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THE THANKSGIVING PLAY: Director's Note from Luan Schooler

April 11, 2018

In one of my earliest conversations with Larissa FastHorse, she told me that she sometimes finds it easier to deal with straight-up racists than well meaning-progressives. That's because while racists' beliefs are deplorable at least they're very clear. Progressives, on the other hand, can get so tangled in convoluted and paralyzing thoughts that it's hard to know what they really think.

She wasn't talking about me specifically, but she could've been. I'm a white, liberal, progressive person. I try to approach all people as individuals with value, intelligence, and dignity. I try to use words sensitively and correctly. I try to be an ally. I try to recognize my privilege and not take up too much space just because I can. I think about all these things. I think about them a lot. And while I can't really claim to be "woke," I can claim to be trying. I hope my good intentions will shine through.

But, two things: 1) the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and 2) the fallacy of good intentions. The first is probably clear, but the second, less so. I don't know who originally coined the phrase, but "the fallacy of good intentions" speaks to the mistake of equating meaning well with doing well. Having good intentions does not actually do a thing.

My road to hell has a lot of potholes to fall into. Just yesterday, I was excitedly describing a play about courageous women, who I described as "ballsy." Later, I realized that I'd equated manliness (as in, testicles = good) but where does that leave women who aren't fearless? They're just...women? Oy! (But I'm not Jewish, can I say "oy?")

I'd like to wear the turquoise earrings my mom gave me but I think she bought them at a roadside stand in New Mexico forty years ago, and if I wear them without knowing anything about who made them, am I being disrespectful? Maybe I just shouldn't wear them...

You see? It's possible to get so tangled up in thoughts and good intentions that it seems best to keep quiet and stay still. Because that way, I won't make any mistakes.

The Thanksgiving Play puts characters onstage that are just like me. Earnest, sincere, thoughtful, trying. Really trying. Perhaps you'll see a bit of yourself, too. The beauty of Larissa's play is that she shows us her foibles, lets us laugh at ourselves and (gently, sneakily) dares us to do better. 

But the play is not actually about me. The heart and soul of this play are the characters who aren't onstage, whose absence is palpable, whose voices are not heard. These are the ones to whom we owe a debt of acknowledgement and respect. I am grateful to Larissa FastHorse for walking with me down this path. Through Larissa and this play, I've been introduced to Portland's dynamic, generous, and deeply engaged Indigenous community. I was not sufficiently aware of this large and gloriously diverse community, but it turns out, they've been here all along.

At Artists Rep, we are gathered on the traditional lands of the Multnomah, Wasco, Cowlitz, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Bands of Chinook, Tualatin Kalapuya, Molalla, and many other tribes who made their homes along the Columbia River. We thank the people who were here before us, and their descendants who share their land with us today.

Welcome to the World Premiere of The Thanksgiving Play. Thank you for coming!

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