When we began rehearsals for Joseph, we realized that this show, in its original form, was not something that we wanted to bring to our community without carefully reconsidering our production concept. As we worked through listening sessions, production meetings, and working proposals, we found that an Eden Prairie High School production of Joseph would be an opportunity to begin conversations with our peers and our audience about equity, cultural awareness, and representation in theatre.
Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which premiered at a school in London in 1968, finds its origins in a Bible story. In reviewing the show, we found sections to be problematic, insensitive, and appropriative. Despite the Middle Eastern cultural origins of the story, the musical has traditionally been cast with predominantly white actors. Of particular concern was the “Benjamin Calypso,” a calypso song written to be sung in a Jamaican accent that portrays a Jamaican caricature singing about his own evil and subordination to his white peer. Additionally, the Potiphar scene promotes portraying sexual assault with humorous intent and contains lines stating that “Joseph was a slave who likes his master.”
After conversations within our leadership and with students involved in each area of production, we concluded that alterations to our production concept had to be made before we could bring it to the stage with pride. Licensing requirements and plot continuity forced us to preserve some pieces of the language, which we want to highlight to you now. The last section of “Benjamin Calypso,” – performed without an accent – Joseph’s enslavement, and the intention of Potiphar’s wife all still exist within our production. We ask that you reflect on the effects and the ramifications of these elements beyond your time in this audience.
While we know that many audience members have likely seen or worked on this show before, we are proud of our re-envisioning of the production and excited to bring it to our stage. Here you can find personal stories from members of the cast, tech, and pit about how this show in its original form and the revisions made affected students. We hope that you take the opportunity to critically reflect and grow from your experiences with this production and enjoy the show all the more with a new awareness of its flaws and the work that our production put in.
-Eden Prairie High School’s Cast, Tech, Pit, and Production Team.
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