Common Sense Doesn’t Matter Either: The “Woke” Acting Profession Is Betraying Audiences And Dooming Itself (Part 2: Give My Demands To Broadway…)

Upon careful consideration, I think this clip is the fairest representation of what black theater activists on Broadway are advocating:

In Part I of this series, we discussed the dead-end strategy recently pursued by the performing woke of imposing one-way limitations on which actors could portray what roles. Across the full range of group grievance activism, everyone is rushing to try to exploit and capitalize upon the George Floyd Freakout, perhaps recognizing that the present state of self-flagellation and submissiveness by white decision-makers, governments, businesses and other institutions won’t last forever. In their haste, many groups—in this I would include the “resistance,” Democrats and the news media among others—are metaphorically cutting their own throats. This is especially true of the theater community.

A coalition of theater artists called “We See You, White American Theater” has posted online a 29-page set of demands that if adopted, the New York Times opines, “would amount to a sweeping restructuring of the theater ecosystem in America.”

Wrong, Bias Breath! If adopted, the demands would kill commercial live theater, and it is more than half dead already, though most theater community members are in denial.

The list reminded me of the bad old days of the 1960s, when student anarchists, protesting the war in Vietnam, would take over university buildings and then, thinking that they had the upper hand, would submit a list of demands including the Moon and the kitchen sink, many of which had nothing to do with the war at all.  This list of demands makes those look reasonable, one reason being that simply reading the 29 pages of arrogant woke-speak is a task few will have the patience to undertake.

I’ll just focus on some highlights. (By the way, you need to know that BIPOC means “Black, Indigenous and People of Color”):

  • “We demand the naming and acknowledgement of American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian tribal land and its Native peoples who have lived, currently live, and will live on the land where any theatre activity happens.”

I hate to keep having to break it to these naifs, but theater is just not that important to most people, particularly those in power. “We have to rename Indianapolis to have theater here? OK—we won’t have any theater then! Problem solved!”

This one is worth repeating in full: Continue reading

A Typically Deranged Example Of The George Floyd Freakout In Destructive Action, As It Takes Every Bit Of Self-Restraint In My Being Not To Laugh, Because That Would Be Wrong

Now the statue-toppling, America-hating, woke-police have come for “Hamilton.”

That’s ignorant and destructive, as well as as stupid, like so much of what we have allowed the Black Lives Matter mobs to do. It is unethical, and as predicted by anyone who has learned the history fanatic movements throughout world history, it was inevitable. Such anger-driven uprisings never stop until they start devouring their own.  “Hamilton” doesn’t deserve the attack, but as one of the more arrogant and offensive agents of the resistance when it was just getting rolling on its divisive, self-righteous way, I am finding it difficult to be as sympathetic to its fate as I should be.

You will recall that about a week after the 2016 election, the cast of “Hamilton,” led by its star and creator Lin-Mamuel Miranda, signaled that all rules of fairness, respect and decorum were suspended as the Left vowed vengeance on Donald Trump, his supporters and allies. The cast ambushed Vice-President- elect Mike Pence, who had come to see the performance like any other audience member in any other audience, and who had every right to be treated with the same deference. Instead, the cast called out Pence during the curtain call, and subjected him to a scripted lecture, beginning,

“We hope you will hear us out. We, sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights. We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”

How naive and quaint those words sound today, a little less than four years later, as the chaotic madness spawned by “the resistance” is in the process of trying to tear down the nation, constrict our rights, and replace our values. Continue reading

Remembering Thommie Walsh

Ethical human beings who pass through your life deserve to be remembered, and it is in your interest to  give them that lasting gift. Sometimes they are like strings tied around your finger (does anyone still do that?) reminding you to do the right thing.

Thommie Walsh was like that for me today.

March 15 is his birthday, you see—I only knew that because the man who introduced us almost 20 years ago tagged me on a Facebook post.  Maybe you remember Thommie, who died in 2007, too. Here’s part of that post, by my friend and Thommie’s, playwright, author, and theater historian Chip Defaa:

He was an original member of the cast of “A Chorus Line”–which was THE musical of that era. That show was created, in unique fashion, from taped comments about their lives by actual performers. Thommie was one of that original group. And the character he originated in “A Chorus Line,” “Bobby,” was based on him. As an actor, Thommie was saying on stage lines that rang true because they were true; he was saying things (as “Bobby”) he’d been saying before anyone thought up the idea of doing “A Chorus Line.”

