ACT Reading Practice Test 93: HUMANITIES

DIRECTIONS: Each passage is followed by several questions. After reading a passage, choose the best answer to each question and fill in the corresponding oval on your answer document. You may refer to the passages as often as necessary.


HUMANITIES: Passage A is adapted from the article "America,
America: Two Plays about the Country's Complexities" by Hilton Als.(©2010 by Conde Nast). Passage Bis adapted from the article "O.K. Chorale: An English Take on Rodgers and Hammerstein" by John Lahr (©2002 by Conde Nast).

Passage A by Hilton Als
Molly Smith, the artistic director of Arena Stage in
Washington, D.C., directed the company' current
revival of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein s II's
first musical collaboration, Oklahoma! Smith's produc-
5tion is extraordinary in thought and execution and
utterly satisfying on so many levels Smith's conceit is
entirely original:instead of taking this nearly perfect
show at face value, she has dug back into the history of
Oklahoma itself. Sold to the United States as part of the
101803 Louisiana Purchase, Oklahoma was opened for
settlement in 1889. By the time it became a state, eigh-
teen years later, the Territory, as it was known, was
populated by white settlers from other parts of the
country, as well as a number of emancipated slaves and
15forcibly resettled Native Americans, who braved
drought, harsh economic times, and often brutal and
complicated racial interactions to make the Territory
their home.

Smith doesn't explain any of this in her produc-
20tion-who would rewrite Rodgers and Hammerstern?--
but it shows in her casting. As in the original Broadway
production , which opened in 1943, there are no stars
onstage. Smith raises the roof not so much with "color-
blind" casting as by paying attention to how the charac-
25ters might have looked if they were actual Oklahomans
of the period. The wonderful Aunt Eller (E. Faye
Butler) and her niece, Laurey (the buoyant and complex
Eleasha Gamble),are black,while laurey's suitor,
Curly (the outstanding Nicholas Rodrigues),could be
30taken foe Native American. This deviation from stan-
dard casting brings a new force to the musical-which
itself changed musicals forever by introducing plot and
narrative development into what had previously been
considered a frivolous genre. Altogether, the actors
35seem relieved to be not segregated in black or white
shows but together in an utterly American one.

The afternoon I saw Oklahoma!, it was clear that
the members of the audience didn't feel overwhelmed
by a "classic"; instead, they were as moved as I was by
40the humility and hope that Smith and her company
brought to the show.

Passage B by John Lahr

Because of Oklahoma!'s enormous subsequent
influence, its novelties-no opening ensemble number,
chorus girls in long dresses, dancers who don't appear
45until late in the first act, the integrated score-have lost
some of their original lustre. In the Royal National
Theatre's three-hour revival (now at New York's
Gershwin Theatre), directed by Trevor Nunn, the
show's heady mixture of wonder and ambition is best
50captured in its production values. Anthony Ward's pic-
turesque set immediately submerges us m a gorgeous
world of folk innocence.

In the making of musicals, Nunn is a four-star gen-
eral. His stage pictures spill over with meticulous, artic-
55ulate energy. But technique, which can make the show
the issue of cultural chemistry comes into play. Ameri-
can optimism has its root in abundance and in the vast-
ness of the land that Oklahoma! celebrates. Britain, on
60the other hand, is an island the size of Utah. Its culture
is one of scarcity; its preferred idiom is irony-a lan-
guage of limits. In the retranslation of an award-
winning English version of an American classic to its
natural Broadway habitat, an emotional lopsidedness
65has become evident, particularly in the casting.

The linchpins of the show are AUnt Eller,played
by the grittty, droll comedienne Anfrea Martin,who is
American and nails it, and the feisty lovelorn Laurey,
played bu the fine-voiced ,demure Josefina Gabrielle,
70who is English and doesn't. It's not talent that's at issue
here-Gabrielle is the first Laurey to dance her own
Dream Ballet-but national character. The show is
about Western women, and Gabrielle's Laurey lacks
that very American sense of gumption, a combination
75of buoyancy and backbone.

