Actors Confess the Topics They Want to Tackle Through Theatre

Special Features   Actors Confess the Topics They Want to Tackle Through Theatre It's been said many times: “Art can change people’s minds.” We asked the actors at MCC’s Miscast Gala what they would talk about if they could change the conversation.
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While Miscast has given us unforgettable performances from Broadway’s best in roles they would never actually play, the gala is an evening to support and celebrate MCC Theater. Founded in 1986 as Manhattan Class Company, the theatre company is known for groundbreaking theatre that changes the public conversation. Led by co-artistic directors Robert LuPone, Bernard Telsey, William Cantler and executive director Blake West, the company has brought us such play as Hand to God, reasons to be pretty and more. The artists in attendance that night, including honoree Marisa Tomei, who got her acting start in MCC‘s Beirut, know that art truly has the power to change people‘s minds. So: If these actors could start any conversation through theatre, what would it be about?

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Gavin Creel
I want to start a conversation about community activism. Just people getting involved in their local—and maybe state—but just our local communities in something that they’re passionate about. For myself and for other people, it’s easy in New York to just think that the [political] machine is for us to hop on board. I’d like to find a way to make theatre talk about how we can be more active in our communities.

Ana Villafañe
To be honest, I’m new to the theatre community, and I’m actually quite impressed with the way theatre is the one community that really understands that fight for equality and that fight for the underdog. There is such a mutual respect for people who are the performers [and] who are the creatives. Anyone in theatre, there’s a level of integrity. You just can’t fake it. Ever since getting to New York and being a part of this, I’ve realized how Broadway does it kind of right. There are so many other industries that don’t.

Geneva Carr
I think art allows us to articulate the feelings that we are not allowed to speak about in real life, and MCC does that in every single show that they do. Hand to God was about that, about facing your demons. But if you look at something like The Nether, which was a really interesting play, it was, again, about things we’re afraid to say that we feel, so they’re expressed in an unhealthy way because we don’t talk about them. Everything they do is such daring, cutting-edge theatre that the throughline for me is: Onstage they face things that in real life we’re too afraid of. I love what they do. For years I’ve been a fan.

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I think sometimes sexuality. Did you see the play that Greta Gerwig did last year? She made her stage debut, and I would have given out every award they give. She was fantastic. It’s called The Village Bike, and it was about a woman who was afraid to express her true desires sexually, and I think that [MCC] faces this—whether it’s straight, gay, whether they’ll even do something transgender—but really about: What do you feel, and how do you express it, and if you don’t really express it, what happens?

Marisa Tomei
It’s hard to say because I don’t think things should be didactic, and I love the way that MCC does things. Anything around women’s rights [and] sexism that you can’t see.

Aaron Tveit
You know, I think that it’s a very sad thing that race in this day and age is such a difficult thing that’s sometimes swept under the rug. I think that the more we can get young people to recognize the problems that exist in this country, I think that’s better for our future.

Lea Salonga
Oh my gosh. Well, with the political landscape being what it is and things not seeming all that fantastic, I think something that really delves into [and] something that really fosters understanding [between the sides] because right now it almost seems like it’s against that dynamic when it shouldn’t be. So maybe a piece that really broadens our understanding [of each other], so that people will not be so prejudiced and a little more openhearted.

Ruthie Fierberg is the Features Editor at Playbill.com. She has also written for Backstage, Parents and American Baby, including dozens of interviews with celeb moms and dads for parents.com. See more at ruthiefierberg.com and follow her on Twitter at @RuthiesATrain.

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