Tracy vs. The Big Ugly Theater World

It was a morning matinee at Witting Auditorium in Flint, Michigan with my mom and my friend when I saw Hairspray for the first time. The show not only dealt with crossdressing and racial segregation of music but since then the lead character Tracy Turnblater has always been my hero in music theater. I loved her hair and she embraced my body type which was 2x at the time. Yet despite all the love, this character got there is still a big stigma in performing arts in general towards large body types including shows like Glee which has a huge fan base that does not question the harmful and neglectful tropes that damage theater goers and lovers into abandoning music theater and performing arts.

Many people blame Malissa McCarthy for being a bad actor because of her weight when in reality it’s bad people who give her bad roles to sabotage her humor and identity as a large woman. Something that happens too often and is a cruel joke to talented people in the theater world. What happens in theater and performing arts always trickles down into the film industry with horrible consequences.

Like drinking your flower pot is a good diet plan…

Why are large women always a joke when actual women do everything silly and disastrous to stay thin and keep thin until they are dead? Shouldn't the diet industry be a good industry to mock along with Disney who tells girls they can do and be anything except being fat? This is because a lot of diet plans are not tied to good health but the success and wealth of the person with little to no regard for how their body feels. One example of this is JoJo Siwa of Dance Moms eating a KFC drumstick with both joy, but also with shame and guilt. Many of the girls on the show have been mocked or abused because of their weight by Abby Lee Miller who is too hypocritical to be a dance instructor. Her motto is that everyone in the performing arts is replaceable which should never be the case when someone is talented in different ways of dancing that are different than others.

This show comes with an all-star cast of pedophiles and eating disorders along the way…

A lot of my cousins who were a part of dance culture are now pursuing nursing and one pursuing photography with teaching young dancers on the side have never seen the show but know the hidden cost of the dance world. I was not only the black sheep but the brains they needed on certain things. My cousin Jessica who is now a trauma nurse was curious about my anxiety meds from a mental and medical perspective. The med that saved my life Trileptol she said was enough to knock down a horse. She said this not as a joke but as a full acknowledgment of everything I went through as an Aspbergers person something that gets glossed over in movies about people with mental health which is all the struggles we go through to get to a balanced place of enlightenment and peace.

This is why the story of a big guy named Siddhartha is a universal story that became a manga by Tezuka Osamu who was also a huge theater and movie nut. He lived an upper-class life that was very chaotic for he was the son of a King who gave money to a wealthy class of priests call Brahman. Unlike most people in his position, he climbed out of the Ivory Tower and saw all the suffering the cast system did to the people in his father’s kingdom so he did a very radical thing as a teenager. He became a monk to try and help people but then saw that his group of monks were also crazy and detrimental to their own lives.

Instead of self-injury, he chose to starve himself which he regretted. When a kind young woman gave him a bowl of rice he ate it and tried to share it with his fellow monks who harass and reject him out into a very tortuous jungle. After so many trials through the jungle, he shelters under a tree and realizes that all people suffer and struggle through the same things regardless of identity and that the goal to be a good person is to alleviate the suffering of others and yourself by identifying the cause of suffering and doing something about it. This great idea gave him the nickname Buhhda meaning the enlightened one. Theater no matter the genre is supported to leave the person who comes home an enlightened person yet how can theatergoers be enlightened when we time and time again see the same toxic tropes played out like Schmigadoon over and over again without challenging ideas, cultures, and new tools like puppetry and instrumentalist on the stage like in Blast. Despite a diversity of bodies in the show Blast, it’s also very lacking in the marching arts which is not enlightening but exploitive and restrictive of big people who are just as talented.

The marching band and its other venues are not a sport but an art of collaborative people from all backgrounds coming together to make a good show. Yet how can an audience appreciate the artform if there is always a backstabbing Simon? Feild judges have always been a pain for young artists in this venue along with directors who only care about a winning show more than their bottom line as educators and teachers.