He moved into choreographing and directing. He was ALWAYS working–Broadway, Off-Broadway, TV commercials, you name it. He staged friends’ cabaret shows–most notably the cabaret show of Tony Award-winner Donna McKechnie, his former castmate in “A Chorus Line” and a lifelong friend. She did that show, to great acclaim, for years afterwards in many venues. (I was delighted to be an invited guest at the performance that was taped for an album.) He also worked on the cabaret and concert shows of Chita Rivera and Joel Grey. Broadway royalty.

Among Broadway and Off-Broadway shows Thommie worked on, as a director and/or choreographer, were: “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” “A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine,” “Nine,” “My One and Only,” and “My Favorite Year.”

Thommie won two Tony Awards for choreography: that’s how I knew his name when Chip told me that he was going to direct “Danny and Sylvia,” the two-person musical about Danny Kaye and his wife Sylvia Fine I had originally developed for my theater company, as part of a New York City, Off-Broadway festival. Both cast members were friends, so I got periodic updates on how rehearsals were going. Thommie, like any good director, was making changes, adding his feel for the characters and material as he went along. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “Unethical Quote Of The Week (And Jumbo!) Washington College (in Md.) President Kurt Landgraf”

The nauseating tale of how Washington College in Maryland killed a fully rehearsed and audience-ready student production of the widely acclaimed (and inoffensive) Larry Shue comedy “The Foreigner” on the most flimsy of political correctness pretexts, and then saw the institution’s president absurdly deny that the censorious act was censorship, has begun attracting comment here from the college’s larger community.

Below is a Comment of the Day on my post about the situation, “Unethical Quote Of The Week (And Jumbo!) Washington College (in Md.) President Kurt Landgraf,” submitted by skipm, a 1987 graduate with two BA degrees, including one in drama.

Speaking for a group of about 200-300 (changes daily) alum, we’ve been at odds with the Board of Visitors and Governors due to the cost of the high turnover of administration for years. The lack of transparency in the fiscal and administrative management is deplorable. Calling on the alumni to support half-hearted and complacent efforts to maneuver a private liberal arts college, the 10th oldest college in the country, through this past 10 years makes us grow weary. This censorship is only the latest, most egregious act thus far by the current administration.

You mistake Machiavellian for pure ham-fisted ignorance. Kurt was late to the game on this issue, yet owns and yet in his own moment of “enlightenment” supports the decision fully. If you read the letters to the editor on The Chestertown Spy from one of the affected parents of the cast/crew (https://chestertownspy.org/2019/11/13/wc-parent-open-letter-to-provost-diquinzio-on-foreigner-cancellation/) , or look at the largest social media commented post ( https://tinyurl.com/censorshipwc1) you’ll see the Provost and Dean, and perhaps one other professor, announced the cancellation at the outset of the final dress rehearsal, then locked the doors, allowed the students to work through the play, then walked out at the end with nary a word or huzzah. Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week (And Jumbo!) Washington College (in Md.) President Kurt Landgraf

“Elephant? What elephant?” The thing is, Jimmy was playing a CLOWN when he uttered that line, not a college president.

“Our intent in cancelling the production was to prevent further harm to members of our community who already feel marginalized. However, the decision to cancel the play has been interpreted by some as a form of censorship on the part of the College. Censorship is anathema to the core values of Washington College, and this was never our intent.”

—-Kurt Landgraf, president of Washington College in Maryland, in his letter to the campus regarding the decision to cancel a student production of Larry Shue’s 1980 farce “The Foreigner.”

Got that? “Censorship? What censorship? Oh, you mean that thing when we stopped a play from being performed? You call that censorship?”

Yes, the president of an institution of higher learning is really and truly saying in print that administrators cancelled the production of a play, as in “prevented it from being seen,” because of concerns over the content of said play, and the need to protect some students from seeing it, hearing it, or knowing it was being seen and heard by others, yet did not intend this to constitute censorship, which it was by definition.

I’ll publish the whole weaselly, embarrassing letter at the end of the post, because otherwise you might not believe it.

I have seen “The Foreigner.” It’s not a classic by any means, but there is nothing controversial about it, and nothing that would legitimately “trigger” anyone with the sense God gave a trout.  Deciding that “The Foreigner” needs to be censored makes as much sense as blocking a production of “Arsenic and Old Lace.”

