N word fatal to Wilmette production

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N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby Amynameis on Thu Jun 26, 2008 9:34 am

For more than one year, I have faithfully read the varied posts on this website, but have never had the nerve to post. However, I am in need of your help. Until yesterday, I was in a production of "Ragtime" scheduled to open in two weeks at Gillson Park in Wilmette. Yesterday, the entire cast was informed that the show was cancelled, and we were told not to show up at rehearsal. A week ago, after almost eight weeks of rehearsals, we were told that the Park District decision-makers wanted us to change some of the offensive language in the show - the N word. Most of the cast felt strongly that it was important to maintain the integrity of the show. We understand the brutality of the time (1906) and that the playwrights chose each word carefully to evoke an emotion. We also believe that while theater should be entertaining, it can also be educational, enlightening and a springboard for discussion as well. For the record, during this three-hour production, the N word is used approximately six to eight times. The show is also sprinkled with a few ethnic slurs.

The Park District felt that the N word was too offensive for family audiences, surrounding households, and for people who may be walking through the park. The Park District lawyers contacted the copyright holders in NY, who would not allow the language changes (unless the Park District paid a very large fee). The Board briefly considered moving the show to an indoor venue, but then voted yesterday to cancel the entire production.

I don't want to point fingers and blame anyone. My intent isn't to slam the Wilmette Park District Board. I'd like to hope that deep down they think they are doing the right thing for the community. What do you think? As you can imagine, it's hard for the cast to be impartial. You, more than anyone, understand the sacrifices we all make to do a show. Let me give you an example. Our Coalhouse drives in from Rockford every night for rehearsal.

So, here's the bottom line. We are outraged at this recent example of censorship. Secondly, the cast is scrambling to see if there is any other venue that might consider housing our fledgling production. You see, we believe, more than ever, that this story must be told. Some individuals are exploring the copyright issues, finding musicians, etc. Can anyone help us out here? At the risk of sounding like Judy Garland or Mickey Rooney, hey, kids, is there any way we can put on a show?

At the risk of sounding like a knucklehead, I have faith in the community theater community (?). At the very least, I'd so appreciate hearing from those of you whose posts I've come to respect. Thank you.
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby warbucks on Thu Jun 26, 2008 9:57 am

Didn't the Park District bother reading the show before they slotted it ? Personally I think censoring a show of this sort is absolutely ridiculous. MOS mounted a very fine production of "Ragtime" a few years ago. Though I wasn't involved in the production, I did see it and I honestly can't recall anything in the show that came off the least bit offensive.
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby The Laughing Bulldog on Thu Jun 26, 2008 9:57 am

1. Forward your post - intact - to the local newspapers, with the explanation "posted to a community theatre website". It probably won't help you now, but the ensuing outrage may stop them from doing that to anyone else. And -- speaking about an hour after originally writing this, there's already a news story available: http://www.pioneerlocal.com/wilmette/news/1025453,wi-cancel-062508-s1.article

2. I'm linking your post to the West Suburban Theatre Connection - this is a network of people who run area theatres, as opposed to those of us who just perform in them. They may be able to help you.

3. If you are a Yahoo member, sign up (free) for my theatre list and post this notice there. You'll reach nearly 400 more area theatre people. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CraigsTheaterList

I'm out in the western suburbs, so most of my contacts are out here. That's about all I can do to help.

Craig
Last edited by The Laughing Bulldog on Thu Jun 26, 2008 11:32 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby Alphadawg1 on Thu Jun 26, 2008 10:43 am

Political correctness is unfortunately not often correct and more often is sadly in the hands of faceless suits, who are reactive instead of pro-active. The same issues have been raised over "To Kill a Mockingbird," of all shows. What you're dealing with is a bunch of cowards who have more power than they ever have deserved. Ragtime is a seriously good piece of art that deserves to be seen ... if not only to show where we've been and how far we've come, but also to show how far we still have to go.
Just a few years ago, I was doing military exercises in North Carolina, in the back woods areas near Morehead City & Camp LeJeune. There were billboards along the backroads, to recruit members into the Ku Klux Klan! SERIOUSLY! That's the REAL U.S. in many places that aren't the coddled north suburbs. What you're dealing with are soft, privileged, scared north shore doofii with neither the testicular or cranial apparatus to fully appreciate their ability to create insight and understanding through art. Frankly, their reality is firmly rooted in dollars and misplaced ideals.
Sadly, their sheltered, ignorant, and dangerously stupid policies are affecting a presentation that I'm certain would have been wonderful and possibly even brought about discussion and insight. Remember, education does not equate to smarts, and this is obviously pathetic situation. As an experienced producer and director, I've faced these same issues with local policy wonks and near-sighted sycophants. It's maddening and makes zero sense, but sometimes, it's a reality we have to face, especially when using publicly-owned facilities.
If I were you, I'd get the media involved in this discussion, pronto. I don't think you'll be saving your show, but it would raise an issue that is inherently correct, and that's the role of art to educate and prompt real discourse about difficult issues. You may just head off future censorship and do something that has lasting positive effects. Good luck with this dilemma.
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby gpatterson on Thu Jun 26, 2008 11:27 am

