The Big Orange Dictator

opqrsI once inhabited a world ruled by an obese, orange, lecherous dictator with big hair.

The dictator’s name was Otto the Official, and he ran the town of Ottoville. He was, by his own definition, the town’s only major, judge, jury, and lawmaker. He insisted that everything be painted orange. Houses, trees, even the grass as it grew. Otto, as you can guess, was fictional, a character in my high school’s junior class play, but his bigotry and intolerance speak volumes.

Otto’s sprawling mansion dominated Ottoville complete with a gigantic ‘O’ on his imposing door while the little cottage, which my character, young Rozelle the Rebellious, shared with her parents Peter the Prudent and Quilla the Quiet stood nearby. A big orange pillory, nicknamed the Ottomat, used for public humiliations, occupied the center of town, which tells you a little about the state of affairs.

No one was happy about their monochromatic lives, but neither had they the courage to defy Otto, and to make matters worse, everyone was forced to wear special glasses that turned everything the same dull strain of orange.

The day came when Rozelle ran off and did the unthinkable. She took off her glasses. It just so happened she discovered a flower, one that had been overlooked in the daily painting of the landscape orange. She sat back at stared at it, a starling pop of blue in a saffron sea. This marked the moment of first awareness, the first bloom of truth in a young consciousness. I see! I see! The world isn’t the way I’ve been taught! It’s bigger, more complex, more expansive, more beautiful! “Oh, won’t old Otto be surprised,” she sings as she skips home, flower in hand, “yes, he’ll be surprised, oh yes, old Otto will be stunned.”

Truth isn’t something everyone wants to see. It’s ugly, dangerous, subversive, threatening. Rozelle runs into her parents, who are horrified, and do everything they can to destroy the little blue blossom. But from that moment on, Rozelle can’t be stopped. She faces off with Otto, only to end up in the Ottomat. In the end, though, Otto is unmasked for what he really is: an incompetent fraud and bully.

The play, OPQRS, ETC. by Madge Miller, denounces the belief that one “color” is superior to another, but it could easily be about race, gender, sexuality, or nationality. It’s deeper meaning is about discovering truth, as painful as that can be sometimes. Once the citizens of Ottoville find the courage to see the truth, it is they who, collectively, overthrow the man who was once their leader, and free themselves from their bondage.

Truth, a quietly powerful force, is always rising up in unexpected ways. It’s up to us whether or not we choose to see it, to feel it, to know it, but once we do, everything changes, and there’s no going back, because what was there before feels like a homogenous world, safe and familiar for some maybe, but what lies in front of us is a vibrancy that offers possibility for all.


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