Friday, January 22, 2016

Ms Aguirre Needs to Know When to Shut the F**k Up

Carmen Aguirre is a local playwright and actor. She is Latina, she is political, smart, a dedicated thespian and an active social advocate.

The Motherf  F**ker with the Hat is a play currently playing at the Firehall. The five-person play has three Latino characters; only one character is portrayed by a Latino actor in the Vancouver production and that irks Aguirre. She inaugurated a campaign to shame the producers.  

Here is a woman who has spent her adult life in theatre and seems to have lost her understanding of one of the basic tenants of her chosen profession. This is theatre, Ms Aguirre, where belief is willingly suspended.  

Right now I am thinking of the straight actor, Jared Leto. He played a gay transsexual in Dallas Buyer’s Club with warmth and sensitivity. His performance thrilled everyone and when he won his Oscar for his performance, at the end of an elegant speech he said: “This is for Rayon [his character’s name in the film] and transgendered people everywhere.” I was really touched; it felt truly sincere.

I felt the power of his accomplished statement. I, a gay man, felt grateful to him for advocating for my marginalized “brothers” with such brevity and grace.

Transformation is the magic ingredient of acting and where I get my thrills.

Marion Cotillard is not a double amputee yet she was startlingly believable in Rust and Bone. It is a tribute to her acting and the special effects team that she is totally believable in every frame.

In A Long Way Down, Toni Collet plays the mother of a severely disabled son. The son is played by a disabled actor and it felt right to hire him for this non-speaking part that calls for sever mobility restrictions to increase the sense of burden on the mother’s character. In this case, specific “type” casting felt ethically right.

Yes, I have used film situations to address a concern about stage casting but my point is, I believe, valid. Now I am thinking of the play, Bent. In every production I have seen of this story about gay persecution, the leads have been played by gay men.  It was around 1982 that I saw it for the first time and it meant a lot to me that the actors were gay because the holocaust was effectively serving my emotions to help me understand the AIDS epidemic and social reaction to it.

Clearly there are times to link disbelief and reality to great theatrical advantage. There are also times when giving actors the chance to become characters far removed from their reality gives us, their audiences, the tremendous satisfaction of seeing an actor achieve brilliant transformation. 

Ms Aguirre needs to know when to fight her battles and when to shut the f**k up.

Social concerns such as racial equity and representation are sensitive topics. This post goes bravely where I should probably not go as a white male who has not seen the show or read the script. It is a huge topic into which I have not gone deeply. I just think Ms Aguirre is wrong in this case; it key be as a Latina she has lost her perspective. Fair enough. She's entitled to her opinion. There are too many ideas in my mind on this subject; to put them all here would be serious work that I currently don't want to undertake. But I may come back to it. "Parody" for instance requires very sensitive casting.

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