Home > Playwright Posts > Matthew Paul Olmos on the cancellation of his play in Washington, D.C.

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:


Matthew Paul Olmos


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

Categories: Playwright Posts
  1. Suzy
    January 15, 2012 at 9:56 am

    This IS disappointing on a personal scale, and alarming on a societal one. Matt’s observation that “people don’t even expect change anymore, they instead go back and forth passionately about what level of clogged is an acceptable amount” is sad, regrettable and chilling. This point on passionate co-dependent inertia begs the question who is responsible for cultural, political, economic gridlock. Change can only happen when that spark of need and determination fires between the individual and the individual’s community. It takes one to produce the other. And right now we are a country of locked souls.

  2. January 15, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    How clogged is an acceptable level of clogged? How apt. Thank you for sharing.

  3. January 16, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    Very sorry to hear this. We are disappointed for Matt, who is a wonderful playwright with an expansive theatrical vision. The points he makes are valid and sad. We know that in time, Matt will have the recognition he deserves. When that time comes, the memory of this incident will undoubtedly lead him to extend a helping hand to emerging playwrights as yet unknown. Knowing Matt, we know he will persevere.

  4. January 18, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    As a fierce advocate of Mr. Olmos’ work (and as a company that has canceled programming due to a lack of funding), we are saddened by this news, but empathetic regarding the situation. It seems that Mr. Olmos has taken the news like a champ, and with an empathy for the Producer that can be hard to come by. It is easy for us to sit on the other side of the glass house and throw stones, but the truth is, GALA’s decision was not an easy one… they are struggling just like everyone else, and at the end of the day they need to make ends meet so that they can live to produce Mr. Olmos another day. Everyone wants to push the edges, be experimental, live in the unknown… but this is a recession. Funding is low, and audience turnout is not what it used to be… Perhaps playing it safe now is what allows GALA to Produce “edgier” work in the future. We wish the best of luck to both GALA, Mr. Olmos, and to all our partners in the arts who fight the good fight every single day.

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