My first post here. I hope nobody minds my failure to concoct a clever anonymous nickname.
This action by WPD is a ridiculous, unnecessary tragedy. I have participated in two productions of "Big River", both presented by public institutions in public school auditoriums. This show is absolutely littered with "the word", which is used in much the same way my grandfather used it: as a casual description, not a hateful invective. While I don't endorse resuming such use, one could hardly gather from its use that Huck hates Jim. He surely reflects the common thought of the time, that black slaves are inferior to whites, but comes to realize the error of that thinking, which "just may be" the point of Twain's story.

In these two productions, if there was ever any thought of sanitizing the language, I never heard of it. To my knowledge, no cast members objected, and no audience members complained.

The word has come to be regarded as so offensive that we cannot even bear to write or hear it: the "n-word" -- sheesh! In so doing, we've endowed the word and its users with more power than either could ever deserve.
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby Jamey on Thu Jun 26, 2008 11:34 am

warbucks wrote:Didn't the Park District bother reading the show before they slotted it ? Personally I think censoring a show of this sort is absolutely ridiculous. MOS mounted a very fine production of "Ragtime" a few years ago. Though I wasn't involved in the production, I did see it and I honestly can't recall anything in the show that came off the least bit offensive.


The Lawyers didn't. Wasn't it Shakespeare, who said "first, get rid of the lawyers"?
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby pubgal121 on Thu Jun 26, 2008 11:48 am

I'm sickened by this.

Contact the ACLU. Whatever people may think of this organization, the ACLU will fight for civil liberties. This is a topic which I believe they will be interested in.

Ask the "Powers That Be" if a warning regarding language is enough to address the content concerns and bring the show back.
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby Alphadawg1 on Thu Jun 26, 2008 12:05 pm

Warning language is something I did as a compromise to our local government as well. We did a distinctly adult show that had a few rough scenes and graphic language. I had to change the phrase "Nigger-Bitch" to "Black Bitch," "faggot" to "fruitcake," and drop an f-bomb or three. Mind you, these words were uttered by a fictional character who was written as a total cretin, and the character got his come-uppance a scene later. Regardless, a phallically-challenged middle/lower manager with no capacity for nuance made an issue out of this and the resulting headache I endured was, in my view, completely unnecessary. As I addressed our audiences pre-show, I also carried a 24' x 30" poster disclaimer, and tongue firmly in cheek, informed our audience that they might hear a blue word or two. I went so far as to offer money back to anyone who didn't like the show. No one took me up on the offer. I think some tend to underestimate our audiences, and that's not something I like to do, nor do many of us on this board!
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby Sally on Thu Jun 26, 2008 12:17 pm

Not to diminish the gravity of the original post, but I have to address Jamey's quotation from Henry VI, Part 2 (actual line: "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers" IV, ii, 59). That line is taken from a comic scene, which lampoons rebellious villagers (they also sentence a man to death for knowing how to write his name) and is spoken by a comic character. It is really there to show the need for law and order -- though, of course, it's funny, and Shakepeare's dislike of attorney-types is fairly well established.

That being said, Shakespeare was also very firmly anti-censorship, so a plague upon the Wilmette Park District for screwing with such a wonderful and intelligent musical. I hope all will be well for you fine folk.

ps: my apologies to Jamey for seeming to call him out; I meant no disrespect! If I had a nickle for every time I heard that line in my former profession (guess what it was?), I'd be driving a much nicer car now.

--S
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby Cait on Thu Jun 26, 2008 12:25 pm

Wow! The power of the press! Just went to pioneerlocal.com to see the local news and there's a story about this already!

http://www.pioneerlocal.com/wilmette/ne ... s1.article
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby OverTheHillGuy on Thu Jun 26, 2008 12:32 pm

The problem is that this is an outdoor venue. While everyone sitting in the bowl and the bleachers would have tacitly agreed to accept the word in context, casual passersby would not have been given the opportunity.

This show should never have been approved for production in that location in the first place, which Park District Executive Director Tom Grisamore admitted. I expect a head or two to roll.

Meanwhile, what to do for the cast and crew? I hope and pray they find a venue.
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby pubgal121 on Thu Jun 26, 2008 12:37 pm

Amynameis:

If a new venue could be found, would your group be able to move the show to later dates, or are you locked into those dates, either by cast/crew availability, or by the licensing company?

