A Springvale variety show recalling “a pretty, gallant world … a time of knights and ladies, slaves and masters” has been canceled following accusations that it promotes racism.
On Friday, the Nasson Community Center and Little Theatre posted a message on its Facebook page saying that it had canceled the Sanford Maine Stage’s upcoming production of “Oh, Susannah,” and that any tickets already purchased would be refunded.
“It was a joint decision between Sanford Maine Stage and The Nasson organizations to cancel the show this coming weekend for the benefit of the community as a whole,” Lucas Lanigan, the executive director of the Nasson Community Center and Little Theatre, wrote on the organization’s Facebook page on Friday.
“As a theatre and community center we decided with Sanford Maine Stage that continuing the show would violate all we strive to maintain on a daily basis,” Lanigan wrote. “Three basic principles Safe Space, Judgment Free Zone, & Tolerance of others. Allowing the show to continue would put all three of these principles in jeopardy.”
Controversy over the show’s production erupted earlier this week, when the Bangor Daily News reported that community members and scholars argued that the show is racist and, at best, misguided.
“You won’t want to miss this show as we return to a time long past … a time of charm and grace, master and slave, the Confederacy and the war between the North and the South, with all the music of the time,” the theater’s Facebook page said late Tuesday afternoon.
The show features performances of songs including “Old Black Joe,” “Dixie,” “Ol’ Man River” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” Mary Stair, who directs the production, told the BDN.
Bowdoin College history professor Patrick Rael questioned why such a show would be staged in 2018.
“The history of racial stereotyping is replete with instances of benign intentions gone awry,” he said Wednesday. “The show in question seems to forget that times change, and with them our attitudes toward depicting the history of slavery and those who suffered under it.”
“We’re here to entertain,” Stair said when contacted by the BDN earlier this week. “We don’t get involved with politics. I made a mistake, I guess, and posted the quote [from ‘Gone with the Wind’].”
Official Statement from The Nasson Community Center Supporters & Community Members Over the past four days Sanford…
Lanigan said that the center “was never concerned with acts of violence and none were ever implied by any group or organization. We were more concerned of the public humiliation of the cast and the perception of them or the center promoting racism. We value our relationship with Sanford Maine Stage and all they do for the arts in our City.”
The Nasson Community Center and Little Theatre will offer refunds for any tickets purchased in advance of the show, which was set to debut at 7 p.m. Saturday, with a second performance 2 p.m. Sunday.
— BDN writer Beth Brogan contributed to this report.
Follow the Bangor Daily News on Facebook for the latest Maine news.