What’s My Deal With All The “Hamilton” Videos?

December 21st, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

If you’re a dedicated fan of the musical Hamilton, or if you follow me on social media, you may well have come across the streetside #Ham4Ham show videos I’ve been sharing since late July. As I write, they’ve collectively been viewed on YouTube about 890,000 times – and that doesn’t include views of the same videos that have been uploaded directly to Facebook. So without doing a careful count, I can truthfully say the videos have been seen over 1.1 million times. As a result, I have Continue reading...

Black Magic Crosses Directing & Design Line in Connecticut

December 9th, 2015 § 8 comments § permalink

There’s been a great deal of discussion in the past couple of months about the rights of playwrights, the legal protections of copyright and licensing agreements, the prerogative of directors to freshly interpret a writer’s work and so on. But none of this should suggest that writers are the only theatre artists whose work is to be respected and protected. This holds true, variously on legal and ethical grounds, for all creative artists in theatre. This is brought to the fore currently Continue reading...

What Does “Hamilton” Tell Us About Race In Casting?

December 3rd, 2015 § 12 comments § permalink

In the wake of the recent casting controversies over Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop and Lloyd Suh’s Jesus in India, there have been a number of online commenters who have cited Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical Hamilton as a justification for their position in the debate. What’s intriguing is that Hamilton has been offered up both as evidence of why actors of color must have the opportunity to play both characters or color and characters not necessarily written as characters of color – but Continue reading...

What Is Being Taught About The Director-Playwright Relationship?

December 2nd, 2015 § 8 comments § permalink

I assume most people, either as a child heard, or as a parent deployed, the timeworn phrase, “If someone told you to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you do it?” My parents had a variant along the same lines: “Just because other people do it doesn’t make it right.” I am reminded of this phrase as it seems every week lately I hear about another instance of a theatre director altering a script or overriding an author’s clear intent; the recent run of examples has been with college-affiliated Continue reading...

Bad Apple Fails to Censor High School’s “Bad Seed”

November 20th, 2015 § 5 comments § permalink

I am delighted to report that all of the smoking, drinking, drugging and sexual references will be intact – tonight, tomorrow and Sunday – in the production of Maxwell Anderson's 1950s psychodrama The Bad Seed at Portage High School in northwestern Indiana. This may seem entirely unremarkable, except that just 11 days ago, students were still being instructed to strike out lines in their scripts and change stage directions to purge the production of all such content. Even the presence of Continue reading...

Anna Deavere Smith: “I Want People To Be Driven To Action”

November 17th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

“I come at this more like a lawyer, who would say that everybody has a right to a fair trial. Or a journalist, or a priest, who would hear the confession.” – Anna Deavere Smith On November 7, I had the opportunity to interview Anna Deavere Smith as part of the third annual “Stage The Change: Theatre As A Social Voice” conference, a day-long event of panels and workshops for high school and college students, a collaboration between the Happauge Public Schools and The Tilles Center at Continue reading...

Kent State Coda: No Black MLK Ever Reached Their “Mountaintop”

November 16th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

  In the many press accounts of director Michael Oatman casting a white man to play Dr. Martin Luther King in Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop, stories have all acknowledged Oatman’s original concept of splitting the role between black and white actors. His intent was, in his words: “I truly wanted to explore the issue of racial ownership and authenticity.  I didn’t want this to be a stunt, but a true exploration of King’s wish that we all be judged by the content of our character Continue reading...

Clarion Call Of Racial Spin By University Fails Students And Theatre

November 16th, 2015 § 6 comments § permalink

“What will you learn?” asks the home page of the website of Clarion University in Pennsylvania. In the wake of the school’s handling of the casting of white students in Asian roles in Lloyd Suh’s Jesus in India, and the playwright’s withdrawal of production rights upon learning this fact, it’s unclear at best, disturbing at worst, to consider what Clarion wants students to learn about race and about the arts. Based on what is appearing in the press, they are learning to blame Continue reading...

Erasing Race On Stage At Clarion University

November 13th, 2015 § 14 comments § permalink

“The students are victims,” writes playwright Lloyd Suh, regarding the events that led to his play Jesus in India being canceled a little more than a week before it was to be produced at Clarion University in Pennsylvania. Presumably, anyone learning of students who have been preparing a production for weeks, only to not be able to present it to audiences, would agree with that statement, no matter what they may think of the circumstance surrounding the cancelation, first reported in the Continue reading...

Casual References To Race In Theatre Reviews Prove Troubling

November 11th, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

Four words. Why do four words bother me so much? After all, they appear in one review of an As You Like It production at the National Theatre in London that I’m highly unlikely to ever see. So why are these four words – which appear in a parenthetical clause, by the way – still on my mind a week after the review, by Dominic Cavendish in The Telegraph, was published? Well, I guess we should start with the four words in question. “Man mountain black actor.” Have I taken these Continue reading...