Are you also looking for an outdoor venue, or would you be able to move inside?
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby Amynameis on Thu Jun 26, 2008 12:58 pm

Hi, pubgal! A lot of the cast met last night to discuss the situation. We don't necessarily need or want an outdoor venue. Regarding the dates, I'm not sure how that would work. Understandably, this cast signed on for three weekends in July. I think we're at risk for losing key people if we try to change that. However, we are certainly open to any possibilities that would allow even one performance of this production. Someone from the group is finding out whether the rights can be transferred or whether we'd have to start from scratch. Thanks for your concern and any ideas.
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby ow...My Eye on Thu Jun 26, 2008 1:02 pm

How ironic: a town that is notorious for its police force using racial profiling when making traffic stops to keep a certain race from crossing its borders would get PC all of a sudden. Life's funny sometimes.
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby LallybrochLass on Thu Jun 26, 2008 1:32 pm

We have already written the ACLU and most of the major papers. I also sent an email to Oprah, hoping her show would do a piece on us.

I am so heartsick - can't stop crying everytime I catch myself singing Ragtime in my head.

What makes me the most angry is how the Park District pretends that they were unaware until concerns over the language came to their attention. BS! The 'concerns' were an inquiry as to the correct language to use in the playbill to advise the audience of the harsh language and violence. And seriously, if a word is used 5 or 6 times in a production, how likely is it to be 'heard' by those not in the audience? I know the songs and music carry, but how well would the spoken lines be heard outside the Bowl? Anyone who heard the lines and then the music would recognize it was a musical production!!

This is probably more a knee-jerk reaction on the part of the Park District as they had some type of problem at the local ice rink recently about offensive lyrics in the music played. Totally a different situation.

Sorry, tears are running again. Gotta go. :cry:
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby JenLCB on Thu Jun 26, 2008 2:18 pm

LallybrochLass wrote:Sorry, tears are running again. Gotta go. :cry:


HUGS to all the cast and crew.
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby tristanrobin on Thu Jun 26, 2008 4:20 pm

I will never understand this kind of backward thinking.

We must remember that the initial purpose of theatre is to educate. Yes, yes, yes - it's entertaining, and fun, and exciting, and thrilling (or, at the least, we hope it is!). But, it's first to educate and illuminate.

This particular play is about racism and its roots. There is nothing helping that understanding by putting racists and/or the ugly words used in a positive light. Do we really want/need to pretty up racism? To make it easier and more palatable?

This reminds me of a high school production of West Side Story I was involved with some years ago. The school board requested that we turn the rape of Anita in the second act into a dance, so as not to offend anybody in the audience. I was shocked. They wanted to make rape PRETTY?! What exactly is THAT teaching our students?

This decision by TPTB who have chosen to make themselves the p.c. police to protect the sensibilities of audience members are probably not aware that if their way was had by all theatres, we would have people leaving wondering why it was so awful to be called "black" or "african american" during those years of Jim Crow. They are not teaching a lesson that helps - nor one that will endure...no matter their (supposed) good intentions.

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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby OverTheHillGuy on Thu Jun 26, 2008 4:48 pm

I originally signed on to a group protesting the changing of the offensive word. I realize now that was a bit of a mistake. The production was to be presented FOR FREE in an outdoor venue. As much as I will agree the chances are slim that any random passerby would hear and take offense to the language, there is STILL that chance and the Park District is obligated to protect itself and its constituents from potential legal action. They're covering themselves now because someone goofed way back in the decision-making process.

I'd love to jump on the bandwagon and beat them up for censorship, but it's not that simple.
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby ToriaHollyn on Thu Jun 26, 2008 4:50 pm

Sally wrote:Not to diminish the gravity of the original post, but I have to address Jamey's quotation from Henry VI, Part 2 (actual line: "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers" IV, ii, 59). That line is taken from a comic scene, which lampoons rebellious villagers (they also sentence a man to death for knowing how to write his name) and is spoken by a comic character. It is really there to show the need for law and order -- though, of course, it's funny, and Shakepeare's dislike of attorney-types is fairly well established.

--S



That's okay Sally, if you hadn't, I would have. ;) It's a magnet on my fridge that I bought at the Globe during 3L. And I have no problem mocking my profession ~ everyone else does already.


And to the cast & crew - I truly hope you will have the opportunity to go on! {{{VIBES}}}
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby The Laughing Bulldog on Thu Jun 26, 2008 5:03 pm

OverTheHillGuy wrote:I'd love to jump on the bandwagon and beat them up for censorship, but it's not that simple.


