All-Black Remakes Aren’t ‘Folly,’ But Arguing Against Them Is

May 15, 2012  |  

“The headline from this conversation is really: BLACK FOLKS,STAY IN YOUR PLACE!

As long as we stay in our place & do only the great “Black” classics, like “Fences,” “Porgy & Bess,” “A Raisin In The Sun,” etc. your artistry will be lauded & touted (as it should be), but if you dare step into the deified realm of Tennessee Williams, expect profound resistance & resentment….

Once again, you realize that the “resistance” and “resentment” is not based on the work. We are not being judged based on the work. It is the “power of the idea,” that seems to unnerve the “elite;” the idea that people of color could produce & perform Tennessee Williams and do it well. The beauty in all of this is that when an idea’s time has come, it cannot & will not be ignored!”

And there you have it. What Lahr couldn’t understand—and we wouldn’t expect him to—is that these remakes aren’t just happening to say, look we’ve got all negroes on one stage, we did it. They serve a purpose in showing a part of history that often times has been purposely omitted. It’s a black experience that’s been overshadowed by slavery and Jim Crow and any other time periods that paint us all with the same illegitimate and insignificant brush, ignoring the contributions we made outside of the cotton fields and caring for people’s homes. And that’s why these remakes happen—with people of color, not just African Americans.

John Lahr’s approval certainly isn’t needed, for the play has already been more of a success than expected, much like it’s predecessor, “Cat On a Hot Tin Roof.” But what is needed is an understanding for why these remakes exist. I’m sure most theater performers would love to not have to remake these plays for them to be all-inclusive, or to have access to the stage the way white playwrights do and tell the real stories they want to tell, but as long as black and white audiences are assumed to not be interested in that type of art, we’ll continue to be reduced to “black plays” and fight for our right to remake historically accurate classics.

What do you think about John Lahr’s comments? Do you think there’s a strong case for all-black Broadway remakes?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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  • Lorenzo

    Good Response to biogtry where one would think the mind set would be about the craft in 2012, Oh lest  I digress,. we have President Obama and that is the ultimate quota. What more could we possibly want. In my opinion so many people have shed thier liberal skin since the swearing in of President Obama. I am from the southern portion of this great nation and I have come to expect overt racism and I prefer it that way, I then have a working knowledge as to your direction. Since the swearing in of our president so many closet racist have exited as if enough is enough and I can’t pretend anymore to like or tolerate african americans. I say keep on with the educational tools that we have learned to use. Make sure your child learn to read and comprehend, stress positive reinforcement, copy basketball wives and show them that garbage as a deterent to how people should not act or treat other individuals (feeble attempt at humor).

  • W Veronica7

    Great article. This is the type of substance that should be blogged, not women fighting each other.

  • Its pointless. 

    • Why does a story have to be retold with BLACK characters for us to be “able to relate”. The story is about the plot. Not about the damn color of the characters. We can’t keep asking for this special treatment nonsense. Do we see asians and muslims doing this foolishness? 

      • Racquel

        When did race and religion become synonymous?

      • Emm

        I usually carry your same thought process but what I am coming to understand is that just because African-Americans are playing the roles it is not necessarily to be more acceptable to black audiences. As well, we also have to understand that this is exactly where we want the theatre to go! We want people to be in roles and see their characterization transcender the traditional color associated with the actor.

        I asked my friend, who happens to be white, if she would go with me to see Think Like A Man, and she said “ohh but that’s a black movie, I don’t know if I would understand it” and I just said, I see movie’s with ALL white casts all the time and never does it cross my mind that I can’t relate because the characters are white– hardly ever. But white people do find it hard to relate to an all black cast because they are the majority and the majority of films are catered towards there relationships. We should be more accepting of movies with black casts– if its an awful movie we should just say it was a bad movie and not lament on the fact that the cast was black. 

        White people have it easy because these things don’t cross there mind.

  • lol some folks can’t stand it when we do things better than them.. Keep on hatin.. lol

  • Cathy White84


    To Seek The  Serious Relationship.

  • Guest1234

    Beautifully put by Mr. Underwood!  Kudos.  He brilliantly put that New York Magazine idiot in his place. Way to call out the BS!

  • IllyPhilly

    Love it! And I don’t understand why folks would be against it. I think doing remakes of certain “classics”  brings in a whole new audience and makes the characters easy to relate to.  I actually said SCND seemed pretty much to be about a Black couple.

  • Tisha


  • RoRo

    Bravo, Mr. Underwood! Well said. Well said!