Last week Bainbridge Performing Arts pulled its production of Woody Allen's Bullets Over Broadway, a musical he adapted from his Oscar Award-winning film by the same name. BPA had originally scheduled the musical for May of 2018, but now board members and staff will meet near the end of this month to decide what to produce instead.
In a statement, BPA executive director Dominique Cantwell explained the theater's reason for canceling: "Given our national conversation about how women are treated or mistreated by men in positions of power, and given that Woody Allen has placed himself very publicly on what we consider the opposing side of the issue and has been advocating against a 'witch hunt' of the men perpetrating this culture of abuse, we have decided that we cannot promote or support him by paying royalties for his work.”
Cantwell said the theater would have to pay "several thousand dollars" to Music Theatre International for rights to the show, but she didn't know what Allen's cut of the royalties would have been.
Mia Farrow accused Woody Allen of molesting their daughter, Dylan Farrow, who was seven years old at the time, back in 1993. Twenty-one years after that, in an open letter published in the New York Times, Dylan Farrow told the story of her molestation and the experience of being silenced as a survivor of sexual assault.
"Last week, Woody Allen was nominated for his latest Oscar. But this time, I refuse to fall apart," Farrow wrote. "For so long, Woody Allen’s acceptance silenced me. It felt like a personal rebuke, like the awards and accolades were a way to tell me to shut up and go away. But the survivors of sexual abuse who have reached out to me – to support me and to share their fears of coming forward, of being called a liar, of being told their memories aren’t their memories – have given me a reason to not be silent, if only so others know that they don’t have to be silent either."
Allen denies these allegations, but all of them—as well as his marriage to Farrow's adopted sister, Soon-Yi— were highly publicized in the press or else immortalized in movies written by Allen himself, but none of it was enough to stop the programmers at BPA from choosing Bullets Over Broadway in the first place.
Cantwell called the programming process "a fairly inclusive deliberation with board and staff" that involved "probably around 15 people" in a room. They selected the piece because "the subject matter was light-hearted, fun, and the music was really good," but Cantwell admits they "didn’t give as much thought to its creator at the time as we should have."
Though she couldn't speak for everyone in the room, Cantwell said she wasn't aware of detailed sexual abuse allegations against Allen. "I grew up as a kid with the evening news, and I heard his name, and it wasn’t favorable, but I wasn’t an adult when these kinds of things were going on. My parents were trying to keep this kind of thing from me. I didn’t have an awareness of it. It was something I was aware of, but I hadn’t read the piece in the New York Times—I didn’t know a whole lot about it. In the last year, I’ve taken some time to do some reading, and I’m really pretty shocked and upset," she said.
"But it’s never too late to do the right thing," Cantwell continued, "Even if it’s a small thing, and even if you’ll be clobbered for not having done it sooner."
Though their statement only condemns Allen's remarks, Cantwell wanted to make it clear that BPA canceled the production for "everything leading up to [those remarks,]" as well, but said that Allen's apparent sympathy for Harvey Weinstein initiated the conversation about dropping the show.
Cantwell said the theater plans to apply more scrutiny to the kinds of plays and authors they produce. "The performing arts are a good tool for launching conversations. We like to produce work that gets people talking. But we’d rather they be talking about the concepts in the work rather than the authors, so certainly this is going to be a question going forward," she said.