Monday, October 10, 2011

Boy Parts vs. Girl Parts--More on Gender and Justice

All right, I know what you thought I was going to write on. . . but. . .

On Thursday, Kai-Kai called me at 5:30 with the great news, "Ren got Little Jake!"  Little Jake is Annie (in Annie Get Your Gun)'s little brother.  It's probably the best role he, as a 6th grader, could have gotten.

"Wow!" I said.  "What did you get?"

"Frieda, Wilson's wife, it's an OK part, but Ren got Little Jake!"

Later, when they got home, Ren was exultant.  "I've got 23 lines!  Kai has 17."

My two younger kids tried out a couple of weeks ago for "Annie Get your Gun" (read here for how the family reacted to watching the movie), but the first weeks of rehearsal were basically ongoing auditions.  

Alfred Doolittle
I was thrilled that Kai's first response to hearing their roles was to call me with the good news about Ren, but all the same, it's hard.

Last week I wrote on toilet paper, equality and justice, where I argued that life isn't fair and sometimes for good reasons--that boys' needs for toilet paper and girls' needs for toilet paper are just different and it's OK to treat them differently.  But today, I'm writing about the other side.

Boy parts are just better than girl parts and it's just wrong. 

Daddy Warbucks
Last year the middle school production was Annie, the year before My Fair Lady.  My Fair Lady has one (count it, just one) juicy role for one lucky girl (Eliza Doolittle), but has 4 great boy parts, each with at least one solo (Henry Higgins, Pickering, Freddie Eynsford-Hill and Eliza's dad).  Annie has several great girl roles, but also provides at least 2 plum boy parts--Daddie Warbucks and Rooster.

IMHO, my kids are about equal in their acting and singing talent.  When Kai was in 6th grade, she got a terrific role as the shopkeeper with 7 lines and a solo verse for the song "Candy Man" in the elementary school musical Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  For a girl, who had just tried out for her first play, she super scored.

Ren, in his first outing as a 5th grader, played Robert, steward to the king, in Sleeping Beauty. Robert had 24 lines.

Henry Higgins
What makes it all more challenging is that there are about twice as many girls in these plays as boys, and frankly, the girl talent way exceeds the boy talent.  The 2 girls who alternated playing Eliza could have been on Broadway.

However, it's funny how my perspective shifts.  As Kai-Kai's mom,  I feel outraged that musicals provide excellent boy parts while shafting the girls.  What's wrong with our society?  What's going on here?   We should change as many boy parts as we can into girl parts so we can not only get some justice, but also watch a better show!

Freddie Eynsford-Hill
But when I'm Ren-Ren's mom, I'm secretly glad he gets a leg up--that his demographics get him better parts, even if his talent doesn't.  Because I'm really just a stage mother who wants to see her son shine and get opportunities to feel good about his own performance.

All to say, it's not surprising there's no justice in musical theatre (or the world)--clearly there's no justice in me.

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