Some of you may know that there has been some level of controversy surrounding Theatre Cedar Rapids’ (TCR’s) production of Tribes. Here’s a piece from the Iowa Theatre Blog that summarizes the situation nicely.
I didn’t really intend to talk about this. For one thing, others had already discussed it nicely in posts like the one above. For another, for better or worse the flames of controversy had somewhat died down to an ember. Unfortunately, that’s when the artistic director of TCR decided to throw a barrel of gasoline on the fire in a post that is shocking in its ugliness. I’ve screen shotted it and attached them, and have sent contacted TCR, the local media who reported on the situation, Dramatists as rights holder, and other parties who have written on the issue. I’m not going to link directly to the post. You can probably find it on your own and there’s a lovefest going on in it that would turn your stomach.
In short, TCR’s AD uses the fact that she had cancer to justify discrimination and to silence any criticism, and she expresses contempt towards a marginalized community for daring to expect that a story about that community be told with their participation. No, seriously – as hard as it might be to believe, that’s what she does.
I’m sorry she had to deal with cancer. No one should have to deal with it. I’ve lost close family to it. But if the cancer prevented her from properly doing her job, then she should have reassigned duties to someone else capable of performing them. I know how local theatre works; I would be stunned if no one had offered to help her. And as sorry as I am that she had to deal with cancer, I’m even sorrier she seems to think cancer gives her the right to post a toxic, hateful sreed.
Let’s look at the passages she ends with:
“And the Deaf community all over the fucking world jumped on my ass because I prevented the hordes of Deaf actors in the Cedar Rapids area from auditioning for a play that the Deaf community alone understands and therefore has the exclusive right to do.
So that’s the scoop. I’m sorry, everyone. I’m sorry, Deaf community, that I got a bunch of cancers and fucked everything up. I’m sorry that I let that shit get in the way of my outreach toward you and yours. I’m sorry that that ugly disease clouded my judgement for a moment and made me think that artists get to do art…without asking permission…without apologizing. If you’ll forgive me, I promise to do better by you in the future by fending off that stupid old cancer and keeping my eye on the prize, the Deaf community of Eastern Iowa.”
Again, I’m sorry for her illness. But it’s shameful and disgusting to use that illness to justify discrimination, and it’s shameful and disgusting to use that illness in an attempt to silence a marginalized community. Indeed, it would be difficult for her to be more insulting to either the deaf community or to other cancer survivors.
Those passages guarantee that TCR is not going to be able to perform this play and discuss the issues this play raises with any sensitivity. These passages guarantee that no deaf actors in the area are ever going to come forward for any TCR production. These passages guarantee that members of any other marginalized group are never going to be able to trust TCR to tell their stories. The only way TCR can possibly hope to mend the damage she has caused is to cancel the production and, if she isn’t willing to voluntarily step down as artistic director, fire her. There really are no other alternatives for TCR at this point.
I have never worked with TCR. I would like to – I’ve auditioned in the past and I was going to audition for Beauty and the Beast – but I will not do so as long as she is with TCR. I will also not attend any TCR shows as long as she remains with the theatre. It is a stance I urge others to take, and in addition to that, a stance I’d suggest is absolutely essential to the health of local theatre. If TCR is unwilling to listen to the deaf community, then perhaps they will listen to the hearing community.