Update: Dramatists Guild National Conference - Aug 22 - 25
Good afternoon, all. Today we begin a regular series of e-blasts about programming, member-generated workshops, keynote speakers, theatre discounts and the like for our second national conference in Chicago. When you see the banner above, the content below will relate to the conference in some form or fashion.
We're pleased to announce partnerships with two of Chicago's venerable theatre institutions. Here's a little information about each of them:
The League of Chicago Theatres is an alliance of theatres which leverage its collective strength to support, promote and advocate for Chicago's theatre industry locally, nationally, and internationally. Chicago theatre is a leader in the U.S. with more than 250 theaters throughout Chicagoland, comprising a rich and varied community ranging from storefront, non-union theaters to the most renowned resident theaters in the country, including five which have been honored with Regional Tony Awards, and the largest touring Broadway organization in the nation. Chicago's theatres serve five million audience members annually and have a combined budget of more than $250 million. Visit ChicagoPlays.com for more information.
Chicago Dramatists is a professional not-for-profit theatre company dedicated to the development and advancement of playwrights and new plays. Founded in 1979, its mission is to discover, nurture and promote the plays and playwrights that will contribute to the national theatre repertory and enrich the lives of future audiences. Through unparalleled, year-round programming, Chicago Dramatists provides a supportive, professional environment that fosters diversity, collaboration, the freedom to fail, the ambition to succeed, and the pursuit of excellence. Both a playwrights' workshop and a full producing theatre, Chicago Dramatists played a major role in transforming Chicago from a city nearly barren of original work in the 1970s to a national center for new play production and new play development. Rebecca Gilman, Sarah Ruhl, Lydia R. Diamond, Keith Huff, Rick Cleveland, Tina Fey, Brett Neveu, Tanya Saracho, and hundreds of others have made this their creative home. Playwrights and plays developed here are featured throughout Chicago, the U.S, and around the world, typically receiving over 500 awards, readings, commissions, and productions each year.
A Letter from Bruce Norris
The following statement comes from Guild member Bruce Norris, and represents his views, though not necessarily the views of the Guild or any of its other members. While we do not, as a general matter, allow members to use the Guild’s communications network to advocate for their particular views, we are making this statement and petition available to the membership because it relates directly to an author’s right of casting approval, which is a critical right reserved to authors and one at the heart of the Guild’s purpose in advocating for authorial ownership and control of their work.
October 16, 2012
Dear Dramatists Guild Members,
Last year (2011) I had the pleasure to attend a terrific production of my play Clybourne Park at the Staatstheatre Mainz in Germany, a theatre that has also staged excellent and respectful productions of two other of my plays. Shortly afterward, I was informed via email from my German agent that the play would soon be produced at the Deutsches Theatre in Berlin – a somewhat prestigious theatre of good reputation. I asked to have the theatre put me in touch with the director so that we could discuss the play and the intended production. I heard nothing, and some time later I received a disturbing email from an actress named Lara-Sophie Milagro, (who happens to be black, and whom I much enjoyed in the Mainz production of Clybourne) informing me of the fact that the actress who had been cast in the same role at the theatre in Berlin, was white.
Disbelievingly, I contacted my agent who put me in touch with the management of Deutsches Theatre. 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.
As it turns out, blackface has been and continues to be a widespread practice on the German stage. German actors of African descent are routinely passed over for roles explicitly designated for them in some of the largest theatres in the country. This is weakly defended as either a director’s prerogative or a matter of “artistic choice” – and yet, when questioned, no one could offer me an equivalent example of a white German actor having lost a role to a black actor in whiteface.
Now, normally I don’t meddle in the cultural politics of other countries, but when my work and the work of my colleagues – other playwrights – is misrepresented, I do. When we write plays, among other things, we are creating employment for working actors, and often we intend to employ a specific diverse body. Whatever rationale the German theatre establishment might offer for their brazenly discriminatory practice is of no interest to me. For, as little power as we playwrights have, we always retain one small power and that is the power to say no. To say, no thank you, I’d rather not have my work performed in Germany, today, under those conditions.
Lara-Sophie Milagro and her colleague Gyavira Lasana have created an online petition (included below) condemning the ongoing practice of blackface in German theatres and have asked me to ask you, fellow playwrights, to add your name to their petition. I urge you to do so.
But I would go one step further – I would advise you to boycott productions of your own work by German theatres that continue this asinine tradition (The Deutsches Theatre and the Schlosspark are only two examples). 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.
Click Here to add your name to the petition
statement regarding David Adjmi’s “3C”
July 23, 2012
We of the Dramatists Guild of America wholeheartedly support playwright David Adjmi who has been facing pressure to silence his play “3C”. His work is a darkly comic parody of the sitcom “Three’s Company”, intended to critique the show and the social mores underlying it. The copyright owners of that work have written a “cease and desist” letter, which would, in effect, require him to stick the play in a drawer forever. But works of parody are protected under the “fair use” doctrine of copyright law, because such works serve as valuable social criticism. Corporate interests may prefer not to have their properties targeted for mockery, but artists have the right to do so, regardless of the best bullying tactics that corporate profits can buy. And more than having the right to do so, artists have an obligation to critique the vestments of our culture. So we stand with Mr. Adjmi, and are in discussions with him to see what assistance he might require. We hope others will show their support for David as well. Because, by so doing, we demonstrate that culture is too important to be controlled solely by the corporations that claim to own it.
Stephen Schwartz, President
Dramatists Guild of America, Inc.