• Jim Hall

    ” even though there’s not many black characters in his work,” Who edits this stuff?

  • David Chandler

    There was another good recent example, along with the three you mention, of a non-traditional casting in a Williams play: The ART production in Cambridge this spring of “Night of the Iguana,” with James Earl Jones as Nonno, the “greatest living poet,” from New England. It’s a relatively small part, but it was great casting, and a wonderful production.

  • Gary Perlman

    The author gives the game away when he says, “I would rather watch a new play by a living writer, featuring a diverse cast, than another all-white production of Virginia Woolf” — not another production of the show, note, but another all-white production. He is evidently less interested in good theater than “diverse” theater, by which he means mixed-race casts, damn the content. It’s a tiresome argument. Not all classics are open to such tinkering (Othello, for instance), and diversity for diversity’s sake is meaningless. Where diversity is really needed is the audience. Blacks, for example, were only 4.8% of domestic audiences on Broadway in 2014-15, and are woefully under-represented even at shows like Hamilton, where there are often more blacks on stage than in the seats. (That was equally true last week at A Doll’s House Part 2, where Condola Rashad is giving a magnificent performance in a “white” role.) I suppose they can hardly be blamed for steering clear of shows where black actors are effectively being asked to play whites. Pretending race or ethnicity doesn’t exist is demeaning to the actor and insulting to the audience. “Find contemporary places by people of color” — sounds like a good solution to me.

  • Will Johnson

    And the public has the right to proclaim that we will strike back at the estate by agreeing to *never attend any showing of any Albee play forever*. This strike will force the estate into bankruptcy. Which is fit.


    You ask, “What kind of American theatre do we want?” As a playwright, my answer is that I want an American theatre that respects the words, the intent, the context of the period in which the play was written and – yes – the casting envisioned by the author.

  • Kluvon Scott

    As long as Mr. Streeter is willing to face all the consequences, he should cast the play as he desires.

  • RC

    On the world stage, whites have always been outnumbered.
    Quit sniveling and give the blip to the writer. It’s all he’s got.

  • Richard Finkelstein

    Here is Edward Albee in his own words, previously unpublished by me in my alas now defunct resource, “Artslynx”. They say that behavior that appears to be outlandish and/or illogical today, was invariably quite logical at some point in the past. In his lecture from 1997 which I now post a short excerpt of, Mr. Albee spent a good deal of time walking us through some of his licensing demands and the specific cases that led to them. One story that didn’t seem to have made it into my notes, at least visible to my quick scan was the time he met a teacher at a party who had just directed one of his plays. She remarked about how much she had loved the lines of one particular character. Confused he remarked: “But madam that character has no lines” to which she replied: “Oh I know, we fixed that” after which Albee added yet another clause to his licenses to the effect of: “Only those characters with lines may speak in this play”. Here are some of the other examples he cited during his lecture

    Notes on a Colloquy with Edward Albee at The

    Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Sunday February 16, 1997 at 1:00pm. Sylvie Drake moderated. These excerpted notes are by Richard Finkelstein, James Madison University

    Albee has come to be known for the riders he adds to his contracts. Early on in his career Albee added a contractual
    clause that plays could not be placed in segregated theatres.

    Albee cites a major theatre critic who wrote that the relationship in _Virginia Wolf_ could not be accepted as
    heterosexual, suggested instead that the play is really about two men. The misguided observation was built inspired by an article by Stanley Kaufman suggesting that some homosexual playwrights disguise discussions of homosexual relationships within heterosexual characters. After these strange musings, some directors suggested doing _Virginia Wolf_ with casts of all men or women. Albee rebuts: “I don’t know of any gay relationship where one of the characters had an hysterical pregnancy”. “[Now I add to my contracts the statement:] ‘All of the roles in Mr Albee’s plays must be played by actors of the same sex as the characters’.” And later: “All words of the play must be presented . . . (pause) preferably in the order in which they are written.”

    When a particular Swedish “playwright/director” decided to cut one intermission revising the play to place the remaining intermission in the center of the script, Albee began to address that too in contracts. “I don’t know what I’ll have to put in my contract next” (pause) “Audiences must arrive on time (pause) must be sober.”

    Sylvie Drake jumped in to recount a story of a Neil Simon play mounted in Sweden where two songs from _Oklahoma_ were inserted. Albee’s retort: “I wonder if it was the same director?”

    Albee then told a story of a Swedish director who made the mistake of showing him a photo of _Three Tall Women_ with an extra character. The director’s explanation: “Oh don’t worry. he’s not really there he is a memory.”

    On updating his scripts, Albee talks about the current London production of _Virginia Wolf_. The only change to the script concerns half a page cut over the years. He observes that _Virginia Wolf_ “seems to be as valid in 1997 as in 1962.”

  • tommus

    “the works of August Wilson and other writers of color should continue to give priority to actors and interpreters of color; but the works of Williams, Albee, and other frequently revived white authors should be expanded to consider non-traditional interpreters. It’s not about limiting, it’s about expanding.”

