Look who is white, handsome and smart in the Jacob family

It is a white world … at the Ordway neighborhood
On a cold Sunday afternoon, I went to see the long awaited Webber/Rice musical; Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Ordway Theater in St. Paul. The weather just brook all time records in Minnesota history, dumping a webbing two feet of snow on the Twin Cities, clocking everything outside with a gigantic white sheet of snow; the trees, streets, sidewalks, buildings, cars, and even the hundreds of people who still managed to make it to the Ordway theater were mostly whites. The British dual Webber/Rice Musical captured the Americans imagination with their signature non spoken dialogue, no dramatic narrative style, just individuals dancing and singing to no one in particular, giving us a new genre of live twittering on the stage. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is snapshots of the Biblical story of the Jewish family of Jacob who lived in Bethlehem Palestine almost four thousand years ago. The story of Joseph is about human jealousy and hatred to those who are different and special. People at the Ordway were mesmerized, entertained and overwhelmed by the Musical spectacle. However as an Egyptian who was born in the same neighborhood where Joseph built his first career and fame. I could not get over the fact that Joseph -played by the American Idol champ Anthony Federov with his long blonde hair- was the only white son in the colored Jacob big family. All Joseph brothers worn native customs of the people who lived in Bethlehem area at the time, except brother Joe; he was spared the Taliban like custom, his own whiteness custom was intact . According to the story Brother Joe needed to be different and hansom, and at the Ordway theater he need to be the blond American idol. This is a peculiar artistic decision in a time of multiculturism and first black president. The choice of white Joseph has been a tradition staple in this production throughout its long stage life. I contacted the Ordway management for some answers, I got a prompt response in a lengthy e-mail, and according to them there weren’t any colored people with the right skill to play Joseph; “In the case of Jacob’s 12 sons, it just so happened that the one who had the unique skills to sing the very demanding role of Joseph happened to be white. He is in fact Ukrainian by birth, but has lived in the U.S. since he was nine.” Explained the Ordway staff. I’m sure skin color as acting wasn’t a requirement for this role either. A Ukrainian by birth (Eastern European), this is not an affirmative action quota issue, and it is not a diversity issue either, as the Ordway management explained in their e-mail . One could argue that the dancers who played Joseph brothers were mostly white born in Minnesota (they took their customs off at the end) but still manage to wear the customs of the natives at the time. Joseph was the only one allowed to be himself, white and blond. The whitening of Christianity isn’t something new, it started when it was adapted by Byzantine and the Roman Empire; Judaism became white much later, nobody knows how. Christianity and Judaism made the transition and brook the color barrier to white privilege. Jesus looks now like the Swedish tennis player George Borg and Charlie Huston became our new Moses. Islam the other monolithic religion wasn’t as lucky; and the prophet Muhammad the Semitic Arab, a descending from the same Abraham family couldn’t pass the pigment test; the Muslim prophet with more than a billon followers all over the world has been depicted by the west of so many things, whiteness wasn’t one of them; he was depicted as a decadent a terrorist, a fighter, charlatan, womanizer and an illiterate angry Arab, never white. Whiteness is a privilege can only be given to those of power. At the Ordway theater, Joseph wasn’t so special because of his Tichnicolor Dreamcoat, he was special because of his white color dream-skin. The 11 brothers, the others, represent people like me, left with lots of envy and jealousy. It was a white day at the Ordway neighborhood that Sunday, outside and inside, even the people who came to see the show were all white; this somehow didn’t make me feel special or even handsome!
Ahmed Tharwat/ Public Speaker, Host and Producer of the Public TV show BelAhdan
An Arab American TV that air on Saturdays, 10:30p
Blogs at www.ahmediatv.com


Ahmed Tharwat …. in the middle AhMedia.... احا مديا A media critic, and a media consultant... A show with an accent for those without one! AhMedia احا مديا Ahmed Tharwat/ Host BelAhdan TV show Freelance Writer, Public Speaker, International Media Fixer www.ahmediatv.com


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