By Grant Nelson
Savannah Arts Academy students relive the 1960s in "Hairspray" production. The result: ultra high hair-don'ts and heightened appreciation for coexistence.
"If we get any more white people in here," whines one of the characters in "Hairspray," as curious Caucasians pack Motormouth Maybelle's record shop, "this is gonna be a suburb." That line — all too familiar to those of us who've heard "Good Morning Baltimore" a few times too many— got a remarkably huge laugh at the Savannah Arts Academy as they performed the musical Nov. 7-11.
For folks unfamiliar with the script – the theme of the play is certainly one that is relatable.
"Hairspray" is a musical with historical and social context of 1960s America. The story features Tracy Turnblad, a pleasantly plump yet unpopular teenager with dance moves that are "not bad for a white girl" approves black detention kid, Gilbert. Tracy's moves ultimately earn her place as a dancer on the Corny Collins Show. Although to the dissatisfaction of show producer, Velma Von Tussle, who determines to steer it in the "white" direction that avoids colored kids and "more to love" girls like Tracy. Despite passionate pleas and petitions, Von Tussle offers one day a month for the color kids to dance on the show, "Negro Day". Believing that this is unfair, Tracy fights to integrate the show - without denting her ‘do.
Indeed, tolerance and equality are subjects familiar to us all. The need for tolerance and equality is especially prevalent in schools.
Coletrane Williams who plays Seaweed described "Hairspray" as an unforgettable experience.
"Playing a character who deals with racism is unfortunately something that I can relate to. Of course things are a lot better than they were in the sixties, however, I can still pull from my own experience with racial prejudice," he said.
The Arts Academy's population of nearly 800 students is only 20 percent African-American, 5 percent Asian, 4 percent Hispanic, and 0.40 percent Native American, Principal Gifford Lockley has confirmed.
Regardless of the small percentage of diversity, students of all races mingle harmoniously throughout the halls of SAA. Ella Joseph, who plays Lorraine expressed her gratitude for learning in a culturally tolerate environment. "Being in Hairspray, helped me to be thankful for far we have come in America – segregation was harsh," she said.
Another well-known line that Tracy's character, who's played by Emily Browne, says is "why can't we all dance together"? It serves as the motivating question for the show and is answered by the end of the drama as students of all colors boogie to "You Can't Stop the Beat".
"Hairspray gave me a real-life example of how we can overcome racism, reassuring my belief in coexistence," Browne said.
Rest assured that SAA students will continue to dance together, especially in their upcoming production "Fortitudes" which storms the stage Nov. 22.
For more information, photo galleries, and admission requirements regarding the Arts academy Fine Arts program, visit: www.saaarts.com.
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