History Theater scores another hit in cultural insensitivity



History Theater in St. Paul, headed up by Artistic Director Ron Peluso, continues its sham of supposed cultural diversity. This time around, Peluso is perpetrating a travesty called as part of an evening of 10-minute plays titled “1968: The Year That Rocked the World.”

The Corral purportedly is there because it was the year that saw the nationally renowned American Indian Movement (AIM) established in Minneapolis.

On the face of things, that is a most sensible inclusion, bringing to the stage a script that acknowledges such an historic occurrence. The problem is that, characteristic of Peluso’s slick treatment of communities of color, The Corral, ostensibly respecting Native America, is in fact an affront.

It’s an asinine excuse for writing that offers dimensionless characters, inane rhetoric for dialogue, and has managed to pretty thoroughly piss off Native Americans who take themselves and their people’s history seriously.

Peluso couldn’t care less about The Corral having any merit. He can trot it out to prospective big-money funders as evidence that his operation is culturally inclusive. It was even written by a Navajo, one Rhiana Yazzie, who, Indian or not, as a playwright makes a good house painter.

Incredibly, the slipshod script barely even mentions AIM, though it does commit the gratuitous, unpardonable insult of referring to AIM co-founder Clyde Bellecourt as, of all things, “Belly Court” in a joke. There’s also a great deal of pointless foul language and meaningless, self-sorry quips about Indians being mistreated by cops and the government, which is particularly galling because such mistreatment should be cited as more than a bunch of throwaway lines.

In general, it’s loaded with superficial fodder that just wastes ink on the page and time on the stage. You can, by the way, find this nonsensical tripe on Facebook, courtesy of Yazzi’s climbing up on a cross to claim protest against The Corral is censorship. See for yourself what kind of crap Ron Peluso commissioned this hack to come up with and pass off as legitimate theater.

This sort of stuff is quite in keeping with History Theater’s ersatz notion of honoring minority communities. For a few seasons, Peluso had the nerve to actually drag out for Black History Month the drama To Kill a Mockingbird. Admittedly, it’s a worthwhile script. However, who in the hell in their right mind celebrates Black history with a play in which the protagonist is a fearless White liberal and the scapegoat a Black man who a mob hunts down and murders?

Ron Peluso just doesn’t get it. Paying lip service and giving short shrift to communities and cultures of color just so you can look good to arts funders who pay your bills is not something those communities are going to particularly appreciate.

He doesn’t get it and he doesn’t care, not for one minute on his way to the bank. Which really is too bad, because the History Theater has a national profile and truly is in a position to illuminate experiences of the marginalized and deliberately obscured.


Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403. 

One thought on “History Theater scores another hit in cultural insensitivity

  1. Mr. Hobbes and I already discussed this to some degree on facebook.

    So, here’s what frustrates me. I dislike complaining without calls for action. Mr. Hobbes stated exactly what grieved him about the play and its production, but there is no mention of how the situation can be rectified.

    Is the play, 1968, doomed and without hope in the eyes of Mr. Hobbes and those who follow him? Or could the History Theater do *anything* to improve the situation?

    I’d like the author of this article to spell out the steps he thinks the History Theater should take to redeem itself. But if it’s truly hopeless, then it’s not a very appropriate article for the Spokesman, which I see as progressive and proactive.

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