The Not-So-Bountiful Trip to Broadway
“A gorgeous, great play. American theatre at its most engaging.” Could a producer invent a more perfect pull-quote? Unless you were launching a critique of the whole hype-y synergy between salesmanship and criticism (one well worth launching on another occasion), you could hardly blame the marketing team for The Trip to Bountiful—which opened last night at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre—for plastering this socko line on its website and other promotional materials.
Funny thing is, the line, though specifically describing the play itself—Horton Foote’s widely beloved 1953 drama about an elderly woman making an insistent last visit to her rural hometown, called Bountiful—comes from a review of another production. And not just any other production, but one that played a part in this new revival. Yet except for that pull-quote, the contribution of the earlier production has been disappeared, left behind by the bus that took Bountiful to Broadway.
Nothing illegal has happened here, nor anything that dims the astonishing radiance of Cicely Tyson, returning to Broadway after a thirty-year absence to play the central role of Carrie Watts. Nonetheless, something wrong has happened. An artist has not been given his due. Perhaps that’s business as usual. But for a play that decries a self-serving, individualistic urban ethos that has supplanted the human decencies and connections of old—as starkly signified in the contrast between Carrie’s meanspirited daughter-in-law (Vanessa Williams) and Carrie’s kind-hearted young seatmate (Condola Rashad) on the bus to her old home—the ethical breach seems especially blunt. And it didn’t occur in a vacuum, but in a commercial theatre where African American directors find few opportunities—and in a culture with a long history of white appropriation of black creativity. The case of this professional slight intertwines some longstanding vexing issues: the amorphous nature of a director’s intellectual property and the abiding failure of our theatre community to create a climate where diversity can thrive.
Several years ago, the director Timothy Douglas hit upon the idea of staging The Trip to Bountiful with African American actors as the principal characters. He had just finished working with Lizan Mitchell on August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean and wanted to cast her in a substantial role for an older woman that would take advantage of her considerable power and grace as an actor. Too bad she can’t do Trip to Bountiful, he thought to himself—and then, as he puts it, “the explosion went off in my head”: why couldn’t she do it? Reframing the play as a story about a black family wouldn’t require any tinkering with the text, Douglas realized as he reread the script, but the casting change would give it new valences of meaning. Set in Houston some sixty years ago, the play would make perfect sense: Carrie’s son, Ludie, working hard and underappreciated at his job, would fit right into the striving black middle class in Houston in that period. His frustrations and his domineering wife’s disappointments—their seeping bitterness is beginning to spread through the small apartment they share with Carrie—would have the personal sources they have always had in Foote’s play, but now they would also be tinged by a context in which black dreams were sparked and then doused. Ludie’s fears that Carrie would sneak off again and hop a train to Bountiful would intensify as she became not only an old woman with a heart condition setting forth by herself, but also an African American woman traveling alone in the Jim Crow South. The kind gesture of the sheriff who tracks Carrie down and ends up assisting her would add new dimension, too, when cast with a white actor. In sum, the concept would work. Douglas sought approval from Hallie Foote, the late playwright’s daughter and executor of his estate (and a formidable actor in her own right). She readily agreed.
Reframing the play as a story about a black family wouldn’t require any tinkering with the text, Douglas realized as he reread the script, but the casting change would give it new valences of meaning.
The production premiered at the Cleveland Play House in February 2011. (The quote in the current Broadway publicity comes from Tony Brown’s review for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.) Hallie Foote supported the show with enthusiastic local press interviews and when she came to see it, Douglas recounts, she was effusive in her response. “She could not have been more accommodating,” he says. “She was the biggest cheerleader.” (Foote did not respond to an email requesting comment.) The play moved on to the Roundhouse in Bethesda, Maryland (which had coproduced with Cleveland), where it was warmly received again. Then, early this year, Douglas mounted the show at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, once more with great success.