In his memoir, "Musical Stages," Richard Rodgers
averred that the show's opening scene-a cowboy
strolling onto the stage where a single woman is churn-
ing butter-announced to the audience, "Watch out!
80This is a different kind of musical." He went on to say,
"Everything in the production was made to conform to
the simple open-air spirit of the story; this wa essen-
tial, and certainly a rarity in the musical theatre."
Trevor Nunn' s version of Oklahoma! preserves the
85crowd-pleasing commercial zest of the original;but on
the evening I saw the show only a handful of audience
members stood to applaud the hardworking cast,con-
firming my suspicion that the open-air spirit of the
evening had been slowly leached away.

1. The information in lines 9-18 serves primarily to:

A. explain events in the order they are narrated in Oklahoma!
B. note an aspect of the original production of Okla-homa! that is missing from Smith's.
C. suggest that the creators of Oklahoma! failed to grasp the magnitude of their subject mat
D. summarize the history that Smith has likely con-sidered in staging Oklahoma!

2. Based on the passage, the statement "there are no stars onstage" (lines 22-23) most likely means the:

F. acting is mediocre.
G. power of the production does not rely on the celebrity status of the cast members.
H. actors in the scenes have small roles.
J. script is a poor match for the talents of the actors.

3. The author of Passage A's overall response to the per-formance of Oklahoma! that is the subject of his review is one of:

A. mild disappointment.
B. profound respect.
C. tentative approval.
D. confusion.

4. The information between the dashes in lines 43-45 serves as examples of:

F. shortcomings in the British production of Oklahoma!
G. differences between two productions of Oklahoma!
H. the passage author's favorite elements of Oklahoma!
J. elements of the original production of Oklahoma!

5. The author of Passage B would most likely agree with which of the following statements about Nunn?

A. His reputation as a mediocre director will be changed by his production of Oklahoma!
B. His production of Oklahoma! is typical of his work in the way it celebrates the simple life.
C. He is a major figure in the world of musicals, and his production of Oklahoma! is flawed.
D. He is a genius at finding new talent for roles that have traditionally been held by stars.

6. The reference to Utah in the discussion of the English version of a uniquely American play primarily serves to:

F. conjure up a state with a history of settlement sim-ilar to Oklahoma's.
G. suggest how small Britain is compared to the United States.
H. conjure up a wide-open landscape.
J. suggest that the story told in Oklahoma! pertains to other stales

7. To the author of Passage B, the actor who plays Laurey represents:

A. why a British production can't capture the essence of a musical concerned with the national character of the United States.
B. the universal appeal of Oklahoma! as a musical that celebrates a diversity of national identities.
C. the idea that Oklahoma! lends itself to endless reinvention.
D. the contrasts within an individual character that reflect the larger societal contrasts explored in Oklahoma!

8. A shared element of these two reviews of Oklahoma! is the

F. assertion that casting can play a crucial role in determining the show's success.
G. focus on how a theater professional from overseas interprets a classic of American culture.
H. eagerness to point out that the show succeeded in spite of minor disappointments.
J. opinion that set design can mask some shortcom-ings of the show

9. It is most reasonable to infer that the authors of Pas-sage A and Passage B would agree that for a director to reinterpret Oklahoma! for today's audiences is an act of:

A. courage, because the musical is both familiar and dated in ways that limit opportunities for making a significant positive impression on audiences.
B. foolishness, because the original is so powerful that attempts to improve upon it amount to med-dling with something that isn't broken.
C. arrogance, because it suggests that audiences aren't able on their own to relate a piece from an earlier era to their own lives.
D. respect, because doing so acknowledges that the play deserves a richer treatment than its original cast members were able to accomplish.

10. Unlike the last paragraph of Passage B, the last para-graph of Passage A:

F. focuses on the audience's reaction to the production.
G. bluntly expresses the author's disappointment in the production.
H. minimizes the director's role in the production's outcome.
J. conveys appreciation for the director and cast of the production