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Race Debate: White Director Revives August Wilson Play

Playwright August Wilson insisted that his plays about the black experience always be directed by an African American. But a white man is now directing the first Broadway revival of Wilson's plays since his death in 2005. Many black directors are concerned, if not outraged.

The Lincoln Center Theater selected Tony-award winning director Bartlett Sher to direct Wilson's "Joe Turner's Come and Gone," a decision that some say betrays Wilson's legacy.

The playwright's preference for black directors came from a belief that they best understood the African American experience and thus his characters. He also wanted his plays to offer high-profile opportunities for black directors often shut off from major projects. Despite these concerns, Wilson's widow did approve of Sher's selection.

Whether or not the Lincoln Center made the right decision, the controversy has started a dialogue about opportunities for black professionals in the theater and film worlds. Do you think Wislon's wishes should still be honored after his death, or is it refreshing to see people of any color interpreting his stories?


Join The Conversation
Mina-Xue Mina-Xue 8 years
In fact, in addendum, if the play is that pivotal and important, should all sides have an interpretation?
Mina-Xue Mina-Xue 8 years
Well, does anyone know Wilson's motives behind his last wishes? If it was that he desired they be directed from the stand point of a black man to perhaps completely portray that feeling, I can see that- thought its a weak argument. A white man could never completely empathize; however, they could very well try and do so. Heck, you might be surprised. But if that wasn't the reason, and was a subliminal discrimination, then thats what it is. A reversal of the status quo and rather immature. I mean, why would you carry out someone's racist wishes, regardless if it was a dying one?
bastylefilegirl bastylefilegirl 8 years
I also feel this sentiment " important stories should be told by whomever wants to tell them" However the fact that the playwrite explicited asked that his stories be expressed via a black director ( however discriminatory that is) it seems kind of wrong to go against his wishes. Would this have been done if he was alive, I don't think so.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
It wouldnt "automatically" go to someone who is white, it would go to someone who wants to do the project, who is available and talented.
lwimbush lwimbush 8 years
In terms of discrimination...think of it this way: blacks in theater--actors, directors, tech, etc. get so few opportunities to begin with, why not give the directing job to a black director. Surely there are qualified black directors who would be more than happy to work on a Broadway production. I mean, this is a big deal, why would it automatically go to someone white?
kurniakasih kurniakasih 8 years
It's his choice since it's his works (and if he were still alive, the decision would be his and his alone), but his widower who's also an executor of his estate has agreed to the choice of the director, hence it is what it is.
margokhal margokhal 8 years
I understand Wilson's wishes and the reason for them, and I agree with those, but I don't think legally there's much you can do about it after his passing. If his widow approves, then that's that. I would think there's still some discrimination in the theater my city, we have the "regular" theaters and theaters that feature black-only casts and shows/plays by black playwrights, for the same reason Wilson wanted it - they have firsthand knowledge and understanding of the black experience in America, and it *does* give those in the industry who otherwise might not have as much opportunity a chance to break into the general biz. I don't mind that they have a white producer for a play by a black playwright...I just hope the director does everything in his power to stay true to the work and convey what Wilson meant.
leslievanhouten leslievanhouten 8 years
I attended a women's college. The theatre department attempted to put on a performance of "Glengarry Glen Ross" with an all female cast. We were denied because Mamet felt that having women rather than men performing the play "perverted" the story too much. In the end, the production was canceled due to his wishes. And despite my over arching political correctness, I have to side with August Wilson. I think of it this way...I would never go to a male OB/GYN. A man might understand everything that goes on down there medically, but I would feel more comfortable with a female doctor who has first hand experience. My body, my choice. August Wilson's play...his choice.
wackdoodle wackdoodle 8 years
August Wilson's last wish is bunk. It's discrimination toward anyone who is not black and that is equally as wrong as shutting out black directors from directing predominantly white plays.
kty kty 8 years
that's crazy.let him direct the play.i'm tired of this kind of discrimination,it's so sad that some of us still discriminate that much,we're all from one race:the human race
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
thats totally reverse discrimination.
nancita nancita 8 years
This reminds me of when Spike Lee got into some trouble for saying that only black directors should direct important stories of African Americans. I feel like important stories should be told by whomever wants to tell them, but it is surprising that the Lincoln Center Director would go against the playwright's wishes.
janneth janneth 8 years
Would it be reverse discrimination to ban a white director? On the other hand, I wonder if there are still racial issues in the theater world.
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