When you attend a play at one of the smaller theaters in Philadelphia, what you get before Act One is something called a ‘Land Acknowledgment’ speech. This is a statement reminding you that the ground the theater was built on was once “owned” by Native Americans before it was stolen by the evil colonists and settlers.
What that statement never explains is that when the same land was “owned” by Native Americans centuries ago, it was often stolen by other Native tribes in violent ways.
In other words, Native American society was just as warlike as any other in human history.
Jeff Flynn Paul in ‘The Spectator,’ explains:
“In North America, most Natives were primitive farmers. This means that (with some exceptions) they had no permanent settlements: they farmed in an area for a few decades until the soil got tired, before moving on to greener pastures where the hunting was better and the lands more fertile. This meant that tribes were in constant conflict with other tribes.“
Real history, of course, doesn’t matter, since most of the subscribers at these little theaters are committed leftists.
Thankfully, there are no ‘land acknowledgment’ speeches in the city’s larger, commercial theaters. Yet even here on opening night you’ll hear a sprinkling of words like “equity” and “diversity” in the welcoming remarks—a little woke salt to keep pace with the more radical thespians on the other side of town.
Perhaps it’s only a matter of time before the city’s commercial venues fill opening night with stories about how Native Americans built wigwam settlements and campfires where the theater’s bar is located.
When Daniel Fish’s rehabbed “Oklahoma” came to the city’s Forrest Theater in 2022 (in 2009, the rights to the original show were sold to a Netherlands-based pension fund), audiences were in for a shock. Suddenly, middle class season ticket holders were face to face with a didactic, virtue-signaling Bolveshik rape of a beloved American classic.
The stage walls were hung with guns (sending the message that America has a gun problem), and the characters in the show– black cowboys, Chinese immigrants and Native Americans– were shown being kicked around by evil white miners. The closing scene, as someone in the theater the night I attended remarked, looked like it had been choreographed by the Democratic National Convention.
A review in the left-leaning ‘Atlantic’ even stated,
“…That after intermission, there were empty seats where some of those smiling faces had been, and as the second act wore on, still other theatergoers walked out, evidently repelled by the director Daniel Fish’s dark and daring reinterpretation of this enduring classic from Broadway’s golden age.”
The show was a commercial flop; the reviews merciless.
The big commercial theaters in Philadelphia, like the Walnut Street Theater, please audiences with mainstream fare like Elvis: A Musical Revolution, The Importance of Being Earnest and Saturday Night Fever. Audiences at the Walnut just want to be entertained and are likely to give a standing ovation to almost any production that has a lot of musical numbers.
The Forrest Theater, where the rape (or rewriting) of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic was staged, has followed the Walnut in this regard—until ‘Woke-Lahoma’ came along. In the bat of an eyelash, the Forrest seemed to align itself with the city’s radical leftist theaters like The Wilma, the Lantern, and the four-theater complex in located in the Drake building.
These theaters specialize in works that deal with racism, sexism, transgender issues, and so-called queer interplay between science and psychology.
The shift from “best-selling” theater hits and classics to plays that push leftist political propaganda has been building in the city for a long time.
Much of it began with the founding of the Wilma Theater (whose honest motto is “Art has no answers at all”) in 1973.
I admit that some of Philadelphia’s progressive theater trends were somewhat welcoming at first. It was refreshing to see a black woman play Hamlet, or an androgynous-looking actress cast as a page boy, or to see love stories with interracial couples.
Regarding these innovations, the Wilma became known as the theater where rigid orthodoxies were smashed.
In many ways, it was the theater equivalent of Pope John XXIII calling for a Second Vatican Council in order to bring fresh air into the Catholic Church. (Most astute Catholics in 2023 will tell you that that “fresh air” has proven to be toxic and corrupting.)
The problem with fresh air, however, is that weather changes. A breeze can easily morph into a strong wind that disrupts, distorts and corrupts. This describes what has happened to the city’s theater community.
Does every Hamlet produced on stage have to be black or trans just to prove a point about racism and gender?
Does every heterosexual couple presented on stage have to be interracial, even when it seems to work against the editorial soul of a play?
Does every young boy in an Elizabethan play have to be played by a girl, as if to “instruct” the public on some esoteric point about feminism or trans issues? Are real boy actors really so rare?
One city theater’s production of The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens & Count Leo Tolstoy, told the story of these men as they futilely attempted to rewrite the Bible.
Jefferson is condemned at the end of the play for his having had slaves while simultaneously writing about human equality, even though in Jefferson’s time, slaves were considered subhuman except by the most forward-thinking abolitionists.
Month after month, sophisticated Philadelphia audiences are being catechized about immigration, racism, and trans issues as if the Philadelphia theater world had been taken over by Amy Schumer and the women on The View.
The craziness has spilled over into many of the city’s private clubs and cultural institutions, like the once-venerable Athenaeum of Philadelphia, where the programs and events have been “Woke-Lahoma-ized.”
The sports world has also been affected.
In 1987, the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers erected a statue of Kate Smith near the Wells Fargo stadium. The team made it a point to play the singer’s rendition of ‘God Bless America’ before home games for decades.
Smith, who won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1982, became closely associated with the Flyers, especially when the team won two Stanley Cup championships in 1974 and 1975.
But then something happened. In April of 2019, the Flyers removed the statue stating that they had discovered that some of Smith’s songs contained “racist lyrics and sentiments” that were “incompatible” with the organization’s values.
“The NHL principle ‘Hockey is for Everyone’ is at the heart of everything the Flyers stand for,” then Flyers President Paul Holmgren said. “As a result, we cannot stand idle while material from another era gets in the way of who we are today.”
Were the Flyers not aware that race-sensitive songs were very popular at the turn of the 20th Century, and Kate Smith only recorded what her bosses at Columbia Records told her to record?
She was doing her job and being a good employee because she didn’t want to be fired. Nobody in that knucklehead team seemed to be aware that Paul Robeson also recorded some of the songs Kate Smith was being criticized for recording.
Kate Smith also did a lot for civil rights, including bringing Josephine Baker back to the United States and giving her air time on her TV show, “The Kate Smith Hour.’
What bothered me most about the Kate Smith cancellation was the apathy I found among Philadelphians: There were no protests against the statue’s removal, although one could find an occasional Op Ed piece decrying PC culture. Privately, there was hand-wringing and comments like, “Isn’t it awful!” – but beyond that, nothing.
Shortly after Smith’s statue was removed, the city’s ‘Che Guevara’ activists set their sights on removing the Frank Rizzo statue near City Hall.
Curiously enough, the Flyers have never won a Stanley Cup championship since they put Kate Smith in storage. Some have attributed this to a curse.
I might add that the little radical theaters with their land acknowledgment mantras at the beginning of each play have also fallen into hard times.