While Douglas was putting that show on its feet, he received an email late one night from Michael Wilson, a directing colleague with whom he was friendly. Wilson, who had frequently collaborated with Horton Foote, including staging the first productions of several of Foote’s plays, was writing to tell Douglas personally, hours before a press release would announce the news, that Trip was on its way to Broadway starring Cicely Tyson and that Wilson would be directing. He thanked Douglas for giving birth to the idea of putting an African American family at the center of the play and for his contribution to bringing it to Broadway.
Wilson was thoughtful to reach out, but that didn’t keep Douglas from feeling, as he describes it, like he’d been “hit in the head with a brick.” The stunner wasn’t primarily that the producer Nelle Nugent hired Wilson at Hallie Foote’s urging, nor even that Wilson is white—Douglas understands a producer’s desire for “bankable” personnel and Wilson has Broadway experience as well as expertise in Horton Foote; “I’m a big boy,” Douglas says, “but treat me like a professional. Call and tell me you can’t afford to take a risk on me.” (A request for a comment from the producers made through the show’s press office also went unanswered.)
What shocked Douglas was that the project was going forward based on his idea without anyone having spoken to him or having offered any recognition. (Wilson has acknowledged the debt obliquely to at least one reporter, telling the Observer, “There was a regional production, I believe in Cleveland” that set out “to explore the family as black.” He adds that Hallie Foote asked Wilson what he thought of the idea and that when he answered favorably, she asked if he thought it would work on Broadway. “‘Sure,’” he recounts telling her, “‘if you get Cicely Tyson.’” Without naming him, Wilson draws a straight line from Douglas’s idea to the production on 43rd Street. Hallie Foote admitted as much back in 2011, when she told the Plain Dealer that “Director Timothy Douglas came to me with this idea.”
But when Douglas sought some kind of acknowledgement, producers, he says, told his agent that others had done black productions of Bountiful before. A search of Lexis-Nexis and Ethnic News Watch did not turn up any reviews or stories, so certainly they weren’t in major theatres, which bring the kind of acclaim that, as the writer/director/dramaturg (and expert on black American theatre) Talvin Wilks puts it, go into “making an idea viable.” The regional theatres where Douglas’s version was presented are part of what Wilks calls the “Broadway development machine” and “his success clearly made the investment in a Broadway production much more alluring.”
But does providing such allure command a price or even a nod? Not according to any court of American law. To earn copyright protection, explains Ronald Schectman, an attorney with Pryor, Cashman, Sherman & Flynn who has represented directors seeking redress when alleging that their work was copied, material has to be unique and expressed in fixed form—for example, published in some material way, like stage directions in a script. In some cases, Schectman notes, artists do better by arguing according to trademark law, asserting that theatres co-opting a prior production’s staging are misrepresenting who the creator is. But either way, there has been “no authoritative determination” that applies across the board.
In one of the most famous tests of this issue, in 1999, Joe Mantello declared victory in a complaint against a Florida theatre whose 1996 staging of Terrence McNally’s Love! Valour! Compassion! he regarded as suspiciously close to his own previous Broadway production. The parties settled out of court, with Mantello receiving a payment of about $7,500, the New York Times reported at the time. But the defendants did not see the exchange as an admission of malfeasance, and the Settlement Agreement, issued by the U. S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, kept the murkiness of such disputes in place: “The legal issues asserted by both parties have not been resolved by the court,” it reports. In a similar case in 2006, a production of Urinetown that played in Chicago and Akron, Ohio, was challenged by the original Broadway creative team, and, two years later, was also settled out of court, but this time with the midwestern artists agreeing to pay to license elements of their production incorporated from the original. Bit by bit, directors, choreographers, and designers seem to be winning a piece of the royalties that traditionally have been mostly reserved for writers and composers. It’s a tricky business to compensate artists fairly and, at the same time, to avoid producing a chilling effect on new productions. And it’s a fine line between stealing another artist’s work and being properly faithful to a show’s original intention. (Using spangly gold costumes for the finale of A Chorus Line: following the dictates of the play or design theft? What about the way Bynum sings in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone? And so on …)
A director’s claims become harder, still, to delineate when they revolve around a concept. “You can’t copyright an idea,” Schectman explains. And matters that are “purely conceptual”—like casting—cannot rise to a level the law will recognize. Douglas has no beef in these terms. But artists offering key ideas to projects have often been listed as consultants and paid a fee. The Stage Directors and Choreographers Society suggested this standard to Douglas, and he proposed it to the Broadway producers; they were not moved.