The comedy opened Off-Broadway in 1984 and won two Obie Awards and two Outer Critics Circle Awards as Best New American Play and Best Off-Broadway Production. Since then it has been a staple of regional theaters, community theaters, colleges and high schools. A very short version of the plot: Two Englishmen visiting a  fishing lodge in rural Georgia foil the plot of an evil  local Klansman to take over the lodge and use it as a KKK headquarters. The hero, Charlie Baker, pulls this off in part by pretending to be a non-English speaker and talking gibberish, as well as pretend language like ” Klaatu barada nikto” from the classic film “The Day the Earth Stood Still.”  Because people think he can’t understand them, they openly discuss their various plots and schemes in his presence.

The Horror. Continue reading

Shameless Self-Promotion Dept.: My Upcoming Smithsonian Program on Cross-Examination

I don’t know how many Ethics Alarms readers live in the vicinity of Washington, D.C.—I suspect quite a few—but if you do and are interested in seeing me and my sister present a lively two-hour program exploring many of the legal ethics issues that I have tackled here, along with plenty of history, popular culture and trial technique (and are willing to pay $45 for the privilege as well as some take-home materials),  maybe I can meet you on the evening of October 21st.

The event is called “Courtroom Drama: The Art of Cross-Examination,” and here’s description: Continue reading

The Theater World Shows How To Embolden White Nationalists: Discriminate Against Actors For Being White

Even white actors, as long as they are willing to be treated as if they aren’t wanted…

“Backstage,” a popular industry website for actors and technicians, recently posted a casting call for an ensemble production Off-Off Broadway in New York City. The post included this…

and this…

It also offered this…

As soon as an enterprising journalist at the Daily Wire began querying the playwright about these discriminatory requirements—of course they are illegal, but he got statements from two Constitutional scholars to pass along—the Back Stage announcement was changed to reflect no racial disparities.

Fascinating. Continue reading

Fire Lisa Mars

I usually hesitate to call for anyone to be fired, though there have been exceptions. In this case, however, the call is mandatory on ethical grounds. It is unethical for a school dedicated to the arts to hand oversight to an gross incompetent who doesn’t comprehend the arts she is supposedly responsible for teaching; it is unethical for someone to take on this responsibility who is wildly unqualified for the job; and it is unethical for that individual to act in a way that undermines the mission of the school she heads.

I have just fairly described Lisa Mars, currently the principal at the Fiorello LaGuardia High School, the high school “of music, arts the performing arts” made famous in the movie and TV show, “Fame.”

On opening night of a school production of “The Sound of Music,” she ordered all Nazi-themed props and set pieces struck. They are offensive, you see. Never mind that the show is set during Germany’s take-over of Austria as the Third Reich was expanding. Never mind that Nazi Germany and its officers are major elements in the plot, or that the plot is based on the real-life escape of the singing Von Trapp family from the Nazis. Never mind that theater is a representational art form. Stage deaths are not real killings, stage rape isn’t really rape, stage racism isn’t really racism, and stage representations of Nazi symbols do not promote fascism. Most grade-school actors can grasp this basic principle, but not the head of a school for the performing arts.

“This is a very liberal school, we’re all against Nazis,” one sophomore said. “But to take out the symbol is to try to erase history.” Yes, that too. “Obviously the symbols are offensive,” he added. “But in context, they are supposed to be.”

Make him principal. Continue reading

BREAKING NEWS: Hollywood And Broadway Declare War On The Presidency, Elections, Democracy, Decency And Civility. NOW What?

“I’m just going to say one thing. Fuck Trump! It’s no longer ‘Down with Trump.’ It’s ‘fuck Trump!’”

—Actor Robert De Niro on live TV at the Tonys last night.

Then he pumped both fists in the air, as a large contingent of the crowd of Broadway glitterati at Radio City Music Hall stood and gave him a standing ovation, endorsing the gutter insult.

I believe such un-American conduct creates an ethical obligation on the part of fair and reasonable American to demonstrate their contempt and opposition, in as strong and decisive a manner possible.

What that means is beyond my ability to suggest right now. I don’t like to write when I am angry, and I am angry. But this must not stand.

