The Huffington Post announced Saturday that the Shakespeare Theatre has changed the names of Much Ado About Nothing’s Juan Huevos and Jose Frijoles, two of the buffoons featured in Dogberry’s rustic troupe of morons, back to their original names of Hugh Oatcake and George Seacoal in response to a letter-writing campaign launched by Tlaloc Rivas, a Mexican-American Theater Director.
Huevos means eggs in Spanish, and Frijoles means beans.
The Shakespeare Theatre had set its production on a coffee plantation in 1930s Cuba, and had renamed several place names to reflect the new setting. According to the Huffington Post, Shakespeare dramaturg Hannah Hessel averred that “[r]elevant to the new setting, the hope was to find a similar joke [to Shakespeare’s naming of Oatcake and Seacoal] that could reflect Cuban society in the 1930s…The joke may not have entirely succeeded. Even if the impulse wasn’t to disparage Latin Americans it still unintentionally invoked racial stereotypes. Those stereotypes can make Latino audience members feel like outsiders and connect to possible existing prejudices within a minority of audience members.”
Rivas appeared to think that the use of the made-up names would inflame anti-Hispanic feelings. “As we come to the end of 2011, the Latino community saw a continued level of extreme vitriol targeted through political rhetoric, through discriminatory practices in hiring, the rise in hate crimes and harassment and five additional states enacting anti-immigrant statutes following Arizona’s ignominious example in 2010,” Rivas wrote. “For a national theater to take up this rhetoric through sloppy dramaturgy and for the sake of a joke is disappointment unworthy of the stature of such a revered company.”
However, the Huffington Post reported that Rivas was happy with Shakespeare Theatre’s decision. “Here was an artistic leader who listened to his audience and decided to do the right thing,” the Huffington Post quoted Rivas as saying. “I’m hoping this sets a precedent of Latinos finally saying a collective ‘no’ to being continually scapegoated, demeaned and stereotyped in this current political climate.”
The role of Huevos, now Oatcake, is played by Phil Hosford and the role of Frijoles, now Seacoal, is played by Carlos J. Gonzalez.
Read the full Huffington Post article here.