The difficulty of identifying and crediting Douglas’s contribution, in the best light, has to do with how one understands the nature of his casting concept. Is it a form of “nontraditional casting” that merely reiterates, as Hallie Foote has said, how “universal” the play is, and thus sees Douglas’s idea as adding no interpretive new insight? Or is insisting exclusively on the idea of “universality”—and, presumably, erasure of the actors’ particularity—part of the trouble? That is, this is not a case of “colorblind” casting, where actors’ ethnicities are meant to disappear into the imaginative world of the play—a practice that works best with nonillusionistic canonical works like Shakespeare’s, where we both know the plays well and are reminded by their self-conscious form and meta-theatrical comments that no actor is meant to mesh wholly with her or his character. Even in Ibsen, say—and, of late, in all black productions of Tennessee Williams—the classical status of the work might allow for the operation of the old liberal piety that would say the actors “just happen to be” black. But dramatic realism makes that prospect much more difficult to compass, as do a few centuries of America’s unresolved meshugaas about race. (Consider, as one striking recent example, how ardently some Americans insist that the Tsarnaev brothers are not white.)
In a naturalistic play like Bountiful, we “read” race as a fact in the story when it is portrayed by black actors. The casting doesn’t make the play about race or about being black, but neither does it pretend that the characters—and the audience—are not aware of who they are historically. More than an ordinary casting choice, then, Douglas’s idea shifts the angle of view, bringing new insights to light by dint of what Talvin Wilks describes as “a black director reinterpreting through a particular cultural lens.”
For the producers to acknowledge that contribution opens them to a contentious question: Would a white director see through that same lens and as capably lead the cast in the same exploration? Understandably, the producers probably don’t want to see the issue explode as it did in 2009, when Barlett Sher was chosen to direct August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. While the matter may have been starker in the case of a play by a black author who explicitly asserted that he wanted to reserve his works for black directors, Douglas maintains that with an African American Bountiful, too, a black director can more organically elicit from the actors the sense of context and historical connection that the production raises. That’s not to take away from the considerable gifts and expertise that Michael Wilson brings to the job, Douglas is quick to point out, but to recognize a differentness that the Broadway show simultaneously banks on and seeks to make invisible. (How less heated—or necessary—this debate would be in a landscape where black directors had more opportunities for all kinds of plays. Despite the promises by producers in the wake of the Sher flap to reach out to more African American directors, you can still count on one hand the ones who have worked on Broadway in the last decade—Debbie Allen, Kenny Leon, Marion McClinton, Charles Randolph-Wright, and George C. Wolfe—and they aren’t exactly being tapped for Shakespeare or Odets or Durang. If they can’t even hang onto the African American shows, what will they have?)
For the producers to acknowledge that contribution opens them to a contentious question: Would a white director see through that same lens and as capably lead the cast in the same exploration?
As for banking on Douglas’s proof of concept, Broadway’s Bountiful is reaching out to a black audience that has not been a target for Horton Foote’s plays in the past. Along with special marketing and group sales efforts in African American communities, the multi-star cast savvily attracts various specific generations, notes Marcia Pendleton, president and founder of Walk Tall Girl Productions, a boutique marketing, audience development and group sales agency for the arts. The Sondheim Theatre—selling nearly 77 percent of its roughly 1,000 seats each night of the last week—draws a sizable number of black spectators (who take the lead in joining in as Tyson sings a rousing hymn). This audience, for whom Pendleton says critiques by white reviewers do not matter so much, can keep a show going even when reviews are mixed, as in the case of the all black Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. They are likely to buy tickets for Bountiful no matter what the mainstream press has to say. (And Tyson’s performance is certainly reason enough for anyone to go.) It’s Douglas who demonstrated that this market for Foote was viable.
