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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