Choreographer Donald Byrd On Issues Of Race In 'Oklahoma!'
The run of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "Oklahoma!," now at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre, has people talking about issues of race. The 1943 musical is set in 1907 at the time when the Oklahoma territory had more than 50 communities settled by African–Americans. There was even a movement, at the time, to admit Oklahoma to the union as a black state.
Seattle Choreographer Donald Byrd is an African–American artist whose imagination was captured by the idea of the Oklahoma territory as a place where different races lived together. His approach to the new 5th Avenue production is also informed by his association with Agnes DeMille, the original choreographer of "Oklahoma!" on Broadway. Byrd met DeMille in the 1970s. She encouraged his talents and he moved to New York to launch his dance career as a result. Donald Byrd says the 5th Avenue approach to "Oklahoma!" will make everyone who sees it rethink their individual racial attitudes, beliefs and biases. KUOW's Dave Beck speaks with Donald Byrd.
"Oklahoma!" continues through March 4 at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre. A Town Hall meeting on the issue of race in "Oklahoma!" will be held Monday, March 5, at 7:00 p.m., at The 5th Avenue Theatre.