Torrington Theater cancels ‘I’m my own wife’ after outcry over casting of non-transgender actor


TORRINGTON – The outcry from the transgender community over the choice of the Warner Theater for the lead role in the scheduled performances of the solo play “I Am My Own Wife” resulted in the show being canceled. . “

The 2004 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning drama written by Doug Wright tells the story of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, a 65-year-old German transgender woman who survived the onslaught of the Nazis and the repressive East German Communist regime. The Warner show was supposed to feature an actor who is not transgender.

Using more than 30 characters all played by one person, Wright reconstructs the stories of Charlotte’s riveting and controversial life, according to the Warner.

When the theater posted an announcement for the upcoming show on its Facebook page, readers expressed outrage that the role would be played by a non-transgender actor, T. Sean Maher. Others said it didn’t matter and that it was more important to use the right person to play the role of Charlotte, no matter how they identified themselves.

Some people have berated the theater for giving in to “canceling the culture”, referring to the practice of withdrawing support from someone or something due to outside pressure.

After an avalanche of comments, Warner Theater General Manager Rufus de Rham decided to cancel “I’m My Own Wife”.

“Sometimes it takes outside voices to make us look inside at the values ​​we hold as an organization,” said de Rham. “We have heard and appreciate the voices calling and educating us on the issues of presenting a cis man in ‘I am my own woman’ as a trans woman, from our own local community and the wider community. at national scale.

“Cis” refers to “cisgender,” a term used to describe people whose gender identity matches the one assigned to them at birth.

Tickets for the production are no longer on sale.

“We have reached out to our community to identify consultants who can work with staff and leaders to increase our own cultural skills and provide training,” said de Rham.

Natalie Weiss, a transgender actress from Lincoln, in the Neb., Who recently starred in a production of “I’m My Own Wife,” heard of the reactions to the planned Warner show from Friends.

“I am a transgender woman who had the privilege of playing ‘I Am My Own Wife’ at the Omaha Community Playhouse late last year,” she said. “A friend of mine had an article on the Warner series, and someone commented that Warner made a horrible casting decision for the series, and I said ‘What?’

Weiss noted that transgender people have been excluded from roles for many years, “except to play prostitutes or the dead,” she said. “I think it’s important for a production house or a theater to go out of their way to audition trans people and make casting decisions for those kinds of roles.

“People have been telling our stories for a long time,” Weiss said. “However, this particular spectacle is unique. There’s one person and over 30 roles, and there are cis male roles, and seven or eight accents that need to be designed into the performance. When it comes to regional theater, live theater, resources and casting decisions are hard to come by. So when it comes to this particular show, the concern should be to make sure you find someone who can do it. It’s such a demanding role.

“Theaters should do their best to attract a trans person, but if you find someone who can play all of these characters, I don’t think that’s something production houses should be afraid to do,” says -it. “Trans people should be preferred, but trans roles are not just for trans people.”

As more and more people focus on the LGBTQ community, Weiss said, things are changing in the world of theater.

“Ten years ago you wouldn’t have had this kind of backlash,” she said. “We’ve been putting a lot of emphasis on ourselves over the past decade and we’re finally feeling comfortable standing up for ourselves. There are a lot of legitimate concerns in the trans part of a community.

Canceling “I am my own wife” was a very difficult decision, said de Rham.

“It’s a decision that is part of the larger conversation taking place about the world of art, theater, film … about the importance of casting and representation for communities,” said from Rham. “We’re not intimidated and it’s not about canceling culture. It is a response to what we are hearing. We heard from members of our own community in Northwestern Connecticut, who contacted privately. “

De Rham said he felt very bad for Maher and the show’s director, Katharine Ray. “The director and the actor took months to rehearse, with compassion for their profession,” he said. “That being said, we’re not going to hesitate to tell some stories.”

He called the whole situation an important learning experience.

“While the intentions to present our community with stories that would promote conversation are good, the impact of our decisions is not mitigated by the intentions. It is a learning experience and part of the process that we take seriously as an organization and hope that this dialogue will continue, ”he said. “A few people were aggressive and overly antagonistic, but most said, ‘Here’s why we think this is a problem.’ He came from a place of bridge building and empathy.

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