Jason Cochran

Stuff you never knew you never knew

Today was the only time I have ever had to cross a protest line to see a musical. As I approached the Lyceum Theatre on 45th Street for today’s matinée of The Scottsboro Boys, I could see the shapes of banners, and I could hear a chant emerge from the noise around Times Square:

Scottsboro Boys is no minstrel show!
Shut ’em down! They got to go!

Most Americans are not familiar with the Scottsboro Boys anymore. That in itself is a good reason to write a piece of art about them. Most Americans are also not familiar with art anymore, either, though, which is these protestors’ reason to protest.

Although I’ve never had to break a picket line to see a musical, I’ve also never seen the area in front of the theatre so empty before showtime. A line of police between the shouting protestors and the entering audience kept the area clear, and once inside, most of the patrons hastily took their seats, not wishing to engage in a potential fray. Something about the moral challenge of a protest line can instill a sense of quiet shame in whomever is on the other side, even if they have nothing to be ashamed of.

'The Scottsboro Boys' protest: Racism reversed

I was one of the few theatregoers who asked for a leaflet from the protestors, who identified themselves as being associated with something called the Freedom Party (tellingly, the name of the group was written much more prominently on signs than the substance of its complaint about the show). As soon as I read it, I knew these people didn’t understand what was actually happening inside this theatre.

The musical authors of The Scottsboro Boys are songwriters John Kander and Fred Ebb. Kander and Ebb crafted a career out of writing about issues of injustice and personal freedom, including Kiss of the Spider Woman (1992), Chicago (1975), Cabaret (1966), and Flora, the Red Menace (1965). Both writers were children of the early 20th century but their work possesses modern sensibilities, so (generally speaking) it uses vaudeville or burlesque styles as a counterpoint to modern themes. That’s how Roxie and Velma can winkingly wrap up Chicago for us by singing ‘”in 20 years or so/ it’s gonna change you know” and how Cabaret‘s satanic Emcee, a stand-in for rising Nazism, insidiously mocks the blithe characters around him simply by singing a song that appears to be, on the surface, cheerful and depraved.

It’s called a “concept musical.” Kander and Ebb’s work uses the jolly tunefulness of American musical traditions as a weapon against the lies with which America, and humanity in general, flatter themselves. In The Scottsboro Boys, which retells the true story of nine young black men falsely convicted of rape in 1930s Alabama, they (with bookwriter David Thompson) have taken for their language that most poisonous, all-American musical form: the minstrel show.

Toe-tappin', cotton-pickin' American ugliness

Artistic patriots cherish the all-American genres of jazz and musical theatre, but minstrelsy is America’s forgotten grand tradition. Blackface was once dominant in our culture, but we are now too ashamed to so much as hint at it. In it, singers (both black and white) alike portrayed African-Americans and simple-minded, lazy, fun-loving, watermelon-eatin’, chicken-pickin’ — and adorably inferior. Considering that the imprisonment of the real-life Scottsboro Boys depended on exactly such toxic assumptions about them, minstrel songs are an apt idiom for the tale.

Even the title is apropos. “The Scottsboro Boys” is not the patronizing name Kander and Ebb have given these men, although the diminutive nickname instantly indicates the show is about the dehumanization of racism. It’s the actual patronizing name given to these men in the ’30s by do-good liberals who took up their cause (and later dropped it, when they tired of it) in the North. In the South, all black men were called “boy.” White men, of course, were “sir.”

“You’re not allowed to write about that”

Would the Freedom Party complain that Cabaret is about Nazism, or do they object to the show’s pointedly anti-Semitic number? No, and the protest against The Scottsboro Boys clearly seeks to divide along racial lines. The flyer reads, “white producers, writers, directors, and the media are attempting to turn Black people’s [sic] suffering from racial terrorism into a mockery. They think by hiring a Black case they can cover up their insults by claiming “Blacks work here.” YOU CAN’T – the plantation is the plantation.” To these people, art is exploitative if it’s about something that happened to someone else.

“When is Racist Terrorism Musical Entertainment?” asks the flyer, under photos of the real Scottsboro Boys and a horrifying Xeroxed copy of a real-life lynching. “Where is the Song and Dance Musical about Gas Chambers, World Trade Center or Japanese Internment Camps?”

It’s funny they ask that. There have already been World Trade Center musicals. A college classmate of mine, Elizabeth Lucas, recently directed Clear Blue Tuesday, a film musical written about the emotional response to 9/11. Although the songs were penned by people with direct connection to the tragedy, Lucas and her film were assailed by people ignorant of the film’s true content in the comments section of an article in The New York Times‘ blog. Most of the objections seemed to rise from the pithy thumbnail description movie musical about 9/11 than what the movie actually was: artistic expression about what happened to us then. Many more asserted that Lucas had no right to write art about 9/11 if she hadn’t personally been at Ground Zero that day.

