Writing about The Sneetches

This past November, my editor at American Theatre reached out and asked if I’d like to cover the world premiere of a musical based on Dr. Seuss’s The Sneetches over at the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis. Of course, I said yes. It would be the biggest thing I’d written yet. I conducted interviews, dropped in on rehearsals, and attended the “Sneetch Peek” organized by the marketing team.

From all of this, I learned a lot: what worked in the process as I conducted it and what I would do differently next time. Twenty-two pages of my notebook are now given over to observations about the production, quotations and notes from interviews, my own thoughts.

If you don’t know about the Sneetches, the basic story is this: all these Sneetches live on a beach, but some have stars on their bellies, and some do not. Those with stars oppress those without. It doesn’t take a big leap of imagination to see that this straightforward story has a lot to say about history and about our present moment in the Trump administration. Amidst my notes I find this one:

while riding to rehearsal two days before Obama was to leave office, I listened to NPR, where everyone seemed quietly desperate, unsure of what to expect — the Sneetches’ finale about how to be friends with a Sneetch may not solve everything, but it’s a message of goodness and acceptance and sincerity and joy

I have to take some comfort in the fact that The Sneetches had a very long run, and a lot of children got that message. Even if they’d heard it before, even if their parents reinforce that message every day, I’m glad they got it at the theatre. Theatre doesn’t always set out to teach, but there’s always something to learn. And we need as many messages about goodness and acceptance as we can get.



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