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July 05, 2017

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Lior

Thanks, Alfred. I thought Michael Paulson was thorough in his reporting and did a nice job with the piece. One aspect of the will Paulson chose not to discuss was the potential ambiguity of the destruction provision. In my view there's enough tension between the first provision in the third clause (destroy everything) and the last (total discretion for the executors) to render the whole clause ambiguous as to the question of whether the executors can elect to preserve works that are incomplete but have significant social value. And even people who are sympathetic to destructive will provisions (like me) generally only want those provisions enforced if they are entirely unambiguous. I think Albee just meant to give his executors complete discretion to determine what constitutes an "incomplete manuscript," but the lawyers could have been much clearer in suggesting language to carry out that intention.

The race / casting issue is also very interesting, and that didn't come up in my conversation with Paulson. The best exploration of these issues I have come across is in Russell Robinson's fascinating piece, Casting and Caste-ing. http://scholarship.law.berkeley.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1230&context=californialawreview

Brian Frye

I think Eva Subotnick has written that article, or a version of it, anyway: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2758791

Brad

Didn't "Hamilton" make casting decisions based on race? Did that bother you just as much?

anon

This is the second post with Prof. Brophy utilizing a version of the "Lordy" formulation. It was more than cringe-worthy enough the first time we heard this. It sounded, well, staged and inappropriate.

Sort of like the ploy above with the play, which won't sink the play.

Perhaps we should appoint a committee of law professors to start rewriting all works of expression to comport with their understanding of political correctness, and ban anything that doesn't comply with their judgment.

The Constitution is passé in any event. Let's remake our society along the lines of the sensibilities a law faculty!

DEL

I side with the Estate on this one. I don't think they should take legal action, but they should voice their criticism.

Those committed to social justice (and I count myself in this group) cannot have it both ways. We cannot say that race is ever-present and institutionalized and unavoidable -- and then turn around and say that race is irrelevant to casting. If race matters - and I think that it does - then you introduce extraneous elements into the play by casting a different race.

Over a decade ago, I saw Julius Caesar on Broadway with Denzel Washington and a cast that was half black and the other half from the London Shakespeare Group, and it was preposterously bad. He's a great actor, and I don't mind updating Shakespeare into the present, but it was a transparent attempt to demonstrate that blacks could do anything on stage, even Shakespeare. Only they couldn't. Perhaps Othello, who was a moor, but not Caesar.

anon

DEL

I fear your comment, with which I was mostly in agreement, swings back in the wrong direction toward the end. OF course "blacks could do ... Shakespeare."

The issue with the play ploy above is disregarding the author's intention by deleting references IN THE PLAY to the blond hair and blue eyes of the character, and the relevance to the that character's identification with Nazi beliefs.

It is beyond astounding and disappointing that a scholar of "history" would propose rewriting this (legally? professor? ???). One begins to suppose that he also favors banning Twain. I'm especially disappointed after all those references that suggested tearing down monuments and renaming buildings might not make sense.

Oh, what a sad state this country has got itself into. THe most moralistic among us are often exposed in this way. There is no principle than can defend rewriting a play to satisfy sensibilities like Brophy's hyper deference to anything deemed politically correct pandering to one particular race (including the "Lordy" references in his last two posts).

Again, it is appalling that such posts are made in such a public way. How must students feel in a class where core beliefs (e.g., in artistic integrity and not rewriting history) are so denigrated.

THis isn't a racial covenant in a deed. It is a work of art. Again, does the law professoriate want to start redoing works of art, painting over canvases, etc.? (Read your history.) Inviting and applauding of a boycott (that will never happen) is not an appropriate response here, in ANY sense whatsoever.

Al Brophy

We have here a stark conflict between the autonomy of the author (who is no longer with us, so we are relying on the judgement of his executors) and a well-established and more than century long federal statute prohibiting racial discrimination in contracting. This conflict is stark because of the estate's press agent's statement that this is about the race of the actor. I'm not seeing how this is legal.

As long time readers of the faculty lounge may recall, I am no fan of lawsuits. They're costly in time, money, and good will. Let's turn to the moral question. This play has been performed thousands of times. Apparently never with an African American actor -- and apparently because the author during his life refused all casting requests for an African American actor. Perhaps the executors can see the virtue of some flexibility here for the sake of art.

Then again, maybe they can't. And that's what lawsuits are for; it's also what public opinion is for. And as I said in the post, already people are talking about the damage that will be done to the legacy of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. I can easily see protests and boycotts around the play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. And quite frankly if the estate persists in this, I'm guessing there will be.

But whatever the outcome, I think this is a great opportunity to talk about the conflict between an author's rights once a play is out in the world and anti-discrimination law and morals.

anon

This isn't about discrimination in casting: it is about rewriting the character. There are references IN THE PLAY to the blond-haired, blue eyed character who evokes Nazi racial ideology. " Albee wrote Nick as a Caucasian character, whose blonde hair and blue eyes are remarked on frequently in the play, even alluding to Nick’s likeness as that of an Aryan of Nazi racial ideology." have you considered the evidence, or are you just writing about some hypo that you want to use to make a political point?

If you want to rewrite the play, say so. If not, please don't dance around the issue here.

And, please don't make vague threats and predict boycotts, etc. That is irresponsible and overheated.

None of that is going to happen, sir.

Al Brophy

Thanks, Brian -- Eva Subotnik's article is excellent. So much to talk about here.

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