When we think of outcasts, we think of people on the fringes of society. People who have difficulty finding their niche. A literal ape man who has never directly interacted with the human race and leads an unimpeachably secluded life in the remotest reaches of the Himalayan mountains. The peanut-free table.
The Ramones had a song “Sheena is a Punk Rocker”, a reference to the Tarzanesque 30s comic book character Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. Joey Ramone thought that if Sheena was to be lifted out of the wilderness and thrust into late 70s England, her primal nature and ignorance to societal norms and standards would make her a studded leather jacket punk. And ever since I became fascinated by local legends and tall tales of cryptids (pseudoscientific creatures like Bigfoot and Nessie that “may or may not exist”), I’ve thought the same thing about them.
For as world-famous as they are, the Yeti, an alleged superhumanly tall gorilla-like biped covered in thick white fur that roams the snowy peaks of the mountains of South Asia, would be a fish out of water if they were to suddenly emerge from a manhole in the middle of Philadelphia. Who are the Eagles? What is a cheesesteak? Why do people say “water” like that, and, more importantly, what is language?
But these aren’t the only questions Yeti would be asking. Because proper table manners weren’t the only things they weren’t raised on. Yeti was born tens of thousands of feet above sea level, probably in a wind-whipped mountainside cave where the elements are too harsh for human habitation. They haven’t experienced a community, a culture. Hierarchy, religion. Sex, gender. They have lived in complete isolation.
So Yeti wouldn’t understand something like racism.
Yeti wouldn’t be able to wrap their head around the concept of discrimination, or profiling, or hate speech, because they don’t have the cultural and political context to understand why things like that would exist, because those things are constructs, right? They're creations. They’re byproducts of a darkly developed human history.
After learning not only the wondrous rewards of society, but also its dark secrets, what would Yeti be? A punk rocker headbanging beside Sheena in the mosh pit? A political protester with a sign sporting Trump’s face and the caption “I Don’t Believe In You Either”? Simply disillusioned and longing to return to a simpler life away from all of this?
The kids in Ready Steady Yeti Go didn’t grow up alone outside of the confines of society like the creature featured in their game that lends the show its title. They can be naive, for sure, but they’re growing up in a world familiar to us. Still, they are outside observers to the adult world. To the misinformed political discourse that a hate crime in their small town spurs. They’re putting on performances in their hideout while a Kafkaesque, debt-ridden, war-torn, devastating human race lead by their superiors unfolds around them. So when this world invades their own -- when the hate crime occurs -- they don’t react with jargon and buzzwords and news articles and self-righteousness. They react with heart, with their conflicted emotions, with how it affects them, and their town, and their friends -- personally -- because it’s what they know best. It’s an unexpected perspective. A fresh one.
The kids are the outcasts here. Is that why Yeti’s featured in their game? I’m not the playwright. But they certainly do have something in common with the lonesome beast. It might be best for us to listen to these new voices every once in a while. Voices that we might be eager to overlook. Voices that bellow from Everest’s peak, or ones that crack with the onset of puberty. Cryptids, punk rockers, people not old enough to vote. Doesn’t matter who you are. What does the world look like to you? And how do we need to change it?
Come to see Ready Steady Yeti Go through March 11. You might just get to sit next to the big guy.