Playwright, Bruce Norris, challenges Racial Casting Practices

October 21, 2012, 7:21 pm

Playwright Challenges Racial Casting Practices

By ADAM W. KEPLER

The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Bruce Norris has called for a boycott in Germany of theater productions in which white actors are cast in roles explicitly written for black performers. In a letter addressed to fellow members of the Dramatists Guild, a trade association for writers, Mr. Norris condemned such casting, which he described as widespread in Germany.

Mr. Norris wrote the letter after his experience with a production of his Tony Award-winning play, “Clybourne Park” at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin, in which a white actress had been cast to play a black character. In the letter, which has been posted on the Dramatists Guild’s Web site, Mr. Norris said that it was his final correspondence with the management of the Deutsches Theater that caused him decide to withdraw the rights to the production.

“After much evasion, justification and rationalizing of their reasons,” he wrote, “they finally informed me that the color of the actress’s skin would ultimately be irrelevant, since they intended to ‘experiment with makeup.’ ”

Mr. Norris asks that writers boycott productions of their own work in German theaters if those practices are implemented.
“A zero-tolerance position is the only position to take, in my opinion, and if we are united then perhaps a few German theaters may take notice and, hopefully, in time, a better course of action,” he said.

In an e-mail on Sunday, Mr. Norris declined to comment further. An online petition has also started at Avaaz.org to stop this practice in German theaters in reaction to a recent production of Herb Gardner’s “I’m Not Rappaport” at Schlosspark Theater in Berlin, where a white actor played Midge, a black character.

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