If you like irreverent, animated children’s television, you must check out the website for Dusty, the story of a magic, one-legged dust ball and his lactose-intolerant bunny friend, Spuds. This might be the best show ever. The title character, Dusty, “is made up of little bits of everyone and everything, so each episode he pulls a little piece of himself off and travels to wherever that particle is from.” He and Spuds, who is an “only child bunny” who “struggles with sharing but has a heart of gold,” travel in a magic red “Dusty-pan” and have adventures while learning about diversity.
How great does this sound?
But if you want more, you’ll have to head to Colorado. Dusty, unfortunately, is not a real show. Rather, it’s the centerpiece of Cusi Cram’s play, Dusty and the Big Bad World, a satiric comedy about children’s television programming, gay marriage and agonizing choices that opened this week at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.
The play delves into the controversy that erupts when Dusty and Spuds head to Massachusetts to help her find a missing sneaker. They never find the sneaker, but they do eat vegan, wheat-free cookies and drink tea “that tastes like feet.” Oh, and they learn that some families have two dads. The inclusion of gay themes in children’s programming sparks a firestorm of protest and the Dusty creative team is thrust into crisis.
If this sounds like the Postcards from Buster controversy, that’s because Cram was a member of the Buster creative team who got burned by “Buster-gate.” (The Buster controversy, if you recall it, sprung from an episode of the show in which Buster, an animated bunny who visited real children to see how they live, visited a girl and her family in Vermont. But Buster didn’t just learn about maple syrup, he also learned that some families have two mommies.)
The overwrought debate — which included input from the Bush administration — ended when PBS eventually decided not to distribute the Buster episode. The frenzy surrounding the cartoon was ludicrous and it certainly makes sense that Cram decided to revisit the issue in a comedy. And how beautiful that she chose to satirize the incident in the context of a show about a magic dust ball.
Kelly McAndrew, who plays the Dusty producer-writer, observes that the character has to struggle with an untenable choice between protecting the future of her show and sacrificing principles. And McAndrew appreciates the opportunity to be actively involved in this debate.
It does sound like a lot of fun, and watching the play sounds like a lot of fun. And to add even more fun into the mix, the creative team put together the fairly extensive Dusty website.
Has anyone in the Denver area seen this play or does anyone have plans to see it? If so, please report back!