The Thanksgiving Play

by Larissa FastHorse
Directed by Scott Edmiston

Featuring: Barlow Adamson*, Amanda Collins*, Grace Experience*, Jesse Hinson*

In this new comedy, a mismatched quartet of earnest aspiring actors and misguided teachers attempt to create an elementary school play that is culturally sensitive to both the traditional Thanksgiving feast and Native American Heritage Month, all without any Native Americans in the cast. Playwright Larissa FastHorse’s fierce and savvy attack on skin-deep political correctness will leave you gasping, and laughing, and thinking long after the 90-minute play is over.

“Very, very funny. Skewers liberal pretensions with glee – something for which to be truly thankful!” – Hollywood Reporter

Content advisory: This piece is meant to push the audience into a place of discomfort. Blood, graphic or violent images, gunshots, themes of death. 

Interlude #1: A Native American and a Pilgrim sing the “12 Days of Thanksgiving”

The play begins with Logan, a teaching artist, and her actor/boyfriend Jaxton preparing for their first rehearsal of a devised elementary school show they are creating based on the “holiday of death” more commonly known as Thanksgiving. Caden, a third-grade teacher who is also an aspiring actor playwright, joins them. The final member of their troupe arrives: a professional actor from L.A., Alicia (ah-lee-cee-a), whose salary is being covered by a Native American Heritage Month Awareness Through Art grant to provide a “Native perspective.” 

Logan is especially excited to begin because she is planning for them to devise a historically accurate piece based on Thanksgiving and reminds everyone—especially Alicia—that despite being a vegan, her concerns with the amount of turkeys killed on Thanksgiving doesn’t even compare to how Indigenous peoples’ feelings surrounding this holiday. After discussing Alicia’s holiday traditions to better understand her , they discover she is not Native American but just “looks ethnic” and caters her headshots towards that so she can get hired as “all types of people.” They recognize that they are now four white people trying to create a culturally-sensitive Thanksgiving play.

Interlude #2: Actors in turkey costumes recite a rhyme: “Four little turkeys, standing in a row….” The turkeys run around the stage as the song recounts an Indian hanging himself (a noose is dropped from the ceiling). Gunshots are heard, and each of the turkeys die. 

Jaxton finds out that the grant is still okay to use because it does not explicitly say you need to use it for a Native American person but rather just do something that honors Native American people in November. Logan is still upset as she wanted a Native American voice for this production. They come to a consensus, agreeing that for the show Alicia will dream she is Native American, thus allowing for a Native American voice.

Interlude #3: Two actors dressed as a pilgrim and a native person exchange verses of “American” songs: Home on the Range, My Country Tis of Thee, etc. 

The group breaks up into partners and Logan and Alicia begin talking about how Logan has a hard time staying in the moment while Alicia does not. After Alicia tries to have her think about absolutely nothing, she claims that Logan is too smart to be content. 

The men return to present the scene they’ve created, which focuses on the celebration of the  Separatists after their massacre of over 400 Pequot natives. The “celebration” quickly gets out of hand as the Separatists begin to toss bloody heads between them. Horrified at what has happened, Logan puts a stop to the scene and everyone takes some time to meditate on what has happened.     

Interlude #4: Two white high school students perform a rap about a Thanksgiving Day clash in 1997 between The United American Indians of New England and police. 

The team regroups to continue their devising process. As they work, they realize that they have found the answer: creating “nothingness”—an empty space. Satisfied that what they created contains a perfectly equitable emptiness, they take a moment to appreciate what they have accomplished, then plan to meet tomorrow at the same time for rehearsal again. Jaxton tells Logan that she has really inspired him and that this process has taught him that he needs to do more of the nothing, and that they need to be and do less in order to be a part of the solution.

Scenic Design by Janie E. Howland
Costume Design by Rachel Padula-Shufelt
Sound Design by Dewey Dellay
Lighting Design by Karen Perlow
Wardrobe: Ashley Rabon
Production Stage Manager: Diane McLean
Assistant Stage Manager: Betsy Pierce
Props Artisan: Jennifer Butler

 

Season sponsored by Lee & Diana Humphrey, Joe Richard & Rene Morrissette in Memory of Rose Rocco and Yves Morrissette, and our corporate sponsor:


Production sponsored by Mary K. Eliot in Memory of Martha L. Jorgenson 1929-2019
Director Scott Edmiston sponsored by Richard & Sally Zeckhauser
Set Design sponsored by Jo-An Heileman

Photos

Video

Meet the Cast!

