The Thanksgiving Play: A Theatrical Review

A comedic take on the dark history of Thanksgiving. Can four white people hold space for Indigenous people when there aren’t any Indigenous people? Photo Credit OCA

Oregon Center for the Arts presents The Thanksgiving Play, written by Larissa FastHorse and directed by Steven Sapp. The show includes a small cast of SOU students: Jodie Chaplin as Logan, Nathaniel C. Walker as Jaxton, Jade Morgan Mrische as Alicia, and Andrew Chavatal as Caden. The play follows the humorous struggles of devising a politically correct Thanksgiving play for an adolescent audience, entirely taking place during their messy but productive first rehearsal. It’s an interesting twist on a traditional American occurrence. They are not just making a Thanksgiving play for children, they have to do their best so everyone is happy while being respectful of the fact it is Native American Heritage Month. However, they are left without the guidance of the Native American people they are honoring. 

You will find that the themes, and how they handle current affairs, is incredibly relevant to our postmodern society. Satirically handling topics such as decentralizing white voices, the journey of being antiracist, and how expectations can affect people, it is my opinion that going into this performance knowing that the play was written by Larissa Fasthorse, who is a Native American woman, adds some perspective and enjoyment.    

I was unsure what to expect, and went into the production knowing nothing about it besides the title. I was also somewhat skeptical about it not having an intermission, but after seeing it I understand that it didn’t need one. Instead you get to enjoy humorous YouTube-style skits between scenes that call out the American school system for problematic past actions.   

The runtime is an hour and forty minutes long, which ends up being the perfect amount of time for the show. The conclusion is satisfying, and the actors are incredible to watch. Especially during the aforementioned skits, you can see how truly energetic and engaging they all are. No matter who you are watching during the scene, you will find something is going on. I did not have the honor of going to see them on opening night, but they put everything into their performance, always making use of the small stage in the center of the room, and interacting with the audience in a way that draws your attention right from the beginning.  

One of the best parts of this experience is how smoothly the pre-show announcement transitioned into the actual show, as well as how it tied into the themes it was focusing on. It is nice to note that despite only having four characters, it passes the Bechdel test by including an intellectual conversation between Logan and Alicia. Their conversation particularly struck a chord with me. 

All showings of The Thanksgiving Play are now sold out!

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