White Director for Black Play Puts Race Center Stage
Violates playwright Wilson's wishes
By Clay Dillow,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 23, 2009 10:12 AM CDT
In this theater publicity image released by Philip Rinaldi Publicity, Roger Robinson is shown in a scene from the Lincoln Center Theater revival of "Joe Turner's Come and Gone." The play by August Wilson...   (AP Photo/Philip Rinaldi Publicity, T. Charles Erickson)
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(Newser) – The selection of a white director for the Broadway revival of an August Wilson play has sparked racial tension, the New York Times reports. Before his death in 2005, Wilson refused to let white directors oversee productions of his work, partially out of racial solidarity, partially because he felt black directors best understood his characters. Lincoln Center's choice of Bartlett Sher for Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, though approved by Wilson’s widow, was called "straight up institutional racism” by one black director.

Marion McClinton, who has herself directed Wilson’s plays on Broadway,says the choice denied an opportunity for a black director, and reflects a double standard, as black directors are rarely chosen for major works of white playwrights. Sher, a Tony Award-winner for South Pacific, seconds the latter point: “More Ibsen should be directed by black directors. More Shakespeare. More Chekhov.”