Controversial Streetcar with Blair Underwood and Nicole Ari Parker — Streetcar Named Desire — AAPEX

Monday, May 14, 2012

Controversial Streetcar with Blair Underwood and Nicole Ari Parker

Nicole Ari Parker and Blair Underwood on MSNBC

With regard to the "Nay Sayers," like the New Yorker theater critic, John Lahr, that asked Santa Clause, last Christmas, to bring him no more "Infernal all black cast productions of Tennessee Williams' plays, unless he can have his equal in 'FOLLY'; an all white production of an August Wilson play!"

"FOLLY," really?! We have been having such an AMAZING run, playing to full houses, standing ovations EVERY night, since the very first preview. Our run on Broadway was just extended another month until August 19th & all systems are go for us to take the production to London in Oct. Though 90% of the reviews have been positive...(we are, after all critiquing an art form & everyone is entitled to their own opinions), it is the commentaries from the likes of John Lahr (theater critic for The New Yorker magazine) & racist rants from New York Times critic Ben Brantley masquerading as a "review," where you realize that they are not even remotely interested in reviewing or critiquing the work and/or artistry upon the stage. The so-called guardian Elite of the New York theater world, would rather take a position of condescension & dismissal when people of color have the "audacity" to take on the extraordinary, beautiful work of Tennessee Williams. Once you know your history and know that there was indeed a culture of people (in the 1700s), endemic to Louisiana called the "gens de colour libre," or "free people of color," and that these people owned plantations & some actually owned their own slaves, there is no basis to dismiss the backstory of our Dubois sisters who hail from their family owned plantation called Belle Reeve. Or to dismiss the part of the story where Blanche Dubois pines for an oil millionaire called Shep Huntleigh. If these dismissive Nay Sayers knew their history, they would know that there were a number of black people that owned oil wells in the 30s & 40s. These are three actual black millionaires in the deep south of the 1930s & 40s that serve as prototypes for Shep Huntleigh: Lee Wilder Thomas, William Madison McDonald, and Joseph Jacob Simmons.

The headline from this conversation is: 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. This is evident not only in our production but in "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof," produced by the same producers Stephen Byrd & Alia Jones in 2008 with an all-black cast. Incidentally, with the same dismissive climate, "Cat" prevailed & became the highest grossing "play" (not musical) of the year!

I saw the production & the work was stellar. "Cat" boasted three previous Tony Award "winners;" James Earl Jones, Phylicia Rashad & Anika Noni Rose, but the reviews were blistering & the entire company, cast & crew were completely ignored & shut out of a single Tony nomination, the highest honor in the world of Broadway. Ironically, so were we, save a deserved Tony nomination for Paul Tazewell's costumes. Though the costumes are terrific, are you telling me that when you come to see our play the ONLY thing you are left with is how amazing the costumes are?Dismissal & condescension.

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!

Nicole & I decided to make a concerted effort to expose John Lahr & other's ignorance with regard to people of color doing Tennessee Williams. We did an interview on MSNBC on Thursday with the brilliant Michael Eric Dyson. The response & buzz has been phenomenal. Feel free to send the video viral if you like. Thanks much.

To watch the MSNBC interview where Blair Underwood and Nicole Ari Parker address John Lahr's remarks, please click the post's title.

Donna Walker-Kuhne
718 757 6206

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