Yesterday, commenting on the unethical Tony Awards scheduling  of De Niro, who has used other appearances to make vulgar, hateful, ad hominem attacks on the President, I wrote in part,

“If you invite Robert De Niro, you are deliberately announcing that your event is going to be politically divisive and include an attack, probably uncivil, on the President—and while he will be engaged in crucial international negotiations. The President has nothing to do with the Tonys, nor does politics—the main contenders for top musicals are “SpongeBob” and “Mean Girls,” for heaven’s sakes—nor does De Niro, who is just one more movie star being used by Broadway to attract a larger TV audience.”

Naturally, CBS allowed this to go forward, because it was in search of ratings for the perpetually viewer-starved awards show. The network either knew or should have known that this meant that it would be broadcasting some kind of ugly episode. The network was accused of  conspiring with Janet Jackson to flash her breast during the supposedly family-friendly Super Bowl half-time show—you know, back in those halcyon days when games didn’t include NFL players symbolically calling the US. racist as a prelude?—and swore that it had no idea anything inappropriate was going to happen. Well, it can’t make that claim now about De Niro. De Niro’s outburst is like the breast-bearing if Jackson had been flashing at every public appearance. CBS knew he was going to insult the President. It wanted him to insult the President. Continue reading

Ethics Warm-Up, Memorial Day, 5/28/18: Things That Don’t Mix

1. Let’s start with some non-traditional casting hypocrisy.

  • Example A: In “The Gentleman Caller,” an Off-Broadway drama by Phillip Dawkins, an imagined romantic interlude between famously gay Fifties playwrights Tennessee Williams and William Inge has been cast with a Hispanic, and Hispanic-looking, actor as the very un-Hispanic Williams, and an Asian-American actor as the quite Caucasian Inge. This is self-indulgent grandstanding by the director that doesn’t serve the play—that’s the director’s duty, to serve the play—and the playwright was a fool to allow it. If the drama was just about two gay playwrights, it wouldn’t matter who was cast to portray them, or what the actors looked like. The identity of the writers is important to this  drama, however. You don’t cast a short, bald man as Abraham Lincoln, and you don’t cast a fat, flat-chested woman as Marilyn Monroe unless you are actively trying to sabotage the play. The New York Times critic didn’t have the integrity to point out the reverse-whitewashing casting-–mustn’t criticize fellow social justice warriors, you know!—but the stunt is both incompetent and discriminatory.

If a director cast an Irish-American and an Italian-American as James Baldwin and Richard Wright in a similar play, he would be excoriated, and rightly so.

  • Example B. Jim Parsons, best known as aging nerd Sheldon in “Big Bang Theory” and now starring on Broadway in the ensemble revival of “The Boys in the Band,” told the New York Times in an interview that the producer insisted that everyone in the cast be gay. Nice. Gay actors have been insisting forever that their sexuality was no bar to their playing straight characters—this is true, if they are any good as actors—but apparently reverse discrimination is fine.  It’s not fine. It’s bigotry.

When my late, lamented theater company revived that play almost 20 years ago, the director, John Moran, himself gay, insisted that the sexual orientation of the actors who auditioned would play no part in his casting decisions, and it did not. I think most of the all-male cast was not gay, but all of them were (and are) excellent.

One of my favorite Clarence Darrow quotes is, “I’m for the underdog. He needs friends a damn sight more than the other fellow. The best fun in life is to fight for the underdog…If the underdog got on top he would probably be just as rotten as the upper dog, but in the meantime I am for him.”

Things that don’t mix: Anti-discrimination rhetoric and discrimination

2. Another “good illegal immigrant” story. Guatemalan woman Gomez Gonzalez was shot to death in a border incident as she tried to enter the U.S. illegally. The episode is under investigation, and the facts are murky: the border patrol claims that she was in a crowd of people trying to cross the border illegally that became threatening and violent.  Here is how CNN begins its account of the controversy:

“Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez traveled 1,500 miles to the United States, hoping to find a job and a better future. Shortly after she set foot in Texas, a Border Patrol agent shot and killed her.”

No bias there! It is absolutely irrelevant to the legal and ethical issues here why Gonzalez was entering the country illegally. She did not deserve to be shot under any circumstances, and she was no more justified in violating our immigration laws whether her objective was to find a “better future” or to open a meth lab. The news media insists on sentimentalizing what is a black and white issue of sovereignty, law-breaking and enforcement, with the intent of confusing the public and demonizing opponents of illegal immigration.

Things that don’t mix: Lawbreaking and status as a virtuous martyr

Continue reading