    Copyright/fair use law is designed to create a series of protections around a work of art for the benefit of comsumers and producers alike. “Limitation and expansion” are two sides of the same coin in any cultural dynamic, it’s just a matter of perspective. If you burn to make a provocative statement about a pressing social issue, write your own play, or mess with one in the public domain and you will have full creative control. Trying to appropriate another writers protected work to grind your own axe is just trashy from an artistic standpoint, even if it is a savvy marketing move that will appeal to the sort of person who nods their head in smug agreement to an exasperated exclamation such as “white culture is so stupid!”
    If you really want wider (or whiter) attention for this production, put that quote in the lede!

  • Pamela Keim

    Gee–another reason for Diep Tran to be upset! The furor over “Miss Saigon” must have died down, so now she needs another cause for skewering playwrights and/or productions that she disagrees with.
    Mr. Albee was a gifted playwright who wrote about what he knew: interpersonal politics and the politics of university life. I don’t believe that Ms. Tran, or anyone else, has the right to decide to change the play as he wrote it. Note that there are lines in the play specifically describing the character’s “blue eyes”. How does that work for an African-American actor? About as well as casting a white guy as Othello! If you don’t want to adhere to the author’s work, by all means, produce another play. Or, should you actually possess any talent, write one of your own!
    BTW–the fact that Mr. Albee had a definite vision for this play does not make him a racist, nor a bigot. Again, he wrote what he knew. Such a pity that Ms. Tran and others of her ilk couldn’t do likewise.

  • Jerry Breen

    In Shakespeare’s day, all of the roles, male and female, were played by men. Does this mean women should never be allowed to play Ophelia or Lady MacBeth? Should Olivier or Welles have been forbidden to play Othello? Should we only allow actors with a hunchback and a deformed face to play Quasimodo? Should Hoke have to drive Miss Daisy in an actual car on stage instead of using a couple of kitchen chairs? After all, what is acting supposed to be? Isn’t it supposed to be someone pretending to be someone else, not oneself? Have these people never heard of something called suspension of disbelief? By the way, I have seen Hamlet performed by an all-male cast at a boys’ school, and it worked brilliantly. Why? Because I suspended my disbelief. These ignoramuses just have no imagination.

    • Carolyn Zaremba

      Absolutely correct. Thanks.

    • Kluvon Scott

      Copyright protections expire after a time.

  • JRSCline

    Except that we are not ‘outnumbered,’ not yet, and yet not looking forward to the day when we are, since it will clearly be full of slights, earnestly and indignantly justified as reparations.

    Nothing more than courtesy is owed to the great-great-great-great grandchildren of whatever slaves my great-great-great-great grandparents may have held. Put on the play the author intended, and a fig for your politics.

  • David Shearer

    Freezing a play to exactly what the author wrote and to the time period it was originally set may be within the author’s or estate’s rights but it is very short sighted. If ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’ cannot translate from all-white 1960’s then it is not a classic anything. It is a period piece which will have continually less relevance as time passes. Shakespeare’s plays are classics because their themes translate because the themes are universal to the human condition. ‘Virginia Woolf’ could be so as well, if it were allowed.

    • The Hill staff

      Great! An Internet schmoe has weighed in, so we can all move on.

  • taverngeek

    I think the bigger question is whether older works remain relevant. The original version has been done and is preserved in amber and likely film or video. The estate may have some responsibility to a play as a brand so that it isn’t performed as a farce, but all sincere productions should be allowed.

    As for casting, how not white is allowed? Is there a specified shade of makeup that must be used? I think a major point of theater is the acceptance of an actor as the character while knowing the actor is not that character. Is someone like Barack Obama, growing up in a white family, too black and not white enough to be cast as either a black or white character? I think that theater teaches us that we should accept that people are to be identified as they wish to be identified. A playwright or estates which fails to acknowledge that is missing the greater point of theater.

    • Taco Bell

      The estate has no color chart they’re working off of, it sounds like a case-by-case basis. ‘Theater’ is not a thing that teaches anything. If you’re talking about the current ‘theater culture’, then you can see how those liberal ideals can easily clash with estates attempting to preserve the original intent. They’re not missing the point, you are.

      • Carolyn Zaremba

        Theatre is not a thing that teaches anything????? You can’t be serious! Unbelievable!

  • Willem Kraal

    It has long been said that Albee’s play Virginian Woolf was based on some of his gay friends although he has always denied it,but a same sex couple in this great play would most likely be a big hit.

  • Find a non-dead, non-racist playwright and produce from that. Are you telling me we have nothing but stuff written by bigots?

    • RC

      The Social Justice Warriors sure seem to act that way.


    As a playwright, I have to say that changing the casting is to me akin to rewriting War and Peace to make Natasha Asian or Pierre black. We write in cultural context and that includes how we see the characters in the play. I agree with those who say it’s better to choose contemporary work that features roles for everybody. Screwing around with the classics is just, as one fine director once told me, just ego on the part of the director.

