More Brush practice!
After meeting with members of our coalition the New Group has released the following statement:
To SALGA, GAPIMNY, Q-WAVE, QASAPI, and NQAPIA
Thank you for meeting with us the other day. It was very valuable to hear your perspective and to talk through the issues that you raised.
We would like to state that we understand and appreciate the seriousness of your concerns about the depiction of violence directed at transgender and queer people, particularly in the light of the epidemic of violence against transgender and queer people of color here in New York City and around the world. We truly value the work that groups like SALGA, GAPIMNY, Q-WAVE, QASAPI, and NQAPIA do to make things safer for this community.
We deeply regret that some elements of the story in the musical we have presented, BUNTY BERMAN PRESENTS…, inadvertently caused pain to members of your community. We stand by our artists and their work, whose work was created and intended with the greatest respect and love for trans and queer culture, as well as for the Indian culture that it depicts. But we are sorry that there were things in the piece that did not come across to you in that spirit, and are saddened by that effect. At the same time, we are glad for the chance to look more closely at these issues, and we look forward to finding constructive ways to address them in the future.
Scott Elliott, Ian Morgan and The New Group
India Abroad is the oldest and largest paid Asian Indian publication in the US.
Chaya Babu covers the controversy surrounding Bunty Berman Presents and names the community’s concerns. This is a key opportunity for a teaching moment for both the theatre and the South Asian community.
Except for the characters’ ethnicity, however, there is hardly anything of India in the telling. Directed by Scott Elliott for the New Group, the story is presented like a wacky backstage-Broadway Hollywood movie of the thirties, but without any satirical wit, and the songs are low-grade American-musical boilerplate. The charms of classic Bollywood cinema are barely hinted at; when referenced at all, they’re mainly ridiculed.
There is very little Indian theatre available in New York. So a misguided musical like Bunty Berman Presents ends up doing disservice to India, its art and culture
Under Elliott’s direction, Khan-Din’s writing appears to be a spoof on India’s Hindi film industry, although it is not clear if that is the aim of the play. Indian cinema has an odd reputation in New York and in other parts of the US.
Most Americans do not see Indian films, and they especially do not regard popular Hindi films as a serious art form. So now we have a show — albeit not a strong production, that appears to make fun of Indian cinema that many in the audience do not take seriously.
Then last week a series of emails went out. A group of LGBT actors and activists felt that the Bunty Berman Presents was wrong in projecting a transgender character as the villain.
So a misguided musical like Bunty Berman Presents ends up doing disservice to India, its art and culture. And this does not sound right for an artist like Khan-Din who once showed so much promise.
We are so pleased to announce that our coalition once again continues to grow with the addition of SALGA-NYC, a New York City organization for Queer South Asians, as a signatory on our open letter. Much thanks to SALGA-NYC for taking a stand against transphobia and colonialism in our media!
SALGA-NYC joins community organizations, advocacy groups and artists from South Asian, theatre, queer and activist communities in condemning The New Group’s racist, homophobic and transphobic production “Bunty Berman Presents.” As one of the oldest queer South Asian organizations in the country, we feel a responsibility to point out the harm that this play causes our community; by portraying queer and transgender South Asians as violent, deceitful and untrustworthy, “Bunty Berman Presents” perpetuates tired stereotypes that place our communities at increased risk of violence and harm. We urge our community members to join us in protesting this play, and in demanding more responsible and thoughtful theater - we deserve better.
Thank you to everyone who has been coming out to support our direct action against The New Group and its transphobic, colonialist musical, “Bunty Berman Presents…”. From the beginning, we have always approached our direct action as a civil and positive campaign. It is unfortunate that several people who claimed to be associated with the production resorted to hurling anti-gay slurs and curses (i.e. “c***suckers,” f***faces, etc.) at us simply for politely voicing our dissent. We are encouraged by the majority of audience members who have thanked us for coming out and opening the dialogue, and gave us words of encouragement. We simply have deep concerns about this musical’s content and want to provide audience members sufficient context to come to their own opinions.
We are pleased that our coalition continues to grow with the addition of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) joining us as signatories on our open letter. We feel vindicated that many reviews that have come out since our campaign began also recognize the lack of authentic Indian culture in the production. While some reviewers have noticed the homophobic notes throughout the musical, we remain committed to criticizing the violent, transphobic messaging in the musical.
We also wish to reiterate our support of the performers in the production, and hope that the creative team will give them better content to perform.
We are glad that The New Group has now reached out to our organizers for a meeting in the next week. While we are disappointed such a meeting was not made before the musical opened, when changes could have been made to rectify the harmful messages, we hope that the creative team is sincere in its desire to engage in constructive dialogue with community leaders.
Thank you again to everyone who has shared, reblogged and linked to our tumblr. Please continue to volunteer, share, and put pressure on The New Group until our community demands are met. We are making a difference in ending transphobia and colonialism in our media. Thank you!
Despite director Scott Elliott’s attempts to pump the heart factor, no one can surmount the convoluted plot and creaky humor, which has a recurring strain of homophobia.