Yes, it is that simple. They should have gone through the script and settled any issues before the show even auditioned. Canceling the show two weeks before opening? That's inexcusable.
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby pubgal121 on Thu Jun 26, 2008 5:51 pm

It is truly the sign of a sick society that a public institution has to be concerned about possible lawsuits from a word overhead at a performance.

If only we could create innoculations for all major diseases, including ignorance, greed, intolerance, and stupidity.

Oh wait - we do have such innoculations already: THE ARTS.
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby greatwife on Thu Jun 26, 2008 6:28 pm

I just can't believe they would do that to you. It seems as though you have taken the right steps (ACLU, Oprah, local press) to bring this travesty to other's attention. Now we can all wallow in the shame of this, or we can pull together and try to help! Does anyone have a space that is open for them? Like they said....even for one weekend? I mean, could you imagine rehearsing such a challenging show for 8 weeks and then being told to forget it? Let's get together on this one!

Jenny
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby CaptainTux on Thu Jun 26, 2008 9:55 pm

About a year ago I faced this with a local city and our leadership aquiesced instead of fought. I respected them and their decision, but I disagreed with it. Men and women died for our rights and our ability to speak freely and express ourseles freely. I am currently in a land surrounded by starvation, corruption, and poverty beyond belief and this that I see and smell now is life without freedom. Risk your theater group, risk your venue, do what you have to do...bt stand for what is right and draw a line in the sand. laughing bulldog is spot on. Remember, there is more at stake than one show and one community theater. When we start thinking insular and protect our own groups as opposed to the larger picture of standing for the arts and free speech, we may as well remove the claim of community from your name because we are not getting community it larger than us.
You can close your eyes to the things you do not want to see, but you cannot close your heart to the things you do not want to feel.
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby Jamey on Thu Jun 26, 2008 10:42 pm

Sally wrote:Not to diminish the gravity of the original post, but I have to address Jamey's quotation from Henry VI, Part 2 (actual line: "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers" IV, ii, 59).



Better yet! I know a lot of people in that cast and they are the ones I feel sorry for. We all know that they could change the N word to a more politically correct word (although I don' t know what that word would BE) and MTI, or whomever licenses that show, would never know or care.

No offense taken, by the way. Gotta go; gotta go brush up on my Shakespeare quotes.
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby Jamey on Thu Jun 26, 2008 11:01 pm

pubgal121 wrote:Amynameis:

If a new venue could be found, would your group be able to move the show to later dates, or are you locked into those dates, either by cast/crew availability, or by the licensing company?



There is no "if" about it. The Wilmette Park District owns a beautiful INDOOR theatre at Lake Ave. and Skokie Blvd. They could easily move it there.

I think the Wilmette Park District could make some sociological hay over the whole event. They could use this play to illustrate how myopic the culture was in America in 1908, and how much better it is today, and determine where it should be. They could invite people from the NAACP and ACLU and other socially-oriented groups and have a discussion after the first performance.

The biggest question I have is "Why wasn't this addressed before now?" Why did they wait until 2 weeks before opening night to suddenly realize that there may be language in the show that could be construed as offensive ?

I could go on and on about how I teach at Glenbard East High School in Lombard, a school that is 17% African American and they did the show in the Fall of 2007. No one protested the use of the N word in that show - because it was clear to the cast, the audiene and the administration that the people using the inappropriate language were a bunch of bigots, but this post already has too many ideas in it.
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby The Laughing Bulldog on Fri Jun 27, 2008 12:18 am

Jamey wrote:We all know that they could change the N word to a more politically correct word (although I don' t know what that word would BE) and MTI, or whomever licenses that show, would never know or care.

Wrong.

1. They could not change the word without damaging the show. It's a show about racism, for cryin' out loud. That kind of thing drives me buggy (but then again, what doesn't, right?). I was once staging the Ballad of Booth from Assassins. At the emotional high point of the song, John Wilkes Booth, who has been seductively passionate about his cause to the point where you start to feel a bit of sympathy, calls Abraham Lincoln a "nigger-lover". It's shocking, jarring and it calls you back to reality. My assistant director objected to the term "nigger-lover" being used onstage. By John Wilkes Booth. About Abraham Lincoln. To make a point about racism. I'm as liberal as the next guy (probably more so), but nearsighted political correctness damn near made me switch sides.

2. Don't kid yourself about MTI finding out.

A theatre I once worked with added a performance of Oliver, since it was doing so well financially. This was in the days before the internet. There was no big publicity, they just told people who called that this new performance was added. They soon received a letter from Tams-Witmark demanding payment for the additional performance.

Many theatres in the area have grown more strict about not video-taping shows after a theatre in Naperville got busted by Samuel French for taping Neil Simon's Rumors. The resulting fine completely wiped out the profit of the show.

