Teaching Tolerance

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By Tammy Paolino
On The Go Editor

Pocahontas strives to promote racial harmony

If you find Disney's version of “Pocahontas” a bit, well, not P.C., you might consider packing up the kids and bringing them out tomorrow to see a very different version of the classic tale.

This live musical version was written for children by Michael Taubenslag and his father Elliott Taubenslag, for their family-owned NJ based touring theater company. “We've been in this business for over 35 years and we have a repertoire of over 40 shows for kids,” said Michael Taubenslag. “My father's a playwright. He specializes in children's theater. And we literally travel from Michigan to Florida, performing six different shows a year.”

When he's not on the road with his theater company, Michael Taubenslag teaches summer camp at Middlesex County College. “If you hate kids, it's a horrible job. If you love kids, it's a piece of cake,” he said.

“Pocahontas” focuses on the story of the Native American princess and how she prevents a war in the 1600's between the early English settlers and her native tribe, the Powatan Indians. The theme is simple − “being different just means we are all special in our own way,” Michael Taubenslag explained. “We try to make the kids see that everyone can live together in harmony. I actually have it black against white, using multiracial (all adult) cast. Our message is, it doesn't matter what god you believe in, or the color of your skin, or where you're from, we can all be friends.”

The play is very different from the Disney version many kids likely are familiar with. “In fact, I think Disney is the best in everything they do, but with ‘Pocahontas,' I think they failed,” he said, “I think they had an obligation to teach about racial harmony and I was shocked they didn't. My father grew up as the only Jewish boy in the community, and he got beaten up every day,” he continued. “He raised his family to believe everyone is equal. So this is probably the easiest script we ever wrote. If you know the show ‘South Pacific,' there is that song that goes ‘You have to be taught to hate and fear.' Well, I think that's really true. If you can teach them early enough to love each other, it will sink in.”

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496 Taylor Place
North Brunswick, NJ 08902
Phone: 732-422-7071
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