Last week our Grade 8 students performed in the musical, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This theatrical production was the culmination of weeks of work and rehearsal.
Roald Dahl’s timeless story of the world-famous candy man and his quest to find an heir comes to life in this stage adaptation of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, which features the songs from the classic family film Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory.
But for Hamlin, the story of our musical doesn’t end there. The following is a statement made by The Justice League, a group of students who discovered that Roald Dahl was racist, anti-semitic, and sexist.
“It all started on a cold, winter afternoon with the announcement that the Class of 2019’s Grade 8 musical would be Willy Wonka Jr. We all excitedly jumped up and down, thrilled that this musical that we loved would be our final class project.
Everyone had different roles in mind, and we were eager to get started working on it. For those of us working behind the scenes on the production team, work begins by doing dramaturgy. Dramaturgy is when you research the history of the production and facts that you may not know when you first hear the name of it. The Wonka production team began its research soon after the musical was announced.
A Google search changed things quickly. Not too far into the dramaturgical research, students discovered deeply upsetting information about Roald Dahl’s beliefs and the roots of his stories, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
The eighth grade class met to discuss whether we should be performing this musical after what we’d learned. Our discussion question was: Do you think the musical aligns with the Hamlin Mission Statement and Creed? After much thought and listening to everyone’s opinions, Ms. Holland Greene and Dr. Schroeder, with the approval of all members of the grade, we decided that we would do the musical, but we would make some changes to it to make it Hamlin’s own. Our performance would spotlight the finest messages and moments of the musical while also shedding light on Roald Dahl’s beliefs. Also, we would give our audience tools to grapple with the idea of separating the art from the artist.”
As a result, The Justice League wrote a ten-page final scene presenting a trial that deeply examined the intricacies of performing a musical by an artist who held biased viewpoints. Below are the closing words of that scene.
“Whether you are in kindergarten or an adult, we hope you’ll challenge what you are looking at or listening to. The goal of this trial — the lesson we hope that you walk away from this production with- is that you are inspired to take the time to think about whether, how, and why to choose to separate the art from the artist. Whatever conclusion you come to, do not base it off of your initial response or reaction. Ask yourself: Can you support the work of someone whose beliefs conflict against your own? Why? Why not? Can you separate the art from the artist? Think about the questions we’ve asked. Wrestle with them. It’s the work we all do to make sense of a complicated world every day. Case closed.”
Once again, Hamlin’s students and leaders have stepped up and into important discussions – this time about art and the artist. Bravo for not ignoring a very complicated issue and thank you for the time an energy it took to create the “final act” of the play.