BYE-BYE MISS AMERICAN PIE

Issue : June / July 2015 Elite Performance
 

           In The Death of Miss America, the final round of the Miss Tomorrow Pageant takes place in Bangkok. Four of the five finalists represent ASEAN countries, while the fifth is Miss America. As in many beauty contests, the competition proceeds from swimsuit and evening gown categories to extemporary Q&A. But just before the winner is announced to the five finalists in the spotlight, Miss America collapses. When she is declared dead, the other contestants become suspects in the ensuing murder investigation and the audience has the opportunity to retrace the events that led up to her death.

 

            This is the theme of the English-language play that Elite+ observed in the rehearsal stage. The Death of Miss America is the first play produced by Culture Collective Studio (CUCO), a theatre situated in the Chatrium Residence Riverside on Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River. The play has a minimalist setting

and costumes, while the 60-seat theatre gives the audience an intimate viewing experience and a chance to interact with characters in the play.

            The beauty pageant finalists represent stereotypical Western notions of ASEAN women, who are presented as unintelligent, superficial and materialistic. The female characters parody the clichés as contestants mention idealistic concepts such as world peace, human diversity or environment protection, which seem in contrast to their personalities.

 

            These notions are inverted at the end, when the stage lights go out and the contestants sit at the front and reveal their personal impressions, criticizing female stereotypes and emphasizing that women should not be judged through misconceptions but valued as they are.

 

            The playwright addresses this message through an ingenious story, humorous dialogue and lively characters. The five finalists represent different types of women, who come out to sing and dance and show their talents as in a real beauty competition. The Thai cultural context helps the audience feel involved.

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