Warning needed for “Our Town’ performances?


Published: 6/23/2020 2:09:09 PM
Modified: 6/23/2020 2:09:08 PM

(Editor’s note: We welcome submissions from our readers. Send to: newsroom@atholdailynews.com.)

Here is an interesting question for your readers.

In Thornton Wilder’s play, “Our Town,” he refers to people of French-Canadian heritage. He wrote the play at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, N.H. Peterborough refers to itself as “Our Town.”

Wilder wrote, “Across the tracks is — Polish Town. You know, foreign people who come to work in the mill, couple of Canuck families, and the Catholic Church.”

I am a “French-Canadian,” now referred to, by the Politically Correct, as Franco-American. In the current trend of borderline censorship for the sensitives in various cultures, movies like “Gone with the Wind,” written by Margaret Mitchell, will now have warnings about the content of the works inspired by writers. Writers who rely on the free flow of ideas and lack of fear during the creative process of their work.

Up to and through the 1950s, if you called a person of French-Canadian descent a “Canuck,” they were considered fighting words, but since then things have changed. Catholics, thanks to President Kennedy and his French wife, became more accepted into Anglo-Saxon culture. Public schools helped to tear down the differences between people. In 1970, the hockey team, the Vancouver Canucks, was created. It seems as though the word became accepted in Canada for some, and had a less derogatory connotation than in the United States. Later, somehow that demeaning term faded into a meaningless reference to French-Canadian heritage. Today, people still refer to themselves as French-Canadians; perhaps someday they will call themselves Franco-Americans. In towns like Lowell you still hear belittling remarks made towards the people of my heritage.

But, an interesting thing happened, during one of my Fellowships at the MacDowell Colony, America’s most prestigious art colony, again where Thornton Wilder wrote “Our Town,” I was given the Thornton Wilder bedroom to sleep in. I didn’t ask for another room, and I didn’t ask for his name to be removed. Somehow, I seem to have gotten over it, but I do think that every time “Our Town” is performed, a warning should be announced that there may be some people in the audience who may be offended by the language used in the play and an apology should be stated specifically to all the people of French descent who immigrated to the United States from Canada.

What do you think?

James Pelletier is an artist and poet with a B.A. in psychobiology.

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