On Stage: Theatre In Flux

Jun 5, 2017

We live in turbulent times, and our culture reflects that—a quick look around at what is happening in theatre, about theatre, and to theatre is evidence of a national zeitgeist that is in a period of flux.

The Complete Works Project in Oregon recently found themselves in the position of having to drop the Edward Albee classic Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf from their performance program because Albee's estate refused to allow the director to cast an African-American man in the role of Nick, the young professor. Albee's estate justified their refusal by pointing out that Nick's blue eyes and blond hair are frequently remarked upon by the other characters, and that the casting of an interracial couple would introduce complications that were not present in the original production. The play's director, Michael Streeter, refused to fire an actor based on the color of his skin. Scott Simon, writing for NPR, cited the multi-cultural Hamilton as an example of successful color-blind casting, and added that we don't expect actors who play Hamlet to be Danish.

Meanwhile, playwright David Mamet threatened the small, blackbox Outvisible Theatre Company in Detroit, Michigan with a $25,000 fine if they engaged in “talk-backs”—a conversation between the audience and the actors about the play being performed—within two hours after performances of his play Oleanna. It is not the first time Mamet has objected to talk-backs; in 2012, Mamet withheld rights to his play Race until the New Repertory Theatre in Watertown, Massachusetts agreed not to conduct talk-backs after the show.

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