Thursday, December 08, 2011

Guirgis Likens Production of his Play to a Minstrel Show

In case you haven't seen it, yet, playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis wrote an e-mail to the Hartford Courant about seeing the Hartford TheaterWorks production of his play: The Motherfucker With the Hat.

Guirgis has been making people aware that the casting process may have excluded Latinos from auditioning for characters that were specifically written to be Puerto Rican. Apparently the director had pretty much pre-cast the two lead roles with Caucasian actors he knew from New York University.

Guirgis's reaction to the production is, well...

The experience of being in the theater and watching two Caucasian actors pretending to be Latinos for an audience compromised entirely of Caucasian theater goers was disturbing and surreal to me. I felt like I was in a time warp. I honestly felt like I was witnessing something that I had only read about in history books(...)what I saw felt to me very nearly a minstrel show.

Read the whole Courant article here.


Thomas Garvey said...

I'm beginning to wonder how long Guirgis will ride the free-publicity gravy train resulting from this admittedly regrettable misstep in Hartford. As I understand it, he could always have denied rights to the production if he was so troubled by the casting. And if it was the regional premiere, why wasn't he paying any attention? My question to him would be, "Why didn't you attend to this yourself?"

Art said...

From what I do understand, at least from reading about this since it first went down, Guirgis has admitted he generally doesn't micromanage or even get involved in productions unless they ask him to. He will always try to make it to any theater that invites him for a talkback, etc, and he will give advice if asked.

Some theaters seem to reach out, others don't. In this case, at least according to him, they weren't really involving him and he didn't seem to mind that.

To be fair to him, Tom, it seems that he really didn't think that not even trying to cast Latinos in those roles was something he would have to be alert to.

And he at least appears to realize that he was late to the party - he didn't threaten to shut down the production or anything like that.

However, there is a dichotomy, as you point out. His outrage on Facebook is how the story broke, but then he even had drinks with the cast.

Although, once again, I probably feel that his Facebook post came after he tried to get answers from Theaterworks and they weren't forthcoming.

Ian Thal said...

Even if it is Guirgis' policy not to initiate contact with a theatre that is producing his plays (though technically speaking, the fact that they have negotiated the right to his work is their initiation of contact) it strikes me as willful negligence on his part not to touch base early on-- especially when one considers how close Hartford is to NYC.

Maybe it's because I'm not as successful as Gurigis, but it seems to me that if somebody was producing my play, especially if they were a commuter train ride away, I would be offering my services at the earliest opportunity (as well as checking them out to make sure they were respecting my intent.)

Thomas Garvey said...

Sorry, I know you're a nicer guy than I am, Art, but he should have been paying attention to the first regional production of his play - not far from New York, btw - and he should have closed it down if he really felt it was becoming a "minstrel show". OR he should live with it. You can't really have it both ways.