Dramaturgy

Cast & Crew

Barlow Adamson* – Caden

Caden – Awkward elementary school history teacher with dramatic aspirations but no experience.

Barlow Adamson* (Caden) returns to the Lyric Stage having appeared in Chinglish, Time Stands Still, The Scene, Private Lives, Noises Off, Arms and the Man, and Red Herring. Local credits include The Villains’ Supper Club (Merrimack Rep), Small Mouth Sounds – Elliot Norton Award, Outstanding Ensemble, Kurt Vonnegut’s Make Up Your Mind, Reckless, Almost Maine (SpeakEasy Stage), Photograph 51, Marjorie Prime, Operation Epsilon, On The Verge, The Swan (Nora Theatre),  Paradise, Yesterday Happened: Remembering H.M. (Underground Railway), Elemenopea – Elliot Norton Award, Outstanding Actor, The Honey Trap, Reconsidering Hanna/h, Matters Familias (Boston Playwrights’ Theatre), The Maiden’s Prayer, A Month In The Country (Huntington Theatre),  Sixty Miles to Silver Lake (Bridge Rep), The Norman Conquests, Dinner With Friends, (Gloucester Stage), A Christmas Story, (New Rep). He has also directed Shakespeare’s R+J, Bunbury: A Serious Play For Trivial People, The Monster Tales (Mill 6 Collaborative), and From Denmark with LoveBear Patrol (Vaquero Playground).

Amanda Collins* – Logan

Logan – High school drama teacher that’s always pushing the envelope in potentially inappropriate ways.

Amanda Collins* (Logan) is making her Lyric Stage debut. Regional theatre: Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley (Merrimack Rep, Elliot Norton Award, Best Actress), Old Money (Commonwealth Shakespeare Co.), The 39 Steps, To Kill A Mockingbird, Out of Sterno, This is Our Youth (Gloucester Stage), Back the Night, Elemeno Pea (Boston Playwrights’ Theatre), Women Who Mapped The Stars, Life of Galileo (Central Square Theater), A Behanding in Spokane, The Bald Soprano, Speech and Debate, Colorado (Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater), The Seagull (Harbor Stage), Fun Home, Men on Boats, My Name Is Asher Lev (Cape Rep), Taste of Sunrise (Wheelock Family Theater), When the World Was Green, An Ideal Husband (American Stage, Florida), Jester’s Dead (The Outfit in NYC). She was a founding member of Harbor Stage Company. Television: Olive Kitteridge (HBO), Castle Rock (Hulu) and Boston’s Finest (ABC Pilot). Film: Sea of Trees.

Grace Experience* – Alicia

Alicia – Would have been cast as ethnic in a 1950s movie.  Without guile Not bright.

Grace Experience* (Alicia) returns to the Lyric Stage having appeared inThe Wolves last season. Credits Include: Grounded (59E59), The Turn of the Screw (Middlebury Actors’ Workshop), Ellis Island (Regional Tour), Beauty and the Beast (Berkshire Theatre Group), Frankenstein (Cardinal Stage Company), Our TownInto the Woods (Heartwood Regional Theatre), Beardo (Pipeline Theatre Company), Some People Hear Thunder (The Space at Capital Repertory Theatre), Dial M for Murder (The Millbrook Playhouse), Cinderella (Saint Michael’s Playhouse). Grace is an award winning audiobook narrator for Penguin Random House Audio and a proud member of AEA and SAG-AFTRA. Love to Mom, Dad and Stephen. GraceExperience.com

Jesse Hinson* – Jaxton

Jaxton – Yoga practitioner, politically correct to a fault — a big one!

Jesse Hinson* (Jaxton) is a Boston-based actor making his Lyric Stage debut.  Recent credits include Cymbeline (Commonwealth Shakespeare Company), Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberly (Merrimack Repertory Theatre), Shakespeare in Love (SpeakEasy Stage), and Photograph 51 (Central Square Theatre).  He has also appeared at Actors’ Shakespeare Project, New Rep, Greater Boston Stage Company, The Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theater, Berkshire Theatre Group, and Georgia Shakespeare. Jesse earned an M.F.A. in acting at Brandeis University and a B.A. in theatre at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, GA. He is a member of Actors Equity Association and an Associate Teaching Professor at Northeastern University.

