Blackfacing in Berlin
Last year, the Black German Community gained media attention by taking a public stand against blackfacing in the arts. They confronted theaters openly by reaching out to international playwrights and copyright holders to have the performance rights pulled from racist adaptations of international plays, persuaded theaters to change blackfacing adaptations of upcoming performances and held discussion forums to exchange opinions with the public. When Black German actors reached out to US playwright Bruce Norris and informed him of Berlin-based Deutsches Theater's plans to cast a white actor [in black face] to play a black character in his play, Clybourne Park, he withdrew the performance rights immediately, putting a stop to the production.
Unfortunately, other international responses to blackfacing have not been as supportive or socially responsible as Mr. Norris'. Schlosspark Theatre, a publicly funded theater in Berlin, has defiantly defended its use of blackfacing by claiming that there are no Black actors in Germany to play the roll of Midge Carter in their adaptation of Herb Gardner's Tony Award-Winning Production, I am not Rappaport. ICM Partners of New York City, who own the rights to the play, were contacted last year regarding the situation. They said they would look into it, but no follow ups have been sent and they have been non-responsive to attempts to reach them for comment. Whatever they did or didn't do is unclear and Schlosspark Theatre remains undeterred in its racist adaptation.
Public and private theaters in Berlin, must reapply for funding regularly. For this year's funding process, let's put power to our silence and let Berlin know that we do not approve of blackfacing in the arts. T-shirt sales from the silent protest and crowdfunding will fund an advertising campaign to pressure the Amt des Kultursenators in Berlin to not renew any Theater's funding if that theater does not agree to sign a declaration declaring themselves to be free of blackfacing.
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