Bruce Norris says no to ‘Clybourne Park’ actress in blackface
BY MARK KENNEDY October 17, 2012 11:40PM
Updated: November 19, 2012 3:35PM
NEW YORK (AP) — The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of “Clybourne Park” says he recently withdrew permission for a Berlin theater company to produce the play after learning that one of the actors would perform the roles in blackface.
Bruce Norris, in a letter dated Tuesday to the Dramatists Guild, said that managers at the Deutsches Theater said the female African-American character in the play was be performed by a white actress and producers would “experiment with makeup.”
Norris, a Northwestern University graduate who works often with Chicago theaters, called the use of blackface an “asinine tradition” and urged fellow playwrights to boycott productions of their work by German theaters who employ such tactics. He also urges playwrights to add their name to a petition condemning the ongoing practice of blackface in German theaters.
“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,” Norris writes. “A zero-tolerance position is the only position to take.”
“Clybourne Park,” a seven person play with two black characters, is about racial and economic changes occurring in a Chicago neighborhood over a 50-year period. It won the best play Tony Award this year.
The play, staged last fall at Steppenwolf, is a riff on “A Raisin in the Sun,” Lorraine Hansberry’s groundbreaking drama about the first African-American family to move into the fictional all-white neighborhood of Clybourne Park.
The first act of “Clybourne Park” takes place in 1959, just before the African-American family moves in, and the second is set in 2009, where a dispute over the house boils over into angry racist accusations.