A couple weeks ago I came across a press release that struck me as ridiculously racist. The show was Classic Stage Company’s production of Brecht’s Mother Courage. The hook was that the play (by a white dude), directed by Brian Kulick (a white dude), had original music by the incomparable white dude Duncan Sheik, starring not-white-dude Tonya Pinkins, but was set in CONGO! Because contemporary!
Anyway, tonight a friend came up to me at a bar and asked, “On, have you heard the controversy?”
“No…?” I responded.
It turns out Pinkins has left this star-white-studded production of Mother Courage.
It’s a mystery as to why.
(In case you’ve forgotten your Mother Courage, it’s a story about a profiteering woman who makes her money off a seemingly endless war, by selling out to any and every end. Some moral compromises are required when it comes to the lives of her children…but she powers through! The iconic final image is the titular character in full-on Christ mode tugging her profiteering wagon through the nightmare of war for no other reason than her own benefit. A white director read this play by a white playwright and decided to commission a white composer to write a no-doubt shitty pop rock score for his new production, which required Tonya Pinkins–as Mother Courage herself–to perform the exploitation of black bodies in the contemporary conflicts in the Congo.
TheatreMania’s report notes she “had drafted a statement regarding her reasons for leaving the production but that her lawyer discouraged her from publishing it. ”
It’s a great mystery what it might have said.)