Scott Edmiston – Director

Scott Edmiston (Director) returns to the Lyric where he directed their award-winning productions of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and My Fair Lady. Other favorite Lyric production include: The Little Foxes, Anna Christie, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Water by the Spoonful, Time Stands Still, Miss Witherspoon, Lobby Hero, and Private Lives. Scott has directed more than 60 Boston area productions including Constellations, Long Day’s Journey into Night, Shakespeare in Love, The History Boys, The Light in the Piazza, Five by Tenn, In the Next Room, and A Marvelous Party. He has received four Norton Awards and three IRNE Awards for his direction, and he is the recipient of the Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence in Theatre. Scott is the Dean of Theatre at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee.

Janie E. Howland** – Scenic Design

Janie E. Howland** (Scenic Design). Recent Lyric designs: Little Shop of Horrors, Pacific Overtures, Little Foxes; Other designs include La Belle Hélène (Odyssey Opera), Nat Turner in Jerusalem (ASP), Urban Nutcracker (Tony Williams Dance Center), Art Makes Sense CONSENSES Exhibit (Mass MOCA). Other venues include: NYCDA, Lynn Redgrave Theatre (NY), Harvard Univ., Moonbox Productions, Boston Children’s Theatre, New Rep, Weston Playhouse (VT), North Shore Music Theatre, Central Square Theatre, SpeakEasy Stage, Ohio Star Theatre (OH), A.R.T. Institute, Boston Conservatory, Company One, Stoneham Theatre, Seacoast Rep, Merrimack Repertory Theatre, New Jersey Shakespeare Festival (NJ), Huntington Theatre. Brandeis University M.F.A.; four-time Elliot Norton Award winner, four-time IRNE Award winner; adjunct faculty at Emerson College, Wellesley College. USA Local 829. janiehowland.com

Rachel Padula-Shufelt – Costume Design

Rachel Padula-Shufelt (Costume Design) returns to the Lyric Stage having previously designed Dying City, Sunday in the Park with George and Nuncrackers. Recent designs include Once, Shakespeare in Love (SpeakEasy Stage), Macbeth (Actors Shakespeare Project), 1776 (New Rep), and Frankenstein (Central Square/ Nora Theater). She also works all over New England and New York as a make-up artist and hair/ wig designer. Rachel has received three Eliot Norton Awards for outstanding design. 

Karen Perlow** – Lighting Design

Karen Perlow** (Lighting Design) has been a Boston area designer for over 25 years.  She returns to the Lyric where favorite productions include The Wolves, The Little Foxes, Anna Christie, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Death of a Salesman, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Miss Witherspoon, and Urinetown, the Musical. Upcoming productions: Admissions (SpeakEasy Stage), Postcards from Morocco (NEC), Maytag Virgin (Merrimack Rep), and The Drowsy Chaperone (Boston Conservatory at Berklee). Karen has taught Light Design at Northeastern and MIT. She currently teaches English to Speakers of Other Languages with the YMCA/ILC.  Member USA 829. She also proudly serves as the treasurer of the Theatre Community Benevolent Fund (TCBF.org) 

Dewey Dellay – Sound Design/Original Music

Dewey Dellay (Sound Design/Original Music) returns to the Lyric Stage having designed Anna Christie, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Death of a Salesman, Miss Witherspooon (Elliot Norton Award), 9 Parts of Desire (Elliot Norton Award), and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.  Other design/composition credits: The Bakelite MasterpieceIdeationConstellations (Elliot Norton Award, Underground Railway Theater) and Universe Rushing Apart (Commonwealth Shakespeare). TV: music for This is Life with Lisa Ling (CNN).  Music composition for digital children’s books produced by Live Oak Media.

Diane McLean* – Production Stage Manager

Betsy Pierce – Assistant Stage Manager

* denotes member of Actor’s Equity Association
** denotes member of United Scenic Artists (USA-Local 829)

Press & Reviews

At Lyric Stage, a generous helping of of satire | The Boston Globe

The excesses of hyper-earnest white liberals who endlessly congratulate themselves for being politically “woke’’ — perhaps you know a few such people in the 617 area code? — make them a tempting target of satire. Playwright Larissa FastHorse turns that low-hanging fruit into a pretty tasty meal in her wryly funny “The Thanksgiving Play,’’ now at Lyric Stage Company of Boston, directed by Scott Edmiston.