The licensing agreement for Samuel Beckett shows state that you cannot change anything. Lines, set descriptions, the sex of the characters - nothing. A theatre did an all-female Waiting for Godot. They were shut down.

If I'm directing for a theatre that's new to me and I'm doing something like Rumors, I always make sure up front that I won't have to cut anything. I'm perfectly happy to direct something innocuous like You Can't Take It With You (and have; twice), but if the blue words are in the script, they're staying there. One of the best jokes in Inspecting Carol comes from the director who cut all the "f-ucks" out of Glengarry Glen Ross and wound up with a show that lasted twenty minutes. If you don't like the language in a show, don't do the show.

You have patrons who object to That Sort of Talk? Warn them before they go in. "Warning: Adult Language" is all you need. Put it in your press releases, on the poster and on the phone message. Tell it to people when they call for tickets. Put it on a sign at the box office. Then when the patron comes out to complain that There is Dirty Talk in This Show!, you point to the sign and say, "Yes, we told you that before you went in."

It's not a matter of What the Copyright Law will Allow and it's not a matter of what you can get away with -- it's a matter of what you agreed to abide by when you signed the licensing agreement. You won't go to jail - but the fines will cripple you.
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby Jamey on Fri Jun 27, 2008 8:36 am

The Laughing Bulldog wrote:
Jamey wrote:We all know that they could change the N word to a more politically correct word (although I don' t know what that word would BE) and MTI, or whomever licenses that show, would never know or care.

Wrong.

1. They could not change the word without damaging the show. .


Well, if they DON'T change the word there IS no show - which is more damaging?. Although, it doesn't seem as through that is an option; the show, until other developments occurs, is cancelled.

My heart goes out to the cast. I was involved in the North Shore production that went up just before this one. I remember when members of that show auditioned for Ragtime and how excited they were when they got cast. One cast member even said that this role was a "dream-role" for them.

Didn't Lenny Bruce say "they are just words - and the way to diffuse them is to say them and say them until they don't mean anything anymore"? Now, I will probably get a post for quoting Lenny Bruce wrong :x
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby The Laughing Bulldog on Fri Jun 27, 2008 8:46 am

Jamey wrote:Well, if they DON'T change the word there IS no show - which is more damaging?.


It's not a matter of preference, it's a matter of timing. The issue should have been dealt with before auditions, not two weeks before opening the show.
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby Alphadawg1 on Fri Jun 27, 2008 9:58 am

FYI all, there is an article in today's Sun-Times regarding this matter. I believe it's a reprint, but it's got legs. Perhaps revisiting with Park District officials and offering concessions to their concerns--Actors patrolling within earshot at the park holding placards, explaining that the sounds people hear are from a musical--a piece of live performance art--or tent signs warning people of the show all over the park on performance nights--Keep at this, Ragtimers! You may just breathe some reasons into this sad situation! Stay positive with the fight, though--Now go get 'em!
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby kristinjoy on Fri Jun 27, 2008 11:18 am

I am truly saddened by Wilmette Park District's short sightedness - many of you are right when you say it was an opportunity to educate. I was fortunate to be in the MOS production of this fine show a few years ago and I must admit that there was a collective wince on the part of the cast the first time we heard the word used in character. It was clear, however, that the character using the word was not one to be respected. The recipient of the word, Coalhouse, was so obviously a much better man that the N word became a symbol of the other character's lack of class and character. The same can be said of anyone else in today's world who uses that word in that manner.

I truly hope that the group is able to find another venue and that they will let all of us know where to go if they do. I loved the show when in it and will definitely go to see it again! Of all the shows I have done (not that many if truth be told), this was the only one that the entire cast was sorry to see end (even after 4 weekends). When the final curtain came down, no one left the stage. There were tears and hugs all around - we all felt we had been part of something both well done and important.

Finally...I am proud of my alma mater, Glenbard East High School, for staging the show without censorship - go Rams!
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby OverTheHillGuy on Fri Jun 27, 2008 11:20 am

Laughingbulldog said: "It's not a matter of preference, it's a matter of timing. The issue should have been dealt with before auditions, not two weeks before opening the show."

