OCTOBER 14, 2018

The Controversy over the Casting…

HERE’S OUR FACEBOOK POST AND YOUR RESPONSES: https://www.facebook.com/MotherroadTC/posts/10156099599543406?__tn__=K-R

Mother Road Company members have been buzzing behind the scenes today, having a conversation about the latest review of Our Town (in The Albuquerque Journal, link below). We believe a true critical voice is needed in this town to help theater-goers wade through the many performances currently on offer in our city. Anything that inspires healthy debate or pushes buttons is energizing to artists, and we are no exception.

We have decided to respond to one of the issues Matthew Yde has raised in his Albuquerque Journal review. We’ve never done this before. If there has been a review we have disagreed with we either published it or not, which is our choice. As every patron knows, their experience with any play or artistic venture is subjective. We understand it and applaud it. Below is the issue and why we feel we need to respond.

Matthew Yde writes: 
“The play has sometimes been criticized for its 'white bread sentimentality.' It’s anything but sentimental; in fact, I think Wilder is too hard on, even contemptuous of, the small-town folks who make up the characters of the play. But there is no question that 1901 rural New Hampshire was very white. The directors have countered this by gender- and race-neutral casting. It’s an interesting idea, but for the most part, it does not work… I hate to say it, but this is a play in which typecasting really aids the production.”

Below is a compilation of Mother Road Company responses to the review:

- We believe the cast reflects our time, our place, and our community.
- We hope that “typecasting” is not reflective of who we are as a theatre company and isn't reflective of the diverse talent that exists in our community; diversity that is so often overlooked for these types of roles. 
- We feel that there is considerable value in reimagining the past through the lens of progress.
- We feel the play CAN be about their town (a white bread community in 1901, rural New Hampshire, where the minority culture are the Polish), but it can also be about OUR town, right here, right now.

The reason why this play has endured through the decades is precisely because it is NOT about one community or people. It has been produced in countries throughout the world for years. They did not produce the play with all-white casts. Of course not. Because that's not ultimately what the play is about.

We take exception to the narrow-minded view that this play is only about people in America who are white, and that it's not appropriate to have a diverse cast. The themes are universal. We live in a universe that is rich and diverse and we intended for our production to reflect that. In fact, Wilder himself said that the play "is not offered as a picture of life in a New Hampshire village; or as a speculation about conditions of life after death...It is an attempt to find a value above all price for the smallest events of our daily life.”

During the first weekend of the show, we have personally been stopped and thanked for our diverse casting. One woman told us how much she appreciated seeing herself up there on stage. One of the students who saw our show during the play date program also said to us that it was one of his favorite parts of the show. It looked like his community.

Did we seek out and ask actors of color and diverse ethnicities to come play with us? Absolutely. This is a play for which we feel diversity and conscious casting are imperative if you have eyes to see the world around you. You can say you didn’t like someone’s performance: that is subjective. But please let’s stop talking about conscious casting as inaccurate for a particular piece. Let’s make it a non-issue. Let’s make it the norm.

"Indeed, the play’s success across cultural borders around the world attests to its being something much greater than an American play: it is a play that captures the universal experience of being alive." 
– Donald Margulies in the Foreword to Our Town

– Statement by members of Mother Road Theatre Company:
Julia ThudiumVic BrowderKristín HansenChristopher GonzalesJen StephensonPip LustgartenKelly O'Keefe, Kelsey Ann O'Keefe, Cynthia C. CisnerosJessica QuindlenMark FrederickChristopher HallAmy Bourque, Brennan Foster

JOURNAL REVIEW LINK - https://www.abqjournal.com/…/mother-road-presents-updated-o…

Our Town Cast .jpg