An arts community backlash appears to explain why two high-profile theatre directors have decided to back away from a series of events at this year's PuSh International Performing Arts Festival.
PuSh Rally curators Marcus Youssef and Maiko Yamamoto, along with producer Dani Fecko, said in a statement that they are "stepping down from our contracts", effective immediately.
They acknowledged that since they released the PuSh Rally program, they've received "a lot of feedback from people we respect about what we planned and how we framed it".
"This included artists withdrawing from the Rally program," they stated. "While we understand this information might be out of context for those who are not local arts workers, we have come to believe that what we programmed is actually hindering attempts to resolve conflict."
The trio acknowledged in their statement that they "made mistakes", including referring to ruptures at the PuSh festival in 2020 in their promotional materials.
"At our request, PuSh has agreed not to move forward with the programming we have curated," they said. "We do this with great respect for our local community of arts workers and apologize to those our actions have hurt. We thank those who reached out to share their experiences and perspectives."
The PuSh team issued a statement at the same time saying that they stand behind the decision not to proceed.
"We now understand that some of the previously announced programming has negatively impacted and hurt members of our community, and for this, we are deeply sorry," the team said. "We also acknowledge the significant amount of work that PuSh as an organization still needs to do in an attempt to heal and rebuild its relationships within the arts community."
In an interview with the Straight that appeared in this week's print edition, Youssef outlined how the PuSh Rally was going to expand the parameters of artistic discourse by focusing on identity, inclusion, and privilege.
The lineup included New York intellectual Sarah Schulman, who's written a history of the ACT Up movement, Inuit artist Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, and Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury.
Drury's Fairview explores race relations in America and the overwhelming whiteness of theatre audiences.
The PuSh Rally included local artists, including writer, actor, and director Carmen Aguirre. But from the statements, it's possible to conclude that there may not have been enough local artists to satisfy the community.
"We were thinking of the Rally as bigger-picture and outward-looking and hoped it would be a platform to foster conversation, but we failed to take into account how this would affect people we care about in our local artistic community," Youssef, Yamamoto, and Fecko said.