I could not agree more.
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby elsie on Fri Jun 27, 2008 12:51 pm

I feel thet the Wilmette Board has made an IGNORANT decision cancelling the show. Maybe they should go back to their 5/6 grade history books and learn about HISTORY!!! I feel so bad for the cast of Ragtime who have dedicated so many hours of their free time. Some driving all the way from Rockford. With gas prices the way they are... I would hope the Wilmette Park District will pay the musicians and other staff their full salaries. Many musicians have passed on other opportuities in order to do this HISTORICAL PIECE, they should have to pay them for the full run. Bob Berry made a wise decision notifying the public about the content of the show. If people were not comfortable during the show they could always get up and leave - after all the shows are free to the public! I do hope this production team and cast find a new venue. I would hate to see all of their hard work o down the drain! So all you theatres out there - lets give some support !! Maybe you could work out some deal!! It would also be great publicity for you for saving the day!!!! Let's keep our fingers crossed for the cast and crew of Ragtime!!! It is a shame that the Board has somewhat ruined a great thing and has now given themselves a bad reputation. People of Wilmette need to stand up!! The Board has given you A LOT of negative publicity!!
Good Luck Ragtime Cast and Crew!!!!!
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby LallybrochLass on Fri Jun 27, 2008 1:45 pm

Latest article on this debaucle (sp?)

http://www.playbill.com/news/article/119064.html

Wish they weren't so hard on Bob - it wasn't his choice to request a change of language.
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby Mica on Fri Jun 27, 2008 1:48 pm

Unfortunately, Wilmette Park District Executive Director Tom Grisamore misled the media as to the entire reason for closing the show.

I have an African American family member who was in this cast of Ragtime. The African American Director and cast members of Ragtime took no offense to the use of the "N" word in the play. The use of this word was appropriate for the time the musical is set and it's a realistic representation of the environment of those times.

The real word that the Park District (of the substantially Jewish populated suburb) took offense to was the use of the word "K" (k!ke) word in the script.

Of course, with the upcoming historic presidential election including an African American candidate, it would be politically correct for Mr. Grisamore to boast it was about the "N" word.

This isn't the truth.
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby ow...My Eye on Fri Jun 27, 2008 2:10 pm

LallybrochLass wrote:Latest article on this debaucle (sp?)

http://www.playbill.com/news/article/119064.html

Wish they weren't so hard on Bob - it wasn't his choice to request a change of language.



Yes, everyone should read it. Here's my favorite part:

Playbill.com learned that a June 17 letter to the show's licensing agent, Music Theatre International, asked for changes in the script, and even included suggestions from Robert Bierie, performing arts supervisor of Wilmette Park District. MTI president Drew Cohen, who denied the right to change a word of the show, told Playbill.com that the Bierie-signed request suggested the no-less-offensive (out of context) words "darkie," "coon" and "boy" in lieu of the n word.

Yes, Mr. Bierie is just the person you want supervising the youth of Wilmette.
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby elviseguan on Fri Jun 27, 2008 2:24 pm

ow...My Eye wrote:
LallybrochLass wrote:Latest article on this debaucle (sp?)

http://www.playbill.com/news/article/119064.html

Wish they weren't so hard on Bob - it wasn't his choice to request a change of language.



Yes, everyone should read it. Here's my favorite part:

Playbill.com learned that a June 17 letter to the show's licensing agent, Music Theatre International, asked for changes in the script, and even included suggestions from Robert Bierie, performing arts supervisor of Wilmette Park District. MTI president Drew Cohen, who denied the right to change a word of the show, told Playbill.com that the Bierie-signed request suggested the no-less-offensive (out of context) words "darkie," "coon" and "boy" in lieu of the n word.

Yes, Mr. Bierie is just the person you want supervising the youth of Wilmette.


Yes, I find coon much less offensive. Darkie's not all that bad either. OMG....
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby The Laughing Bulldog on Fri Jun 27, 2008 3:32 pm

I'm posting this for Carrie Frantz, who responded to a posting about the situation, but who is not a member of Nicoth:

***********************************
hello. I am not at all familiar with ragtime, but i have a similar story. When my daughter was 6 (almost 7) she auditioned for the role of scout in "to kill a mockingbird". The N word is used frequently in that production as well. There is only 1 scene where scout herself has to use the word, and i just assumed (and prayed) that would not be the scene used for the audition. Of course, it was. I was baffled as to why the director would chose that particular scene for the children to audition. It was completely unnerving to hear my little 6 year old say that word. However, we had watched the movie ahead of time and she knew that it was only in shows that she could use "bad words." Personally, as a mother of child actors, I hate the word and wish they could come up with an alternative for shows that have to use it. ( just say "black man", or just omit the reference altogether.) However, I definitely don't think they should have cancelled your show. If they had an issue with it they should have thought about that when the show was chosen, not 8 weeks into it. How unfair to everyone involved. You would think they would have had some approval process or something.

As an aside, my daughter also performed recelty in "pillowman", at the age of 8. Not sure if you are familiar, but the show is brutally R-rated. The F word flies freely and the content of the show is stomach turning. I would not eve allow her to see the show, except for the scenes she appeared in. She never had to swear herself, but she had to be on stage re-creating a scene with a lot of violence and swearing. I nearly did not allow her to audition because of the content of the show, but I had a long talk with her ahead of time and she understood that things that we can do onstage are not ok in real life. That show turned out to be the best show she ever did. The show itself had a phenomenal story line, and although she was basically in a cast of grown men, she actualy did make some great friendships and was well looked out for. It was just another one of those things where if all the vulgarity was omitted then the show would have lost the edge that it had.

