Matthew Paul Olmos on the cancellation of his play in Washington, D.C.
Yesterday, The Washington Post published this article about GALA Hispanic Theatre’s cancellation of Matthew Paul Olmos’ new play, “I Put The Fear of Mexico In ‘Em.” GALA’s action to “postpone” this production has sparked a controversial conversation in the new play community on twitter, facebook, and email, as well as other blog responses.
Matt is a four-time OMPF alum, a personal friend, and an important young playwright who is widely respected throughout the theatre community. Here’s his official response:
It’s not such an event for a theater company to cancel a production because of a loss of funding. It happens all the time. I know the business/managerial side of theater very well and I hope Gala is able to cultivate whatever funding they lost with more dependable sources. It is also a key perspective which Karen Zacarias put so thoughtfully about this discussion how Gala is not necessarily “plugged into the new play scene here in the US,” and “their subscriber base is more responsive to their work in Spanish…especially the classical work.“ It is completely understandable their decision to postpone my play, and to be honest, I didn’t have much of a reaction beyond disappointment when I found out. It won’t be the last time, I’m positive.
The reasons for it, however, do prompt a larger question about how difficult it is these days, to come by real “change.” From politics, to corporate systems, to the MTA, to our own personal lives, change is not an easy thing to get our hands on. Everybody wants it, talks about it, but it doesn’t always happen. How many times have we stayed at a job or in a relationship even though what our heart really wanted was something else? How many systems in the world are just clogged at the arteries, backed up with so many miles of red tape that people don’t even expect change anymore, they instead go back and forth passionately about what level of clogged is an acceptable amount.
And so there is this disconnect between the people and those that provide for the people; each of them waiting on the other to make some sort of move that will allow them both to get what they want. Specifically in the arts, we have people who enjoy culture waiting on artistic institutions to be bold in their ventures and present something ambitious and never-seen-before. Meanwhile, the artistic institutions are waiting for their audiences to show them that they have a true open’ness and willingness to something off the beaten path. As if some checker game, where it is locked and each player is waiting for the other to make a sacrifice in order to keep the game going.
Audiences will never be able to show theaters how far their tastes run if never given the chance, and theaters will never be able to take a chance if audiences are scared to leave their comfort zone. Producing new work requires work on both ends. How many new plays, by authors I didn’t know, without reviews, did I buy a ticket to this year (not got a comp, but actually paid for a full-priced ticket)? I can’t even think of one. So, it involves us going to work we’ve never heard of and not just going when we’ve all been but guaranteed that it will be worth our time and/or money.
It also involves theaters putting up work that “they” love and having faith that others will feel the same. It is about audiences not wanting everything to be easy; if a play is challenging and difficult to get inside, try harder, attempt to see what the artists are trying to do; don’t leave at intermission (I’m guilty). It is about theaters not being scared of our numbers, and us not idling by and instead actually using our numbers for the potency that they actually hold. In either case, the waiting game should be over, and it will be interesting to see what the next move.
-Matthew Paul Olmos