The reviews out this morning are, in fact, mixed, but they agree on Tyson’s brilliance and on the easy transfer of the play’s themes into a black milieu. The play is about “the buried desire to go back home,” writes the AP critic, and “about finding grace and about keeping a connection to your roots.” What a pity that the same can’t be said for the production.
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I would like to think if I found myself in Mr. Wilson's position I would have had the moral courage to say to Hallie Foote, "That sounds like a great idea and Timothy Douglas is a helluva director. Why don't you get Cecily Tyson together with Douglas and have them take it to Broadway? I wouldn't feel right jumping on his idea that has since proven successful at major regional theatres." To then play it off like he maybe only had heard about Douglas's production is pretty lame on his part...but I guess a brother's gotta eat, right?
Thanks for this smart article, Alisa, as always. This highlights again (and again) the fact that the stakes here are high because so few people of color, as you point out, are hired to direct on Broadway. Much easier to steal and then erase a man's concepts and contributions than it is, I guess, to hire him . . .
Well, it would be hard to hire Orson Welles at this point. But he did steal the concept from him I suppose.
Wowwwww! Met Mr. Douglas years ago when he directed "Fences" at the Arden. He did great work then and continues to do so. Why not give him a shot? I think he would have been more than capable of directing the likes of Tyson, Gooding, Williams and Rashad. But even if you didn't think so, at least be up front.
I never ceased to be surprised by our protective nature - how we seem to be afraid that acknowledging another's contributions will diminish our own. I fail to see how acknowledging Mr. Douglas with a credit is at all damaging to the producers and director of the current production. We all learn and borrow from one another and we are all better for it. Let's acknowledge one another.
I would agree, except as soon as you acknowledge it, the sob hires a lawyer and tries to attache a percentage royalty to every future production. That's why no one will acknowledge anything. Because "courtesy" as everyone puts it, is rapidly replaced by legal action.
How insulting not to even be given a nod. I know Timothy Douglas from a show he directed, "Bronte: A Portrait of Charlotte", where I was Wardrobe Supervisor. He is such a down to earth, nice and giving man which makes it even more of an insult. Ugh!
Thanks for the well-researched and important article.
This is an interesting situation and I would also like to thank Ms. Solomon for bringing this to our attention.
As a point of fact, designers do have copyright protection for the intellectual property (every one of your theatres reminds people not to take pictures, right?). It's obvious that sets, costumes, sounds, and projection designs are realized in fixed forms, but even lighting designers set their work into a fixed form between the drawings, the cue sheets, the show files and the other paperwork a show spins off. Very few people see the point in so slavishly copying the design of a regional production that they will license it. That's an economic reality that has nothing to do with a lack of intellectual property protection (arguably it has everything to do with IP laws that are too stringent). Their copyright protection does not extend to the concept that inspired their design. That isn't unfair, it is specifically and strictly fair: like a contract bridge tournament, everyone is playing with the same hand. The central concept of intellectual property law is that you cannot legally protect ideas, only implementations of ideas. This is a good thing for the marketplace, especially the cultural marketplace, where money is scarce enough. Imagine having to pay a license fee for every concept or casting idea related to Shakespeare (mixed race Romeo and Juliet?). It would be a disaster.
Also, I think it is important to note that Timothy Douglas has benefited economically from his choice and he is free to do so again. The fact that the producers of the Broadway show didn't invite him to direct the show on Broadway has everything to do with how insular the Broadway community is and how desperately frightented of the unknown commercial producers are (which is not unique to commercial theatre). Thanks to Ms. Solomon, and many who will take Mr. Douglas' side, he will have many other opportunities to work.
