A production scheduled in Berlin of Bruce Norris' satire Clybourne Park, which has won the Pulitzer, Tony and U.K. theater Olivier Awards, about class divisions and race relations, was cancelled by the playwright himself when he learned that one of black characters in the play would be played by a white German actress in blackface.
That sort of defeats the whole purpose of the play wouldn't you say?
The play had been successfully performed in Mainz, Germany in 2011, and Norris said he was especially looking forward to the upcoming Berlin production.
Well, that was until he personally heard from African-German actress Lara-Sophie Milagro, who appeared in the Mainz production. She informed Norris that her replacement in the Berlin staging would be a white actress in black makeup.
Norris contacted the Deutsches Theatre to find out about the sitaution, and later reported in an open letter to the Dramatists Guild that:
"Yes, they confirmed, it is true, we have cast a white ensemble member in this role, and we see no logical reason why we should cast an “Afro-German.” (If you are familiar with my play at all, the reasons are self-evident.) 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."
Norris, is his letter, went on to explain that the use of blackface, while usually rare and considered abhorrent in the U.S. and The U.K., is actually still in common practice in German theater where black German actors are increasingly finding it hard to find employment, even for roles intended especially for black actors.
As he correctly observed: "the practice of race-blind casting does not work the other way, allowing them to perform in roles intended for actors of other races."
Norris has called for nationwide boycott of theaters that do not ban the use of blackface and has started a petition with Ms. Milagro to stop the practice.
I'm sure many of you have comments about this.