A guest post by Alexander Sparrow:
We are being silenced.
I am a centre-right comic. Views like mine – and yours, presumably – are censored in theatres in New Zealand. This cannot continue.
We can’t even be portrayed onstage. Political satire at the expense of the left is ‘triggering’.
Here’s one example. It’s a reply to the pitch for my show, DJ Trump, from the programme manager of The Basement, Auckland.
Kia ora Alexander,
Thank you for getting in touch. Myself and our team member that attended your production had a lengthy conversation about your work and we felt we should pass on some thoughts to consider.
Whilst we fully support artists who push artistic boundaries, who create material that maybe deemed controversial, who challenge the audience and provoke them, DJ Trump, sat somewhat uncomfortably with us. We read through the reviews for the work following this, and fully agree that your performance as Trump is detailed, sharp, precise and showcases your craft, and the audience on the night that Basement came along seemed to really enjoy Trump’s company.
Our concern around the production and why we differ from the opinions of the reviewer is that we feel that the work could be seen as endorsing Trump’s behaviour. It was also interesting that two gentlemen who were pro Trump supporters attended the same night that Basement came along and were not laughing at him, but with him. This made our staff member feel vulnerable and to be honest genuinely uncomfortable as all of Trumps jibes, insults and attacks towards women and minorities were being supported by these members of the audience. Perhaps they were playing along, but it made us question what the show was trying to achieve.
In summary, our fear in programming this work at Basement is that the intended irony/humour has the danger of getting lost in performance.
That was a sold-out show.
Here is a second example. This is from the programme manager at BATS Theatre, Wellington.
Thanks for your response. The reason I was asking was I didn’t want to make you go to the trouble of filling out a pitch form for the DJ Trump show when you already sent that to me.
I have to be really honest with you and I hope there is no offence taken. I’m not really interested in representing Donald Trump at BATS. I personally find him an incredibly offensive individual and I just think his politics are far from the kaupapa of BATS, especially in the midst of #metoo. When I programmed Trump in 2016, it was to align with the election coverage and of course I, like most people had no expectation, that he would be victorious so it was operating very much for me in the realm of satire. The reality is much more depressing. I personally would not feel comfortable putting on a show that gives him any more attention.
This is difficult for me for me, because this has nothing to do with you as a performer or the theatre you are making, but I just feel like there are other venues in town that would be more suited to this kind of work at this time.
Happy to chat with you further on the phone.
My last three Trump performances at BATS (in 2016’s The President) sold out.
I’m not a Trump supporter, I’m a satirist. I can portray Trump in political satire without representing/pushing his beliefs, in the same way that Robert Carlyle can play Hitler without actually being anti-Semitic. It’s called acting.
God forbid theatre managers actually entertaining and engaging in meaningful discussion with the audience members they disagree with, i.e. doing their job. If you aren’t hard left, you’re left out.
You can fix this.
Demand representative theatre and comedy. And if you don’t get it, refuse to support those acts, venues, and performers who deem you fit for constant ridicule, and will not allow you the chance to laugh back.
If you are always the butt of the joke, and your jokes are not allowed to be heard, you are not being entertained. You are being bullied.
If you refuse to stage critically acclaimed work because you disagree with the opinions portrayed, you are not a theatre manager. You are a bigot.
No matter what your political affiliation, you owe it to yourself to demand high quality work that offers you a wide range of viewpoints – including those you disagree with. Whether left or right-wing, force theatres to review their judgemental standards, and open yourself to listening to the other side.
Theatre that takes everyone into account?
Now we’re talking.
Alexander Sparrow is an award-winning character comic.