“Porgy And Bess” Ethics

“Porgy and Bess,” the now  iconic opera that premiered in the United States in 1935, tells the tragic and heroic  story of a Southern African-American ghettoemploying  some of the most memorable music in  the musical theater canon. Composer George Gershwin denied licensing rights to  companies that wanted to use white performers in the opera (requiring black make-up)  and his estate still stipulates that the work  be performed by an all-black cast, or rights will be denied.

It will not shock anyone who has read much here to learn that I oppose Gershwin’s all-black edict, just as I oppose objections to actors of any race being prohibited from playing characters of different races. The only question should be whether the production and artistic version is fair to the work and to the audience. Prior restraint of any vision is antithetical to the spirit of the performing arts. I happen to think that a white version of “A Raisin in the Sun” would be ill-advised, but how do I know for sure? I’ve been proven wrong before, and more to the point, I’ve proven others wrong with my own productions.

The inevitable result of Gershwin’s grandstanding, for I believe that’s what it was, is that most people never have a chance to see a full production of “Porgy and Bess.” Yet there is no reason why the cast would have to be all black. Let’s even put aside the inflammatory  issue of “black-face.” Some characters in the show, like the snake-like hustler Sporting Life, could be portrayed as white without distorting the show one bit. Non-traditional casting principles would argue that the whole cast could consist of whites, Asians and others playing the black characters. It would be fun—yes, I think of this kind of principled fight as fun—to cast the show with light skinned African-Americans and mixed race performers who identify as black. What would the Gershwin estate do about that, I wonder? Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/24/2018: Demands, Denial, And Ethics Distortions

Good morning, crew!

1. Say please..…. A group of “Dreamers” blocked an entrance to Disneyland yesterday, as part of a protest demanding a Congressional OK for DACA.  I am willing to accept the will of Congress and the President if somehow the illegal immigrants who were brought here as children and never took the initiative to become compliant with the law get a break via DACA.  However, they are supplicants. The US has no obligation to accommodate their predicament. I don’t want any demands from them, and the more they demand, the less I am inclined to be sympathetic to their plight.

Ask nicely. Say please. Their sense of entitlement is redolent of the attitudes of the advocates of the usual, everyday, garden variety illegal immigrants. How dare the country we entered illegally enforce the law? If the “Dreamers” want to ask for a compassionate exception, I’ll listen, just as I’ll consider the pleas of panhandlers and homeless veterans. But don’t you dare tell me I have to give you a handout.  And as non-citizens, “the “Dreamers” have no basis to protest anything.

2. Is it news yet? If you had no inkling that the FBI somehow “lost” thousands of text messages sent between those lovebirds, FBI counterintelligence expert Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page,  at the exact point where their conversations and expressed desire to “stop” President Trump may have been especially interesting, you are not alone. There is an internal Justice Department investigation about the communications that went on during the extramarital affair, in part because both were involved in the Mueller investigation into whether there is some way that Democrats can find a legitimate reason to impeach President Trump. Strzok also helped lead the FBI’s probe of Hillary Clinton’s private email server—also now under renewed scrutiny, since more evidence suggests that it might have been rigged; did you know that?— and was initially involved in Special Counsel Mueller’s inquiry into Russia’s 2016 election meddling. Strzok was kicked off the task force after Mueller learned that there was smoking text message evidence that he detested the President, and Strzok and Page had texted about the need for an “insurance policy” against Trump being elected, creating a prima facie case that the investigation included supposed objective seekers of truth who had a political agenda. Page, Strzok’s secret squeeze, was also on Mueller’s team before returning to the FBI. That makes two potential anti-Trump moles. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: “NCIS” Ethics

One of the longest running 15 years!), most popular, and never honored TV procedurals is CBS’s “NCIS,” starring Mark Harmon. The show frequently has ethics themes, and tonight’s was especially provocative.

Jethro Gibbs'(that’s Harmon) boss, NCIS chief Leon Vance, found that his daughter Kayla, a top student who had already been accepted at Georgetown, had been arrested for shoplifting. Vance was troubled by his daughter’s dismissive treatment of the arrest and her crime, as she shrugged it off as a first offense that would likely result in community service because of her age, 17. Her father, played by Rocky Carroll, felt that his daughter’s values has been corrupted because he was a single father with a demanding job.

Then he discovered that daughter Kayla had not really committed the crime. She had taken the rap for her troubled 18-year old friend, who had multiple previous shoplifting arrests, but who wanted to go to college. Rocky realizes that his daughter had accepted blame to help her friend, so she might realize her dream of a college education. “I figure I’ll have to do about 30 hours of public service,” Kayla tells her beaming father between hugs. “I think I’ll help teach some poor kids to read, or maybe help some needy seniors.”

Vance beams. He is so proud. Kayla did the right thing.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is..

Is this the right ethics message for “NCIS” to promote?

I know my answer to this one, and maybe you know me well enough to guess it. But I’ll let readers weigh in first.