Letter to the Editor regarding ‘Sexism present in the arts’

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May 6, 2016

Volume 89, Issue 14

This letter was written in response to the article “Sexism present in the arts” printed in the March 11, 2016, Issue 11.

Dear Highlights.

As the Producer/Director of the Performing Arts Department’s production of Spamalot, I feel obligated to respond to the recent article, “Sexism present in the Arts.” I’m saddened that some of our students perceived the production as sexist. As with all Spring Musicals, the selection of Spamalot was a group decision made by the Performing Arts faculty and approved by the BHHS Administration. Those decision-makers were a “gender-balanced” three women and three men. Regardless of gender, however, all of us are committed to providing the best educational opportunities to every student, so it stings a little to be accused of sexism and even misogyny (hatred of women).

Hopefully, I can assuage some students’ concerns by correcting a few inaccuracies that were shared with the Highlight’s reporters:

1. “There is only one female lead and one other small female speaking role.”
Actually, in order to maximize opportunities for as many students as possible, we cast the following young women in speaking roles originally written for men:
Lola Gidron-Bayonas – Swallow Debater #1, Knight of Ni, Tim the Enchanter
Kylexxa Corday – Swallow Debater #2, Knight of Ni, Concorde
Tamara Yaafe – Dennis Galahad’s Mother, Knight of Ni
Tyler Ridgle – Knight of Ni, Brother Maynard
Ella Tat – Knight of Ni
Nicole Neighbors – Knight of Ni
Mani Ashkenazy – Knight of Ni
Kate Froemmling – Knight of Ni
Johanna Lengyel – French Guard
We also cast the following young women in featured dancing roles originally written for men:
Kate Froemmling –Dancing Squire
Samantha Ordesky – Dancing Nun
These students also played ensemble roles that were originally written for women, so their preparation and stage time was as equitable as possible to their male counterparts. In addition to these ten young women playing numerous roles originally written for men, we cast two women in the part of The Lady of the Lake: Adriana Medina-Santiago and Sarah Rudolph. It is extremely rare for BHHS to double-cast a role in a musical, but again, we wanted to provide as many opportunities as possible to as many students as possible.

2. “…a lot of roles that could have been played by women…were still given to guys.”
It is true that women could have been cast in the roles of the Historian, Prince Herbert’s Father, Guard #1, Guard #2, Robin’s Minstrels, and The French Taunter, but we also wanted to provide opportunities for our male students beyond the six male leads. We cast men AND women in the roles of French Guards and French Mimes.

3. “…a lot of guys play multiple roles that could easily have been played by women, whereas there are many girls who don’t even have a speaking role.”
Again, we tried to balance multiple roles as much as possible, and almost all of those roles were not played by the male leads as originally written but by male AND female ensemble members. We actually reduced the roles played by Austin Friedberg, Tristan McIntyre, and Judah Benaim, to one speaking role each. It is true that both Owen Lloyd and Solomon Margo had two speaking roles each, but in Owen’s case, we wanted a tall Black Knight to balance our tall King Arthur. In Solly’s case, Sir Bedevere had less stage time than any other principle knight, so we tried to balance things out by having him play Guard #1. Of course, Nic Araya played three roles (Lake Mascot, Killer Rabbit, Guard #2), but he never spoke.

4. “Even in the ensemble, all of the female characters are sexualized, so they’re either cheerleaders or Vegas showgirls.”

I’m honestly baffled by how anyone could come to the conclusion that all female ensemble roles were sexualized. The female Finish Dancers were rather wholesome, and the Lady of the Lake ensemble was mystical. Perhaps I’m not sensitive to the “sexualization” of cheerleaders, because I’m a gay male, but I thought our Laker Girls were of the traditional high school sort. Even our Vegas Showgirls were much more “Disney-Vegas” than the “Vegas-Vegas” style found in the original Broadway production.

I’m sorry that your reporters were given incorrect information, and I’m especially sorry that students associated with our production misperceived our efforts. I can assure you that the adults associated with Spamalot care deeply for all of our students. I also can assure you that we work extremely hard at BHHS to provide more opportunities for more students to be on stage than any other high school in Los Angeles – possibly more than any other high school in the country. It’s not an easy task, but it’s more than worth the effort.

I hope this information is helpful.

Respectfully,

Dr. Brad Vincent
Producer/Director, Spamalot

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