Bruce Norris condemns use of blackface for ‘Clybourne Park’

Playwright Bruce Norris has condemned the still-current use of blackface in German theater.
(Evren Odcikin / A.C.T.)

Bruce Norris, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of “Clybourne Park,” has published a letter condemning a production of the drama that had been planned for a theater company in Berlin. The writer said he withdrew rights to the production after learning that the staging would feature a white actor wearing makeup for the role of an African American character.

The German-language production had been planned for earlier this year at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin.

This week, Norris sent a lengthy letter to members of the Dramatists Guild in which he outlined the events leading up to the cancellation of the production. In the letter, he condemned the still-current use of blackface in German theater, advising other playwrights to “to boycott productions of your own work by German theatres that continue this asinine tradition.”

Norris wrote that leaders of the Deutches Theater informed him that one of the female African American characters in the play would be performed by a white actress.


He wrote that “after much evasion, justification and rationalizing of their reasons, they finally informed me that the color of the actress’s skin would ultimately be irrelevant, since they intended to ‘experiment with makeup.’ At this point, I retracted the rights to the production.”

A petition has been started to halt the use of blackface in German theaters.

“Clybourne Park” has been produced at Playwrights Horizons in New York, the Mark Taper Forum in L.A. and on Broadway at the Walter Kerr Theatre. The play is a sequel of sorts to Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” and deals with issues of race and gentrification.

It won the Tony Award for best play earlier this year.


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