I hope they find another location for you guys.
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby nancylynn on Fri Jun 27, 2008 4:37 pm

Wilmette is at most 20% Jewish--probably more like 10%. Certainly, the Park Commissioner is not a Jew. I am Jewish-- and I am deeply offended at the implication that the "k" word was the real reason for this embarrassment. What's the difference, really? "K" word, "N" word? It's not about who might be offended (certainly not the Jewish or African-American citizens of Wilmette, or the Christians or Muslims or atheists, for that matter). It's about the embarrassing and shameful behavior of the Wilmette Park Board. To imply that it's really all about the Jews is somewhat mean-spirited. Let's not blame the victims (those who are denied performing or seeing the show). The blame is clearly at the feet of the park commissioners.
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby vocaljazz on Fri Jun 27, 2008 4:48 pm

To "elviseguan"- Mr. Bierie is a great Supervisor. He is of no threat to anyone and is in a seriously bad position which is not accurately described in this article. He wrote the letter, to the best of my knowledge, to MTI as a directive from Mr. Grisamore and/or the Board of Parks and Recreation with the "last ditch efforts" to save the show. So, don't start judging people that you don't know and situations you are not familiar with!
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby Jamey on Fri Jun 27, 2008 5:59 pm

This is not the time to determine if it was the "K" Word or the "N" word, or if Tom Grisamore or Bob Bierie are to blame. Now IS the time to shift our weight and offer whatever support we can to the cast and (whatever is left of) the crew of the show. I, for one, e-mailed a cast-member friend stating that, if they get another venue, I would do all of their promotions, posters, flyers, t-shirts and press releases, for whatever it cost to have them made.

Anybody else in?

Let's help this fractured and heart-broken cast to "turn this old barn into a theatre and put on a show".

Respond on this post and I will keep the principles of Ragtime apprised.
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby The Laughing Bulldog on Fri Jun 27, 2008 6:04 pm

Jamey wrote:I will keep the principles of Ragtime apprised.

It's "principals".

I know!!! I'm sorry. I couldn't help it...

Anyway, yes. Splendid idea. My expertise, however, is along the lines of yours - PR, logos, t-shirts & such. But if they find another venue that doesn't bust my gas budget (I have to consider that -- I was downsized), I'll be glad to come and help run lights or sound one or two shows, if their current staff can't make the switch to new dates.

Craig Gustafson
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby elviseguan on Sat Jun 28, 2008 12:25 am

vocaljazz wrote:To "elviseguan"- Mr. Bierie is a great Supervisor. He is of no threat to anyone and is in a seriously bad position which is not accurately described in this article. He wrote the letter, to the best of my knowledge, to MTI as a directive from Mr. Grisamore and/or the Board of Parks and Recreation with the "last ditch efforts" to save the show. So, don't start judging people that you don't know and situations you are not familiar with!


To vocal jazz something or other, who just registered with nicoth yesterday...um, no, Bob Bierie is not a threat. He is actually a really good guy. Always has been. I appreciate and feel for his position. I was merely remarking on the awkwardness of his "quotes". I am not at all unfamiliar with the media, and what they can do to manipulate people's statements taken out of context. Settle down you... And for the record, Bob Bierie was my wonderful producer (and I mean that literally) for DPTG's "West Side Story" many moons ago, which will always be a very fond memory for me, and I would like to assume it is for Bob as well, in addition to his daughter(Anita) and son-in-law(Snowboy) I also have several close friends involved with said production of "Ragtime", both on and off the stage, so I am very familiar with both the situation at hand, and the people involved. Now go take a xanex, eat a sandwich, smoke a bong, and get the hell out of my face! Oh, and welcome to NICOTH! NEXT!

Tom Moore 8)
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby elviseguan on Sat Jun 28, 2008 12:29 am

nancylynn wrote:Wilmette is at most 20% Jewish--probably more like 10%. Certainly, the Park Commissioner is not a Jew. I am Jewish-- and I am deeply offended at the implication that the "k" word was the real reason for this embarrassment. What's the difference, really? "K" word, "N" word? It's not about who might be offended (certainly not the Jewish or African-American citizens of Wilmette, or the Christians or Muslims or atheists, for that matter). It's about the embarrassing and shameful behavior of the Wilmette Park Board. To imply that it's really all about the Jews is somewhat mean-spirited. Let's not blame the victims (those who are denied performing or seeing the show). The blame is clearly at the feet of the park commissioners.



Oh, I just wanted to say hi to you lady. I love you! (Jewish or other-wise) "Take her away!!!!"

