M-A Drama’s Hairspray Promotes Strength in Diversity

On Wednesday, Menlo-Atherton’s drama department is hosting auditions for their fall production of Hairspray, a play about race and inclusivity that is especially relevant in this politically charged time. M-A drama hopes to bring together students from all different backgrounds in order to cultivate a stronger sense of community among all students at M-A.

The drama department is eager to welcome all students, even those who have no previous play experience. Drama teacher Danette Bathauer said that her “goal is to include people who haven’t done [a play] before.” In the audition process she is “not making cuts. If people are committed to the process, and it is a big process, we have a place for you.”

Bathauer hopes to emphasize the prevalent themes in Hairspray about inclusion and embracing diversity in all parts of the play process, and she said, “the play is about trying new things and challenging the norms so that’s what I’m trying to do.”

On the surface Hairspray is a feel good musical full of bright colors and upbeat music, but productions of the play have created great controversy. The play is centered around racial tensions in the 1960s. It focuses on characters’ ability to come together to combat racism. The creators of Hairspray released a statement permitting actors to portray characters whose race is not their own because they believe that “to deny an actor the chance to play a role due to the color of his or her skin would be its own form of racism.”

While the creators attempt to promote inclusivity, this release has led to many controversial productions of the play, most notably a production by an all white cast in Texas in 2012.

While some roles do not need to be played by a person of any particular race, in Hairspray the character’s race is an important part of the message. Without having a diverse cast, messages about inclusivity and racial themes are lost in the bright colors and fun music. Bauer said that she is “hoping that we can discover some diverse talents that “(she) know(s) are at our school,” so that M-A’s production of Hairspray will reflect our school’s diversity and promote the ideas of inclusivity that the play focuses on.

There is an ongoing conversation at our school about diversity and our struggle to embrace it. According to Alexandra Ornes, “we say we are super diverse but then if you look in different classes there is a big degree of separation between races… this play gives us the opportunity to make M-A more of a community and less of a separated community.”

The fall production of Hairspray is not only an opportunity for students to have a rewarding new experience, but also to promote inclusivity in our community. All students are encouraged to take part; whether they are on stage, in the audience, or helping out behind the scenes.

Auditions have already started, so if you are interested, please contact Mrs. Bathauer right away. Get audition information on Instagram @bearsstagedrama or online: https://tinyurl.com/MAhairspray

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