Screw this industry man. Same old song. I've absolutely had it with the theatre industry. I am an actor of color and I can't think of any other industry that is so archaic and backwards on its treatment of minorities both on and off the stage. The theatre industry is the only industry that can get away with being blatantly racist and not be checked on it. It's been that way since I can remember. I started in late 80s. Our industry does not have the checks and balances, HR department or beat cop around to police these situations. We do not have a firm pillar of affirmative action to rest our heads upon. The unions are nothing but a puppet show to demonstrate that they are trying. I love how they always put that little line way at the bottom of casting notices "Performers of all ethnic and racial backgrounds are encouraged to attend", but really NOT. ABSOLUTELY CONDESCENDING! I am sick and tired of mostly old male white guys running these institutions who just don't get it. They have no clue how it is out there. And they cater to the same aging white old population. What's driving me to call it quits? It's not the struggle. I know this is a tough business. It's not the people. There are many great people I have worked with over the years. It's not the work. The work is thriving. No, it's BS like this and how Mr. Douglas has been treated which crystallizes the epitome of where the color person stands in this business when it comes to white producers, artistic directors, and directors in general - at the back of the bus, at the other water fountain, outside the building. Basically there is no place for us. So I say it again - screw this industry man. I'm done with it. Time to find a career where at least I know I count. Mr. Douglas, good luck to you brother.
Yeah, racist like August Wilson dictating that white people can't direct his plays. That kind of racism.
Titus - you're an idiot. Your argument is absurd and ridiculous. Now, if we had tons of colored playwrights being produced who are taking jobs away from white playwrights with tons of colored directors out there who are taking jobs away from white directors, then your comment would be valid. Until then, shut the hell up and go learn something fool! You're exactly the kind of person the comment above is referring to - OUT..OF..TOUCH!
Hello, pot; this is the racist kettle.
I've learned plenty, JV. And I can see the angles just fine. If there aren't enough black playwrights and directors then who's fault is that? Go preach somewhere else. Put your money where your big mouth is.
Thank you for this essay, Alisa. It´s depressing that, even though Douglas has letters from Halle Foote, where he "brought the concept to her" about reinterpreting "Bountiful"; plus 3 distinct regional productions; that after all of this evidence of having initiated this new artistic idea, that he has legal protection for his work enjoyed by other artists (such as writers). Sounds like it is time for directors (and choreographers) to implement new law to protect their ideas, so that other poachers from Broadway or elsewhere do not steal from them. Again.
This is so incredibly shameful- a producer who won't even acknowledge a director's contribution AND they pull a quote from HIS PRODUCTION! Even if you claim that he shouldn't get credit on the concept (which I believe he SHOULD), at the very least as a good producer and decent human being you should lay your selfish hands off of his QUOTE. He earned that, not you!
Alisa, thank you so much for telling this story - and for doing it in such a fair and generous way, with attention to reaching out to all parties and looking for the best intentions of all involved. For me, this is another example of the unfortunate disconnect between Broadway and the rest of the theater world. I look forward to the day when Broadway is a meritocracy, where great work and great talent bubble to the top and are given a special showcase for a time. There is great work that happens on Broadway of course (having worked with the great folks involved in Next to Normal, there's one stunning example). However, Broadway work can often be a constructed greatness, one that might reflect a specific kind of great talent in NYC, but that doesn't reflect the diverse and great talent of the US, or the artistic ebbs and flows of the country as a whole. And that's a shame. Less top-down please, and more bubbling up of our diverse artists and ideas- with credit.
So no acknowledgement for the original production or Mr. Douglas, no connection other than the pull quote from the obviously brilliant review - of the original? Notwithstanding the deeper issues, think about that icing. What is the definition of thoughtlessness?