Lockstock
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby Alphadawg1 on Sat Jun 28, 2008 8:20 am

An outpouring of support and justifiable outrage has been generated by this mess. Google Ragtime and "Wilmette" to see. There is now a petition protesting the decision and perhaps this insanity can be influenced by many and then be addressed properly by clearer heads in the City of Wilmette. To have your opinion heard, go to www.PetitionOnline.com/gilson/petition.html
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby PianoPlinker on Sat Jun 28, 2008 9:53 am

OK - just to recap:

- The act of cancelling 12 days before opening is nothing less than criminal, in my mind. For everyone to have spent countless hours of work in rehearsals and othre preparations only to have the production pulled because of political correctness run amok is truly unforgivable.

- This was an opportunity for Wilmette to shine, and instead they have become a laughing-stock not just in the eyes of Chicago theater fans but the entire country - with the national exposure this has received.

- Bob Bierie is indeed a nice guy. I understand he was probably instructed to write the letter asking for the script changes. Unfortunately, he looks rather foolish now as well since his "alternate" choices were as offensive as the original ones they are concerned about.

Could not the Wilmette Park District or the village itself done any of the following:
- Do an e-mail blast to residents (yes, some villages do this) advising of the sensitive language?
- post it on both the Village and Park District websites?
- Post flyers around Gilson Park a week or two prior to the performance advising the show dates/times and language issue?

Had they done so, I think they could be deemed to have taken every "resonable measure" to alert the public. If anyone was then offended, I don't think any legal action - which is I am sure was driving the decision ultimately - would have merit. And let's be honest - what are the odds that a passerby would (1) be there at just the "right" moment, (2) be close enough to hear the "offensive" words (remember there are acoustic issues for people TRYING to hear the show in Gilson!), (3) would be offended and (4) would complain about it. I think those odds are long indeed.

This show has been performed at various times in the area both professionally and in community theater. The MOS production of a couple years back was nothing less than sensational. I attended most performances as I had friends and relatives in the cast, and was moved to tears at each and every performance. The music is absolutely stunning. Just like the novel "To Kill a Mockingbird", it represents a dark and troubled period in America a century ago - but the underlying themes that come through loud and clear are:
- the tragedy and pain of race relations
- the hope for a better life through the opportunities this country provides, particularly for minorities

My heart goes out to the cast and crew. I truly hope you find a venue quickly and are able to stage this uplifting and inspiring show. If you do, I promise I will be there!
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby ooobaby on Sat Jun 28, 2008 10:47 am

Although I in no way support the Wilmette Park Districts decision I must strongly commend them on their honesty and integrity. They could have very easily deleted or changed the words secretly and in all likelyhood nobody would have known. And when the agents for the show told them they could not change the words, they did the only thing could.... they cancelled the show.

Many, many theater groups do not have this kind of personal integrity. They will remove large portions of scrips to suit their taste and even change the meaning of characters. And they demonstrate no quams or remorse in doing it.
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby JenLCB on Sat Jun 28, 2008 11:03 am

Jamey wrote:Now IS the time to shift our weight and offer whatever support we can to the cast and (whatever is left of) the crew of the show.


Let me know what I can do!
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby dstewart24 on Sat Jun 28, 2008 11:59 am

What do we call it when a group with power decides to protect the members of the community who are not intelligent enough to know that words are not the same as words in context?

We don’t call it censorship, we call it a good old fashioned book burning. When will we ever learn?

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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby PianoPlinker on Sat Jun 28, 2008 12:44 pm

Sorry, ooobaby..... I don't think "integrity" is the right word. You are trying to find a silver lining when there is none. Everyone agrees that hindsight is 20/20 - but in this case, the "fault" lies first with whoever proposed the show without making people aware of any sensitive issues (i.e. language), and then with those who pulled the plug (and they may not necessarily be the same people). If sensitivity were truly an issue - because of proximity to parks, playgrounds, etc. - then the play should never have been approved for that venue in the first place. But cancelling it at such a late date because they only became aware of sensitivities so late is the issue. Mr. Grisamore has said as much in interviews:

"I can tell you that this is not something that was done easily and this is not something we did lightly. My heart really goes out to all of the cast and crew that have worked on this for the last couple of months," Grisamore said. "This is something we very honestly should have known about and hopefully we could have acted on this sooner, but we did as soon as we found out what was there."
The article can be found at: http://www.suntimes.com/entertainment/s ... 08.article

"Last couple of months"... says it all. Sounds like one or more decision-makers were simply sleeping at the switch.
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Re: N word fatal to Wilmette production

Postby AnastasiaBeaverhausen on Mon Jun 30, 2008 8:25 am

Doesn't that responsibility rest with the Producer?
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