Story by Elizabeth Walztoni, Reporter
Photo courtesy of Circle Theatre
Circle Theatre, the local production group that shares Aquinas College’s Performing Arts Center, has announced a change in its programming for the 2018 season. The final show, running from September 6-22, was originally Woody Allen’s “Bullets Over Broadway”; the new concluding performance is Leonard Bernstein’s “On The Town.” The move is a result of recent public discussions about sexual assault and misconduct in the entertainment industry. Woody Allen was accused of molestation in 1992, a claim that was dismissed in court yet remains disputed and controversial today.
The programming decision was sparked by that of another community theater in Connecticut who made national news by replacing the same show. Circle volunteers were curious about their group’s feelings on the subject, leading to a discussion by the board of directors.
Noddea Skidmore, Director of Creative and Audience Development, summarizes their conclusion: “The accusations against Allen and the discourse that surrounds it have begun to cause a distraction that hinders our ability to present a closing show in our season that was originally placed there with good intent to entertain our audience.”
The group also wanted to support the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements present in the media today. Creating a positive atmosphere for performers and volunteers was an important component, specifically providing them “an opportunity to perform in a show where the focus remains upon their performance and the quality of the show itself.”
Selection of the replacement show, Leonard Bernstein’s “On The Town,” aimed to provide this opportunity to the widest range of individuals. The musical allows for casting of many appearances and ages in a high-energy, family-friendly production. On a practical level, the show also works with the established budget and the production crew (director, choreographer, etc.) already hired. It was a top contender for a recent season, according to previous Play Selection Committee records and results from past Audience Choice Ballots, and therefore promises to please audiences as well.
Many Aquinas students voiced their support of the decision and the Theatre’s stance. Circle has received over 100 statements of thanks and only a few in opposition from the community, according to Skidmore. Especially with such a positive reception, Circle Theatre plans to keep social concerns in mind.
Moving forward, Skidmore anticipates “big conversations” in evaluating shows for the 2019 season. “We at Circle believe that it is not in the hands of the people, but of the law, to pass judgement. However, we do believe that at this current time we all have a responsibility to be good listeners,” she says. When they listen, they learn about what matters to the community they have helped to build.
Auditions for “On The Town” will take place the first weekend in March; details are available at circletheatre.org.