When I first read THE ELABORATE ENTRANCE OF CHAD DEITY, it worked for me on a number of levels. I loved that the content was pro-wrestling, something we rarely see on American theatre stages. I also loved that pro-wrestling was a lens through which to view the idiosyncracies of our country: the problems inherent in the notion of the ‘American dream,’ as well as the complexities of building an American identity. The pro-wrestling world dictates that in order for Chad Deity to be our American hero, he needs an enemy. But as a country and as individuals, do we need something to hate in order to discover what it is we love – or who we are?
It’s my view that we Americans have increasingly started defining ourselves by pointing to what we’re against. In some instances, that has worked well for us. We’re a country built on a commitment to religious freedom, because our Puritan pilgrims established themselves as ‘not’ like the intolerant communities they emerged from. However, in the modern world, the identification of an ‘other’ has its risks. When we label the terrorist-who-happens-to-be-Muslim an enemy of America, some Americans will see all Muslims as enemies. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t terrorists we need to condemn. It just means that constantly talking about the ‘other’ draws attention to what we’re ‘not’ like, rather than what we are like. It’s a more exclusive, rather than inclusive, act. Even within our current presidential race, each side is defining themselves as the ‘opposite’ of the other. This is not a very rigorous intellectual exercise, and does not provide a lot of clarity in terms of what each candidate really stands for.
From an early age, we read stories and watch movies that articulate a clear other to a main hero – when we think of Harry Potter, Peter Pan, or even Cinderella, there’s a clear enemy. The real world is much more complex. While Mace emerges at the end of the play as a hero to his community–someone who attained his American Dream–he will forever be cast as the ‘villain’ in the larger narrative, because of his appearance. While our country’s ‘enemies’ are linked with ideas of ‘otherness,’ it will continue to be difficult for real diversity in our country to flourish, and for people of all races, cultural backgrounds, and religions to have an equal shot at success. But, if America would make more ‘we are this’ statements rather than ‘we are not this’ statements, there would be more of a chance for the Maces of this world to take the lead as our heroes. Narratives are powerful, and for now, in our world of us and them, Chad Deity needs someone else to fail for him to win – and for us to love him.
-Ronee Penoi, Producer-in-Residence