Blackface, Round Five.

19 Oct

“As it turns out, blackface has been and continues to be a widespread practice on the German stage. German actors of African descent are routinely passed over for roles explicitly designated for them in some of the largest theatres in the country. This is weakly defended as either a director’s prerogative or a matter of “artistic choice” – and yet, when questioned, no one could offer me an equivalent example of a white German actor having lost a role to a black actor in whiteface.

Clybourne Park.

Now, 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. When we write plays, among other things, we are creating employment for working actors, and often we intend to employ a specific diverse body. Whatever rationale the German theatre establishment might offer for their brazenly discriminatory practice is of no interest to me. For, as little power as we playwrights have, we always retain one small power and that is the power to say no. To say, no thank you, I’d rather not have my work performed in Germany, today, under those conditions.

Lara-Sophie Milagro and her colleague Gyavira Lasana have created an online petition (included below) condemning the ongoing practice of blackface in German theatres and have asked me to ask you, fellow playwrights, to add your name to their petition. I urge you to do so.

But I would go one step further – I would advise you to boycott productions of your own work by German theatres that continue this asinine tradition (The Deutsches Theatre and the Schlosspark are only two examples). A zero-tolerance position is the only position to take, in my opinion, and if we are united then perhaps a few German theatres may take notice and, hopefully, in time, a better course of action.”

Bruce Norris, the Pulitzer prize winning author of “Clybourne Park.” Read the whole article (in german) here (however, cf. Franca’s corrections to the article in the comment section below), and sign the petition against Blackfacing here.

There have been multiple discussions regarding Blackface on this blog if you’d like to have a look, particularly on Berlin’s Schlosspark Theater’s staging of “I’m Not Rappaport:”

  1. “You Know It’s A Bad Idea When It’s Blackface”
  2. “Reasonable Racism”
  3. “Fighting Windmills”
  4. “Blackface, Round 4”
  5. “For Never Was A Story Of More Woe…”

3 Responses to “Blackface, Round Five.”

  1. franca October 19, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

    i could not quite figure out your e-mail adress, this is why i contact you like this. we are currently diskussing the po articel in our bühnenwatch group, this is what one of our members says (i am just going to copy his fb posts, he gave me permission to do so):

    “Pulitzer-Preisträger Bruce Norris hat nun die Aufführung seines Stücks Clybourne Park am Deutschen Theater in Berlin untersagt, weil ausgerechnet in dem Stück, in dem es um Rassismus geht, ein Weißer einen Schwarzen spielen sollte.” <<<< Das finde ich unglücklich und unrichtig formuliert. 1. Bruce Norris zog die Rechte letztes Jahr zurück (mich irritiert, daß da "nun" steht und der Blogeintrag vom 19. Oktober 2012 ist) 2. ging es um die Besetzung der Doppelrolle 'Francine/Lena', die von Anita Vulesica gespielt werden sollte (mich irritiert, daß da steht 'ein Weißer sollte einen Schwarzen' spielen) – Btw., Anita hat schon mehr als einmal auf der Bühne thematisiert, daß sie oft 'nur als Kroatin' gelesen wird (sprich reduziert werden soll). Insofern, wäre es vielleicht interessant gewesen, was sie mit 'Clybourne Park' angefangen hätte. 3. sollte Lara nicht durch eine andere Schauspielerin "ersetzt" werden. Das DT wollte eine Neuinszenierung und keine Übernahme der Inszenierung aus Mainz. 4. Sonja Anders ist die Chefdramaturgin des DT. Sie hätte das Stück nicht inszeniert, sondern Rafael Sanchez. 5. Das DT hatte bereits Ernest Allan Hausmann für die Doppelrolle 'Albert/Kevin' engagiert. (insofern irritiert mich, daß da steht Sonja Anders hätte gesagt: "Allerdings habe man keine von Alter passenden schwarzen Schauspieler in dem Ensemble gehabt.")


    Hallervorden ist der Künstlerische Leiter des SPT. Die Direktorin/Theaterleiterin ist Evangelia Epanomeritaki. Die hatte auch den blöden Brief geschrieben, auf den hin es dann die Abmahnung von der LADS wegen Diskriminierung gab …"

    this is for your information only – all facts and mistakes considered we decided to take the po artikel down on our bw facebook page…

    best regards,


    • accalmie October 19, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

      Hi Franca,

      thanks for taking the time to pass along this information, that is important to know!

      Personally, I am just quite fond of Norris’ quote, so that’s why I posted it here (and give the link to the article, so people know where it’s from), and I would also like to support the petition.

      As to Hallervorden: you are right, of course, that the letter (and many other responses) weren’t his – but he was the one giving the interview in which he told people that they just don’t understand what racism really is, and that he could not possibly be racist because of his “education.” That’s also what the article refers to, in my view.

      • franca October 19, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

        yes, and thanks for supporting the petition!

        somehow the english aricles seen to refer to better research… still important it arrived in german press, i would say…

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