Edmiston’s cast of four delivers expert comic performances in “The Thanksgiving Play,’’ in which a group of “teaching artists’’ — or, as one would have it, “enlightened white allies’’ — set out to devise a theater piece for elementary school students that provides a “culturally sensitive’’ take on Thanksgiving. 

It’s Turkey Lurkey Time: Lyric Stage Scores with The Thanksgiving Play | DigBoston
Perceptive, quirky, and laugh-out-loud funny, Edmiston’s production is just right, from the gloriously delirious performances down to the Janie Howland’s set and Rachel Padula-Shufelt’s costumes. Ranks among the best of the year!

At this Thanksgiving, the politically woke get carved | The Boston Globe

It reminds him, he says, of the eccentric characters populating the 1996 Christopher Guest mockumentary “Waiting for Guffman,” which centers on a community theater troupe putting on a historical pageant about their small town. In “The Thanksgiving Play,” the characters, Edmiston says, “are very serious and very excited about putting on a very meaningful play about the oppression of the indigenous people. But their skill set, their capacity, isn’t necessarily united with their artistic aspirations, and Larissa has some fun with that.”

Dig In | The Boston Globe The Weekender

“Imagine a comically woke take on “Waiting for Guffman” and you’ll get a sense of what’s on the menu. It couldn’t be any more awkward than your actual family’s Turkey Day — actually I take that back.”

Lyric’s “Thanksgiving”: Diatribe Skewering Turkeys | South Shore Critic

With fast-paced Direction by Scott Edmiston, and a superbly assembled creative team that includes Scenic Design by Janie E. Howland, Costume Design by Rachel Padula-Shufelt, Lighting Design by Karen Perlow and Sound Design by Dewey Dellay, it’s a buffet for buffs who’ll pick up on its many “in” allusions, a plethora of witty asides that make for a filling verbal banquet.

FastHorse’s ideas about art and timidity add up to both a good roasting and food — maybe meatier than vegan — for thought.

Pardon Our Political Correctness | Broadway World Boston

The more serious the characters become, the more ridiculous they are and the funnier the play becomes. Adding to the overall enjoyment is a feeling of nostalgia, visually evoked by Janie E. Howland’s classroom design, the visceral connection to this most American of holidays (be it positive or negative), and the experience of sitting in the dark and laughing with a bunch of strangers who share our love of good theater.

Lyric Stage’s ‘The Thanksgiving Play’ Is A Tasty Dish | On Boston Stages

The pitch-perfect casting marked director Scott Edmiston’s return to Lyric, where he has crafted memorable productions in recent years of classics such as ‘The Little Foxes,’ ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ and ‘My Fair Lady.’ The ideas run far afield, both hilarious and awkward, from a Thanksgiving-themed takeoff on “The Twelve Days of Christmas” to a group of turkeys kibitzing on their fate.

Theater | Boston and Beyond

Boston and Beyond recommends The Thanksgiving Play! “Four all-white individuals have gathered to create and then perform a Thanksgiving production for an elementary school that will honor Indigenous people during Native American Heritage Month, which occurs in November. What could be more simple?!”

Lyric’s ‘The Thanksgiving Play’ a Cornucopia Overflowing with Clever Theatrical Treats | The Theater Mirror

While what The Thanksgiving Play represents in terms of diversity, inclusion, belonging, and power, and the responsibility that theater producers and directors bear as truthful storytellers comes through, it never hits you over the head with its messaging or preaches to the choir. Lyric Stage’s production really gets it right with Larissa FastHorse’s work. And for her, and them, I am grateful.

The Thanksgiving Play | Joyce’s Choices

We laugh our heads off at the futility of their efforts as they run headlong through the labyrinthine limits of their awareness, even as we appreciate the frustration of those they seek to honor.

Ticket Prices

Day Center Section Side Section
Wed Mat $53 $37
Wed/Thur/Fri $69 $49
Sat/Sun $75 $55

October 18 — November 10
3:00 pm

Running Time: 90 minutes, no intermission
Box Office: 617-585-5678
boxoffice@lyricstage.com

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