Alisa, thank you for this deep and wide examination of this particular case to open up a much larger problem in American theater. In our system where few people are paid well (or at all), credit is so important, and to me this is a terrible example of "cultural capital(ism)" at it's worst, with professionals creating amazing work in various regions of the country, only to have their ideas poached and re-branded (or simply to take the production and recast it) for Broadway. We continue to fret over playwrights getting credit for their work, and yet their work is transferable, even to Broadway; directors, performers, and designers are the ones who have no claim to their intellectual property, and unfortunately, we seem to be in no hurry to find a solution.
This story makes me heartsick and mad. This is how institutionalized racism works. Sexism too. As a theatre community we should be on the FRONT LINES of these battles, and leading the way--not taking up the rear!
In 2007 director Evan Bergman came to me with the idea of an all black "American Buffalo" at Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater (WHAT). We got off to a rough start: the first two actors hired for the roles of Teach and Donny couldn't seem to learn their lines, were let go after two weeks of rehearsal, and we started over with their replacements (the opening was postponed.) But those replacements - Reg E. Cathey as Teach and Paul Butler as Donny - were magnificent. This "Buffalo" truly sang and, as Alisa Solomon reports happened in "Bountiful," the text needed no adjustments to work with an African American cast. In fact, the milieu of a grey economy junk shop made even more sense somehow. Mamet's rhythms translated deliciously. All that said, to me this was just one good idea - a BIG idea, maybe, and one that worked really, really well. But it never would have occurred to me to claim appropriation if some big producer had caught wind of what we did and replicated it on Broadway. At least I don't think so... In any case the idea is still out there. Reg deserves to do Teach on Broadway!
This seems to me a very valid point. However, pulling and using the quote was pretty tacky.
A very necessary article, Alisa, that provokes important questions about artistic/conceptual ownership and diversity. Thank you.
I'm appalled that Broadway theatre continues to think it is above basic ethics and collegiality. Mr. Douglas deserves better.
Hope- I think you are on the right track here. Though its tempting to jump into legal arguments and all sorts of other issues, what is apparently at issue here from the very beginning is the complete lack of respect and empathy that the decision-makers displayed toward Mr. Douglas. The climate this played out in is one of extreme myopia-- a world of big privilege and narrow self-interest, one of total market-driven rationalization, one devoid of ethical or collegial concerns. Shockingly, there seems even to be no sense of concern about the "optics" here-- something that corporations are always on alert for. From the lens of the bottom line, all of the decisions make cents here yet nothing about this is right. In some corners of the conversation it is starting to become one of "Timothy Douglas wants credit", as though this is some racially-charged grab by Mr. Douglas for something he's not owed. In others, there's a hysterical voice of him driving the field toward some onerous, chilling legal precedent. However, what he seems to have sought, from the beginning, is the common courtesy of a conversation with the people moving to monetize his ideas for their personal, private gain-- a conversation that acknowledged his work and invited him into the thinking about how to make this right. Nothing here was hard for the producing team, had they had a moment's empathy. Credit is free and infinite-- giving it where it is earned costs no one anything. Respect is free and renewable as a resource. Common courtesy is just that: common and courteous. It is a shame they didn't step outside the frantic frame of the race to the Tony award to just be colleagues with Mr. Douglas.
This is it exactly, David ... I appreciate your 'seeing', and for taking part in helping to clarify the order of importance with regard to the many prickly points along this complicated journey.
The "ideas" are Horton Foote's. Period. It's plain greedy. It's like Rando trying to copyright the use of a red scarf for f#&^ sake. His "creative" contribution to the art. Really? A black cast? Like that hasn't been done a thousand times elsewhere. Mediocrity elevated to genius.
Titus - your argument is ridiculous and absurd. That's like saying only the playwright exists and nothing else can be given over to his or her work to infuse the interpretation of it. That a play doesn't need a director or its actors to give it a living breathing force around it. It's called ART you moron. Look it up. And I'd like you to show me where this "idea" with a black cast has been done "a thousand times elsewhere" - what a ridiculous thing to say.
