I want to preface this post by saying that I love my school. I really do. I truly believe in the work that we do there and the things I have learned, but this is not an issue I agree with.
A few months ago, I stood in a room filled with all of the underclassmen in my program. I was the only upperclassman in the room. I stood against the wall, towards the door, and said nothing. I am so sorry that I said nothing.
In that meeting, the person* running it lectured the room about what it means to be a good artist. They talked about working past differences and asking people who you disagree with to do scenes with you. About deciding what your morals are, but understanding that if you’re not willing to work with everyone, someone will come along and take your place. They talked about how the upperclassmen, including my year, are so caught up in politics and making a statement that we have lost our artistry, and that there is another department for people who want to be activists, but it’s not this one.
My theatre program talks a lot about what it means to be an artist. We talk about making meaningful art and setting your differences aside to come together and open the doors to creativity. But this was not about who votes red and who votes blue. This was about sexual assault.
About a month ago someone I know posted on Facebook about Casey Affleck. The post read something like this: “If you choose to rape or sexually assault or harass another person, you give up your ability to make meaningful art.” And I have to agree with her. I refuse to say “He sexually harassed someone” and “He makes amazing art” in the same breath. They do not cancel each other out.
Thinking back to that room, I should have said something. I should have raised my voice and said, “no. I disagree. I don’t want to work with someone who I believe sexually assaulted my peers. I don’t want to make art with them. I do not want to wait for a jury to decide if he’s guilty or not. Morally, I do not agree with what he’s already admitted to doing. So what if I lose out on a role? I don’t want to work with someone like that.” So to every single person in that room, particularly every woman, I am so sorry I stayed silent.
I am so tired of feeling like I have to choose between being an activist or an artist. I am saddened that this is the place many schools, including my own, force their students into. And I wholeheartedly and openly and loudly reject that idea. I can be both. We all can be both. And we should be.
Question whitewashing of shows like In The Heights, walk away from the roles or the people or the places that go against what you believe in, and do not feel pressured by anyone to make art with rapists. I love this art, I love telling stories, I love creating new worlds, but I love doing what’s right much more. And if this art doesn’t allow room for both, I am confident in what I stand by. I’m just sorry I didn’t say it sooner.
*This post is not meant to be about the person holding the meeting or the school itself, but more about what I learned that day and my struggle with speaking up in certain environments.