Tonya Pinkins walking out of the Off-Broadway production, Mother Courage and Her Children, has made clear the difficulties that can occur when artists of varying perspectives collaborate, particularly when sensitive topics like diversity are part of the mix. As further proof of the nuances involved, Michael Potts, another actor from the production, recently gave his behind-the-scenes perspective about what happened during the rehearsal process:
I’ve tried to avoid this, but I see things spiraling out of control. Two issues are being conflated. The first, #BlackPerspectivesMatter, in which she is completely correct and I wholeheartedly support. The polemic she sets forth in her incredibly well composed statement on race and sex in the theater, is spot on. The second, the Mother Courage rehearsal process is pure hyperbole…
…Of course, there were honest creative differences as in any other creative endeavor. However, no one was ever muzzled, rebuked, rebuffed, made voiceless or enslaved.
Put simply, Tonya wanted to move in an entirely different direction once the show was already rehearsed and set. It was too late in the game to re-rehearse a concept.
By way of contrast, playwright Larry Kramer, a friend of Pinkins, released a statement of support for her today which reads, in part:
i totally support you in this necessary stance and confrontation. rarely have i read such ‘artistic’ bullshit as kulick is vomiting out. doing productions of shakespeare or opera classics in modern settings does not allow for editing out an hour of text. how dare the fucker! that is not “collaborative” working it out together. that is fascistic stupidity.
Finally, on January 2, Pinkins responded to Potts’ statement in a back-and-forth with him that she concluded with:
You speak to your perspective as a man in the room. The patriarchy always thinks it can tell a women what to think and feel and interpret when her No is a ‘Yes’.
It looks like this is a conversation that will need to be developed in long-form especially as it involves the diffuse boundary between politics and art. What are your views? Share them below.