Monday, October 22, 2012

Bruce Norris Urges Other Playwrights to Condemn Asinine Practice of Blackface Casting in German Theaters

I'm Not Rappaport - Schlosspark Theatre

As I look at the poster for the production of Herb Gardner's play I'm Not Rappaport at the Schlosspark Theatre in Berlin on the "Against Black-Face Roles in German Theatre" petition page on, I slowly lean my head, cradle my temples between my thumb and middle finger and wonder "Really? Today?" Frankly, as a Black-American, I am disappointed. 

Playwright Bruce Norris recently brought media attention to Germany's blackface practice. After receiving an email from black German actress Lara-Sophie Milagro informing him that a white actress had been cast to play the black female role of Francine/Lena in the Deutsches Theatre Berlin production of Clybourne Park, he followed up with the theater only to learn that they were indifferent and would be experimenting with makeup. In a bold move which restores some of my faith in mankind, Bruce Norris retracted rights to the play, decried the blackface practice and wrote an open letter to Dramatist Guild members urging his fellow writers to boycott productions of their work by German theatres. He writes, 
A zero-tolerance position is the only position to take, in my opinion, and if we are united then perhaps a few German theatres may take notice and, hopefully, in time, a better course of action. 
As I write this post, a petition against blackface roles has been started on the community website and 550 people have signed it to date.  According to the petition, 
The German theatre use of "black-faced" white actors in roles written and designed for blacks subverts the intentions of the dramatists and denies work to black actors. On a broader scale, black-face demeans black Germans and reinforces racist societal and political positions of power.
Looking at Germany's demographic profile, it is easy to see that it is not a diverse country. Given this, I should be impressed that German theaters even want to mount a play about race. However, as one of the most powerful and innovative nations in the western world, I imagine there has to be a better way.

Bruce Norris, Deutches Theater, Lara-Sophie Milagro

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