German Production of ‘Clybourne Park’ Halted After Playwright Bruce Norris Learns of White Actress Playing a Role in Blackface

clybourne-parkThough popular plays are produced all over the world, quality control is a major issue that can come up when a production wants to put their own stamp on the play.  Even if the production feels that those changes might be relatively minor, the authors of such works or their estates may not see it the same way to such a degree that they can prevent the production from going forward.  While nobody will go after you for changing Shakespeare — except for critics and audiences perhaps — to modern playwrights it is important that productions of their plays do not alter their work in a way they deem undesirable. 

Bruce Norris, who won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play Clybourne Park, has put a stop to a German production of the play after learning that one of the lead black characters would be played by a white actor in makeup.  Since the play is chiefly about race relations, Norris was not happy about the Berlin theater’s insistence that the casting decision shouldn’t matter. 

In an open letter to Dramatists’ Guild of America about the controversy, Norris wrote, “After much evasion, justification and rationalizing of their reasons, they finally informed me that the color of the actress’s skin would ultimately be irrelevant, since they intended to ‘experiment with makeup’. At this point, I retracted the rights to the production.”  Blackface is considered an archaic, and to many offensive, technique in American and British theater of having white actors wear dark makeup to portray black characters.  The practice continues in other countries, particularly those with low populations of people of African descent.  In his letter Norris made it clear that it is a practice he does not approve of as he encouraged other playwrights “to boycott productions of your own work by German theatres that continue this asinine tradition.”

In a similar situation, the estate of Arthur Miller has forced an Australian theater to use the proper ending of Miller’s Death of a Salesman after finding out that the production has altered the means of Willie Loman’s suicide at the end of the play.  The production ran its entire first run with that alternate ending, but will now be switching back to the original.  Though the general manager of the production attributes the problem to “miscommunication,” it is clear that even after the playwright has passed his or her heirs feel obligated to ensure the production doesn’t stray from the source.

via The Guardian

Leave a Reply

http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/daniel-craig-spectre.jpg
Daniel Craig on Being “Typecast” as James Bond: “I mean, talk about a high-class problem”
"It’s not the job of an actor to judge your character" - Daniel Craig
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/jake-johnson-digging-for-fire.jpg
Jake Johnson on ‘Digging for Fire,’ Improv, and Producing His Plays in New York
"I thought my path was going to be as a writer, but I'm pretty happy doing it as an actor." - Jake Johnson
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/margot-robbie-z-for-Zachariah.jpg
Margot Robbie: “Ironically, you have to do the bigger films in order to make a small film”
"When I first tried to do Z for Zachariah, I couldn’t attach enough value to my name" - Margot Robbie
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/jesse-eisenberg-american-ultra.jpg
Jesse Eisenberg on Starring in Action Movies, Kristen Stewart, and How Playing Lex Luthor Felt Like an Off-Broadway Play
"The old cliché in theater is, if you’re nervous, pick up a prop, which will immediately take you outside of your mind." - Jesse Eisenberg
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Ian-McKellen-Mr-Holmes.jpg
Ian McKellen on CGI, the One Character He Wants to Play and Why He Doesn’t Like Being Called “Sir”
"Each part will have its challenges and I like that because if you're trying to solve a problem you're fully engaged" - Ian McKellen