, Illinois Wesleyan students received an email warning that the play deals with “difficult themes about systemic racism” and gave a content disclosure. 

The play is about three adult white siblings who look through their late father’s mementos, only to discover KKK paraphernalia among other disturbing possessions. Dealing with the dynamics of a dysfunctional white family, Appropriate includes offensive language, racism, white supremacy, antisemitism and homophobia. 

The email also emphasized the play’s relevance as it provides the opportunity to “reflect on how race and racism adversely affect every facet of our lives,”

Unfortunately, most students who deal with racism on a regular basis are already quite familiar with these themes and were disappointed to see that the play catered to a largely white audience. Black Student Union released an Instagram post voicing their concerns and disapproval with the way the play was handled. “The play, in its entirety, fails to adequately address the pressing reality of its findings. Alternatively, it uses comedy to brush over said reality,” the post said. 

BSU felt the play did not further the conversation of racial trauma, and instead used racism as a prop in the production. “The audience was mostly old white people, and they were laughing at things that were meant to be serious. The message did not get across,” said Asia Rogers, the programming chair of BSU.

Members of BSU’s executive board felt the play did not serve its function, and instead reaffirmed and validated biases. “There wasn’t even a pre or post show talk to dissect any of the themes. Giving a voice to topics like that makes the voices of marginalized people on campus smaller,” Rogers said. 

SoTA’s campus-wide email also discussed the relevance of giving theater students the opportunity to perform “challenging roles”, and brought in professional Guests Artists of Color who specialize in education, research and production experience surrounding systemic racism.

However, there was dissatisfaction that people of color were not represented in the play, and that the people of color who were involved in the crew did not feel comfortable voicing their opinions. 

“They didn’t feel like they could say anything about it because it would’ve jeopardized their career in SoTA. It’s just very distasteful,” Chrishana Simon, social media chair of BSU, said. 

“The play could’ve stood on its own without being racially charged,” Rogers said. “To do this while having such a small number of black people in the theater department and have it be the first show of the year? It was just blatant disrespect.”

Related Post