    • Liz Lawson

      Agreed. Michael Streeter is a man with zero decency or talent and no respect for the Masters. He claims he was “furious”. Hey Streeter, go write your own work and produce that instead. Let us know how that goes…I’m furious untalented nobodies think they have the right to stain and destroy something that does not belong to them. I’m guessing Streeter has never had much respect for others his entire life. What a tool. SHOW SOME RESPECT STREETER OR WE’LL SHOW YOU THE DOOR!!!

    • Kevin Ryan

      Molly – I’ve got to point out, what you suggest is exactly what Great Comet of 1812 does.

  • nancymcclernan

    Based on their Facebook profiles both Hayes and Streeter are white. Since they are comfortable with abrogating a playwright’s rights for the sake of inclusivity they are clearly fanatically dedicated to the cause – let them prove it by stepping aside from their current positions as a director and an artistic director for theater companies and let non-whites have their jobs.

  • nancymcclernan

    “White culture is so stupid,” exclaimed an exasperated Hayes. “The culture is shifting, you’re outnumbered. Be open to it. How can you be a part of this? Facilitate an opening. Also, what’s your role in being part of a wider culture. Not a whiter culture, a wider culture! And what does that mean?”

    Actually no, white people are not outnumbered in the US, depending on how you define “white” – many Latinos self-identify as white.

    Analysis by 2010 Federal Population Census[edit]
    Fifteen largest ancestries in the United States in the 2010 census.[81]
    Rank | Ancestry | Number | Percent of total
    1 German 49,206,934 17.1 %
    2 African American 45,284,752 14.6 %
    3 Irish 35,523,082 11.6 %
    4 Mexican 31,789,483 10.9 %
    5 English 26,923,091 9.0 %
    6 American 19,911,467 6.7 %
    7 Italian 17,558,598 5.9 %
    8 Polish 9,739,653 3.0 %
    9 French 9,136,092 2.9 %
    10 Scottish 5,706,263 1.9 %
    11 Scotch-Irish 5,102,858 1.7 %
    12 Native American and Alaskan Native 4,920,336 1.6 %
    13 Dutch 4,810,511 1.6 %
    14 Puerto Rican 4,607,774 1.5 %
    15 Norwegian 4,557,539 1.5 %


    And a playwright wanting a specific gender/ethnicity/age/etc. for a play is not an example of “white culture” – it’s an example of a playwright having a specific vision. And if stupid, smug, contemptuous, self-righteous, bigoted social justice warriors don’t like it, it’s too damn bad.

  • Ralph Sevush

    A balanced, thoughtful article with a poor title that misrepresents it.

    • Harmen Hollestelle

      The article ends with the exclamation, white culture is so stupid, and a minority. Maybe this opinion has become mainstream. Maybe it is one reason why estates tend to protect rather than be open. This does not harm anybody. There must be countless other plays to play.

  • WDC

    Just curious: what would’ve the reaction been if someone had asked to cast Troy in Fences with a white actor? If the estate said no, would the uproar be the same?

    • carsonlea

      One of the themes of ‘Fences’ is about the cost of being a Black man in America. I don’t know if you’re even familiar with the play, but Troy spends a lot of time talking about what White racism has done to him. Casting a White man as Troy would be a problem, unless major changes were made and then it wouldn’t August Wilson’s play. Now a White Rose might be interesting.

      • The Hill staff

        Yes, which is why casting a black actor in this play would be equally inappropriate and disruptive. It would introduce a huge NEW and distracting theme to the play that doesn’t exist in the author’s creation, because of the time in which it’s set.

      • dee

        Carsonlea, good point but…when Albee sat down to write “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”, he created characters who were, in fact, Caucasian. So I can see why HE — Albee, the creator — demands that all casting respect his choice. He WROTE the play: he OWNED the rights (passed down to his family) so HE should be allowed to make demands of anyone wanting to perform his play. If they don’t like the demands, as Kathleen Warnock pointed out in an earlier post, DON’T put on his play. Write your own! (Hell, the article pointed out that Albee was so particular about his plays he demanded actresses be the perfect HEIGHT for “Three Tall Women” — what’s next, protests from female dwarves?
        The American Theatre organization has made a mountain out of a molehill.

  • Augustin J Correro
  • Kathleen Warnock

    “Of course, if directors and producers want to save themselves the headaches, there’s another simple solution: Find contemporary plays by people of color that feature meaty roles for actors of all types.” DING DING DING! #winningidea

    • Dale Nakagawa

      While I love the idea in the abstract, the reality is that American theatre audiences are notorious for being much more willing to spend their money on the familiar rather than the new.

      • nancymcclernan

        Well if the primary consideration is the audiences’ preference, I suspect the notoriously conservative American theater audiences will also dislike putting non-whites into traditionally white roles.

        Kathleen is right – producing more contemporary plays is the best way to get both non-white roles AND non-white playwrights work on the stage.