Olivier award-winning playwright Bruce Norris has removed the rights for his play Clybourne Park from a Berlin theatre, claiming the theatre intended to ‘black up’ a white actress to play one of the lead roles.
After learning of the Deutsches Theatre’s intentions to “experiment with make-up” , Norris retracted the rights for its planned production and has written an open letter, published by the Dramatists Guild of America, calling on fellow playwrights to boycott all theatres in Germany which practice blackface, which he described as an “asinine tradition”.
Norris, who won an Olivier award for best new play in 2011 for Clybourne Park, which is a satire on race relations in the US, said: “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.”
Meanwhile, he also encouraged other writers to sign an online petition condemning the practice and to boycott productions of their work at German theatres that employ blackface.
He added: “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.”
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