Well, Sylvia, the genius that you clearly are, there's the all African-American production of MacBeth done by Orson Welles that immediately springs to mind. Use your own time to find the others. Guess Mr. Douglas plagiarized his idea. (not unusual for directors)
And, genius Sylvia, since when has ART needed more than one person? You paint with a broad brush. You should be more specific THEATRE ART perhaps? And then you should have the decency to include light designers, sound designers, costume designers, and all the others beyond your navel-gazing ego centric view that actors and directors are all that there are. I understand that theatre requires a community, but painting? sculpture? are not these forms of ART.
Regardless, I never said plays are created in a vacuum (you sound like a cheap politician changing the argument) I said that actors and directors should NOT be given credit for WRITING and CREATING the piece, let alone paid a percentage of all FUTURE profits. Fuc& sake, grow up.
Not hardly. Another greedy attempt by a director to steal revenue from those who create.
Idiotic comment above ^^^
Navel-gazing idiot posting a comment above ^^^
The casting concept is not new or stolen. The lead producer of "..Bountiful" also recently produced the African-American/multi-ethnic cast "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and "A Streetcar Named Desire."
George C. Wolfe is presently represented on Broadway with his direction of "Lucky Guy," not an 'African-American show.' And you forgot Bill T. Jones who directed "Fela!"
Seriously, you are going to cite tokenism and exceptions to the rule as the defense for failing to credit an artist for his role in revitalizing a play for a contemporary audience? Why is it so hard to even just acknowledge the contribution of directors and dramaturgs in revitalizing plays for a new age? The exclusionary impulse behind ignoring Mr. Douglas' contribution is so small-minded, and so, artistically unethical. We know there is no real racial or gender parity on Broadway. What is the point in defending what has been done on "Bountiful?"
My understanding of George C. Wolfe as an artist is that he chooses specifically not to tie himself to racial identity. He has also directed many, many shows that were not in the African-American theatre cannon both on Broadway and off (Lucky Guy, Mother Courage, The Normal Heart, etc.).
I don't think Ms. Solomon is pointing to the idea of casting a play non-traditionally or cross-culturally in general as being new, she states as much in the article. The point here is that the director's concept for this production was appropriated and even (privately) acknowledged without credit or remuneration.
But it's not about it being a new idea. It's about seeing it done successfully by a director in the regional theaters, deciding to do it on Broadway, and being too chicken to spread the sunshine. I'm sure that fear of a lawsuit motivated the almost total silence the director experienced. Imagine if the producers, Hallie Foote, and others involved had acknowledged up front the desire to do this play with a name director on Bway, and had publicly thanked the director and regional theaters for road-testing the idea so successfully. It would still be a kick in the head for the artists that won't be part of the Bway run, but it would raise their profiles with the Bway business world and audience to be credited this way. And that is tremendously valuable. Not to do that is grabby, to put it politely.
Myra are you for real? Okay...I want you to name five productions directed by Black directors on Broadway in the last year. same ol same ol Kenny Leon doesnt count!!! Okay. I'm waiting. As you think of that non-existent list, I want you to then name five productions where the content was NOT Black and directed by a Black director. Okay. Go ahead...I'm waiting Myra.
Thank you so much for this in-depth and comprehensive article. I had the great fortune to serve as dramaturg on the Cleveland Play House and Round House Theatre co-production of The Trip to Bountiful. Your interview with Timothy inspired this response: http://www.jacquelinelawton...
Justice and the law are, as ever, not quite equal. I know none of the players involved, but if I take the events described above as accurate, then it's a pity the Broadway production team could not at least have managed to give Mr. Douglas both credit and some form of compensation.
Alisa, thank you for writing this important and clear-eyed piece; these things are not often discussed in the open. Your point about the play's themes and the manner in which the business of the production was conducted is particularly potent.