Tuesday, December 27, 2005


From: Kevinj65@aol.com [mailto:Kevinj65@aol.com]
Sent: Tuesday, December 27, 2005 4:20 PM

Press Release: Songs of the South: Hidden Melodies


When: January  8, 2006


Where: Zuzi’s Theater


Times: 2:30 and 6:00


Tickets: $15 and $12


Press photos available upon request


Contact:  Kevin Johnson, Artistic Director – Arizona Onstage Productions


Cell;  520.270.33332


Artist/Actor/Singer To-Ree-Nee Wolf Keiser, working with Arizona Onstage Productions, present a one day/evening event that examines the racially-charged American music considered acceptable in the early part of the 1900s and until recently. This is a one night only evening of live song/performance and film entitled Songs of the South: Hidden Melodies.


Song Of The South was an Academy Award winning* 1947 motion picture that was met with mixed reviews because of its portrayal of Black Americans. “Splash Mountain” is considered one of Disney World/Disneyland’s most popular attractions and is based on some of the characters, yet this film has been banned from American release, and the central character, Uncle Remus, has been eliminated from this attraction. Also, words have been changed in songs so characteristic of Disney classic repertoire, such as “Zip–A-Dee–Do-Dah,” that are still used in current promotions. However, the film has not been re-released in American screens since 1982, and even then several scenes featuring the controversial “Tar-Baby” sequence were edited out.


Arizona Onstage Productions, along with Freedom Heart Gallery/Random Wolf, present a thought -provoking evening of song, performance and music of that era. Nationally recognized artist/actor/singer To-Re Nee Wolf Keiser, along with members of Arizona Daily Star MAC Award winning Arizona Onstage Productions, present music from this and other projects of this era that reflect the changing response of racial ideals. To-Re-Nee Wolf Keiser and guest artists Karen Falkenstrom on Taiko drum and Heidi Wilson on Saxophone will perform twists on music of this film and that era. Music theatre singer/performers including Stephanie Sikes, Liz Cracchiolo-Redman and Edmon Johanson will also be singing music of this period.


After a short intermission, there will be a very rare Technicolor screening of the 1947 Disney motion picture Song of the South. This movie has never been released in the United States on video or DVD.


Many reviewers took issue with the film’s portrayal of African Americans. The film does not make clear that the action is set shortly after the Civil War, so that many viewers thought that black characters were slaves. Walter White, Executive Secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, wrote that the film gives a “dangerously glorified picture of slavery.” The National Negro Congress declared that the film “is an insult to the Negro people because it uses offensive dialect; it portrays the Negro as a low, common, inferior servant; it glorifies slavery. Ebony Magazine criticized the film’s “Uncle Tom/Aunt Jemima caricature.”  Harlem Congressman Adam Clayton Powell called on New York Theaters not to show it. Disney defended it as a “monument to the Negro race,” pointing out that it was set after the Civil War, and therefore could not be about slavery.  Others found it entertaining, and a few praised its positive portrayals of blacks and whites. Southern reviewers tended to like the film more than did reviewers from other parts of the country.


The film may not have intended a racist message and may well have sought to present harmonious relations between white and black southerners. It does not acknowledge the racial problems of the post-Civil War south, however, nor does it suggest that its African American characters are anything but happy with their subservient roles. *Actor James Baskett’s, (he won a special Academy Award that year for this film) humane portrayal of Uncle Remus is counterbalanced by Academy Award winning Hattie McDaniel’s more stereotyped portrayal of the house servant. The song ”Zip–A–Dee–Doo-Duh” won the Academy Award for Best Song of the Year. Several scenes of which African American farm workers march happily home from the fields, singing in unison. Even the cartoon characters—Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox and Brer Bear—are African Americans.


One might ask why Arizona Onstage Productions and Freedom Heart/Random Wolf consider this an important event for Tucson. Artistic Director of Arizona Onstage Productions, Kevin Johnson, states, “Our mission statement is to expose people to music theatre that has importance in understanding our culture, as well as others, and to make celebration of differences and similarities that we might share and learn from.”   To-Ree-Nee Keiser makes this observation: “The dialog about ethnicity is still a challenging one. There are old hurts, wounds and major misunderstandings that still need to be addressed. We are our skin. We are the song of our bones. We are the color of our spirit. The richness of diversity is a wealth that this country still hasn’t tapped into thoroughly. We are living in a time when so much has been hidden. We need to shine a light on what is going on–we need to shine a light on what is hidden within ourselves.”


Songs of the South: Hidden Melodies will be presented on Sunday, January 8th, at Zuzi’s Theatre-738 N. 5th Ave, at the corner of Fifth Ave. and University. Tickets are $15 general and $12 student/teacher. Advance reservations are highly recommended, but unsold tickets will be available at the door. Performance times are 2:30 and 6:00. Call  520- 270-3332 to make reservations.  


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