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The Thanksgiving Play: Performative Activism, Privilege, and Humor

Director Robert Leff shares some of his thoughts about the upcoming Readers' Theater Company production of The Thanksgiving Play.

What is the play about?

A group of well-intentioned white teaching artists scramble to create an ambitious Thanksgiving pageant for a school tour. Despite their eager efforts to put on the most culturally sensitive show possible, it quickly becomes clear that even those with good intentions can be undone by their own blind spots.

Setting A high school drama classroom anywhere but the Los Angeles area

Length Approximately 90 minutes, with no intermission

From The Director

The Thanksgiving Play is one of the most produced plays in this country. I saw a list of 30 productions being staged between Nov. 2021 and Feb. 2022. The four characters remind me of myself, people in Corvallis, people in theatre chat rooms and people at the Majestic Theatre. I see myself in three of the four characters. I’ve read other plays by Larissa FastHorse. I like how she uses comedy/humor to get the audience to laugh and then slips something in and you question if you should be laughing in the first place.

The play is a comedy with satire. Ms FastHorse said 80% of the dialogue is what people have said to her. There are sections in the play based on YouTube videos and photos and articles she discovered while doing research for the script. There are things in the play that might make you cringe. On the other hand, when you leave the theatre, I hope you start to question things. The Thanksgiving Play was not written to blame the audience about the past. Ms FastHorse said laughing adds time to your life, so she wrote a comedy.

There will be a talk back after the 11/28 performance with the director, cast, and scholars from Kaku-Ixt Mana Ina Haws cultural center including Dr. Luhui Whitebear to discuss the play’s themes and how they relate to the experiences of the Indigenous community in the United States.

Content Warnings: Violence / Sexual Content / Racially Insensitive Language / Racism / Mention of Suicide


The Thanksgiving Play will be presented live in-person at the Majestic Theatre on November 27 and 28, 2021 and will be available to stream online after. Purchase in-person tickets here. For streaming access here. You will receive a link to the streaming site via email. The price is on a sliding scale; you can pick what you pay for tickets. Suggested prices range from $11 to $21 dollars. A $2.00 processing fee will be added to all tickets purchased online. You can also purchase tickets by calling the Business Office at 541-758-7827. Closed Captioning is available.


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