In Corps, there is the question of what is and is not a Drum Corps Body which has led to more eating disorders and body dysmorphia in the artform. Uniformity is the detriment to the marching arts as a whole along with the harassment, hazing, and abuse of women and LGBTQA members of the artform who wanted to be educated rather than groomed, abused, and neglected. In the case of Gorge Hopkins the director of Allentown’s Cadets, groomed thirteen women and claimed to like pretty girls as color guards but not in masculine instrument positions such as the battery, and low brass. In a recent case of the Shadow Corps in Oregon, Wisconson revealed yet again more grooming of young women who were not color guards but in positions considered more masculine such as brass and battery. The corps did nothing about the grooming by their director who was a member of Youngblood Brass Band, David Henzie-Skogen.

Deeds not Words

If Carol Jantsch can do it why can’t I?

There is a saying in progressive action which began with the radical feminist in England when women were not yet given the right to vote, “Deeds not Words”. Yes, Carol Jantsch is the first-chair tubist but she is not the first woman to hold a powerful masculine position in the performing arts.

Constance Weldon was the first woman to play tuba in many orchestras in her life including the Boston Pops. Many women in the world do play instruments that are typically gendered as masculine such as low brass, low woodwinds, and percussion. Yet when they try to audition it’s all based on tokenism, weight, and wealth. This is why Arnold Jacobs one of the greatest tuba and brass instructors had this to say about the basis and elitism of audition comities and how they lack education and exposure to other genres

“They are poor, especially for the player, I think it is very difficult to have auditions and find a suitable way to judge because we have a great many talented players to choose from. This means a lot of heartbreak for the very capable people.”-Arnold Jacobs

Arnold Jacobs valued education over toxic competition, tokenism, and basis in bands and orchestras. There is no suitable way to judge a performer because we are people and not robots and when performing arts is not about educational development it allows sexism and ableism to run rampant as it does in theater, dance, and other art forms like films, musicals, ballet, and many other that exist in many cultures and genres of music and art. Despite country music heroines like Loreta Lyn, Dolly Parton, and The Dixie Chicks and in Polka music like Frankenmuths own Linda Lee who is now in The Polka Hall of Fame; there are still men and women who do not want our voices heard. One country music DJ called women artist tomatoes in a salad, meaning that stations that do play women have lower ratings thanks to a masculine and misogynist genre called Bro-Country which is sung by men about getting drunk with women and driving their trucks full of testosterone and buzzed.

Just Because Polka

Many popular songs in the classic Polka cannon are very misogynistic too, Just Because which made Marv Herzog and Myron Floren famous is a song about a man who leaves a woman just because. Too Fat Polka is a parody of the Zillertaler Holzchetmarsh which has the lyrics I don’t want her/you can have her/she’s too fat for me. What people don’t know is that this piece of music is used at weddings in German-speaking cultures when the bride and groom walk out of the church.

Yet one song in the polka cannon has liberated both tubist and women which is Beer Barrel Polka or Soda Lasky because it's about a woman who leaves a man who drinks too much. In Czech where the song originates the man’s last reply is, “Wasted love what have you done to my life!” referring to the women as wasted love means he does not care for them and only cares for drinking. This polka is a fun piece for a tuba to play once they know the melody and chorus, this piece is so fun that the entire tuba section of Wisconsin State’s Marching Band uses the piece as their unofficial fight song. I play this song on my tuba Hubert, but the first song I posted on Reddit with confidence was Your a Mean One Mister Grinch during the lockdown in my state.

It gave me more confidence to share more videos of me playing my tuba Hubert to inspire other women and girls on the Autism spectrum that they are not alone as performing artists who have experienced discrimination of all kinds regardless. Kindness is the best gift you can give to all of us artists and by watching and reading you are learning to be kind to vulnerable performing artist and their communities.

As for those who suffer from eating disorders you are not alone and there is help.

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Christina Bishop

Christina Bishop

Tuba player, creator of Struwwelkinder and The Flying Circus Orchestra