The protestors don’t recognize that although they want everyone to honor the black experience, they won’t let any person talk about it unless they themselves went through it.

Just as minstrel acts tell us far more about the self-identity of the performer than of the people being mocked, protests like these tell us more about the shoddy state of the protestor’s worldview and prejudice than about the target.

Above nearly everything else, Americans excel at claiming they stand for one thing when, in fact, they stand for nearly the opposite. That’s what the Scottsboro Boys found in the supposedly free country of their birth, and that’s what the Freedom Party teaches when it is quite plainly in favor of anything but freedom, at least as far as art is concerned.

“You can’t do that. Otherwise you’re perfectly free.” They might as well add “boy” to the end of that, such is the sentiment about knowing your place.

The protest also teaches us that perhaps our culture has become over saturated with commercial product that few of us can identify symbolism when we see it. When everything in a society is exploitative, and when everything exists to be sold and to make profit, we lack the critical thinking skills to know when something exists simply so we can process our shared experience better.

Neither Clear Blue Tuesday or The Scottsboro Boys is likely to make fortunes, which helps remove the stigma of exploitation — but even if they were, their authors would still have the perfect right to create them, at least in the America I know, which flatters itself by telling itself it’s free and capitalist.

Back to the old Grind

This sort of protest has happened before. Spike Lee got slammed for commenting on minstrel acts in the daring but flawed Bamboozled (2000), but similar battles have  happened in musicals, too, and the battles were usually lost. Kander and Ebb themselves were forced to change a lyric in Cabaret in which a despicable character pointedly compared Jews to gorillas. And in 1985, my friend Larry Grossman, with his lyricist Ellen Fitzhugh, was forced to cut his own brilliant-anti-racism song, “We All George,” from his Broadway musical Grind. The premise of the song, a peppy ditty, was akin to the word “Boys” in the Scottsboro Boys: Since white men think all black men look alike, they need not worry themselves with the real names of their porters and bellboys, and they they can just call them all George.

The CD for 'Grind' lacks its most subversive song

It was savage, it was ugly, it was of course aware of its own hateful ridiculousness — and it made the cast so nervous they didn’t want to perform it. (Director Harold Prince, who was the one who caved on the Jew line in Cabaret, caved on this one, too. Another do-good liberal accidentally doing the wrong thing, or only willing to go so far with his principles.)

With The Scottsboro Boys, in which characters break into Jim Crow shufflin’ as a way of starkly rebutting their humanity rather than disguising it, “We All George” is now officially a quarter century ahead of its time.

But really, it’s not the line or the song or the show these protesters object to. It’s the racism itself. It’s the mirror. It sucks to admit what we all come from, because we all came out of evil.

This show has been a live wire since its inception, and it took a long time to reach the stage because of it. In fact, lyricist Fred Ebb died six years ago — on a September 11. But in The Scottsboro Boys, I imagine his hand popping out of his grave to lob one hell of a grenade at all the small, hateful minds of the world. (His committed Broadway cast and creative team cleanly pull the pin.) His most obvious targets are the racist and/or insular Americans who still control parts of this country, and the people who assume small lives can’t have large effects.

But in defiantly choosing to use minstrel songs — the old perversion gets further perverted and becomes, almost, a corrective — he’s also thumbing his nose at the small minds on our own doorstep who don’t understand satire, symbolism, or art itself. Evoking minstrels is the ultimate subversion of all-American themes that he, with Kander, was working toward for 40 years. It’s a gut punch, and I love it. I love anything that reminds Americans when they’re lying about something. We lie about so much.

It hurts to look at brilliant things

My performance, which I noticed was far more integrated than most Broadway musicals I’ve attended, had the audience hooked, eliciting more gasps and sighs than you hear at most matinées. It got a standing ovation — not unusual these days for any show, sadly — but as I left, I listened for the reaction as people started talking to each other. More than once, I heard voices say they didn’t get what the protestors were complaining about.

The protestors, I also noticed, didn’t have the courage to be in front of the theatre after we came out, disarmed of our ignorance. It’s a good thing, because they would have earned themselves arguments from more than a few people who were devastated by their first exposure to the story of the Scottsboro Boys.

The complaint is the same old song and dance, but in a new costume: People who allow a simplified phrase such as “musical about the Scottsboro Boys” to define the width and breadth of their understanding of the topic. People who think in headlines and bumper stickers and tweets and respond in what they must assume is useful outrage. Prejudice of any kind is repulsive indeed, but like minstrelsy, it says more about the actor than the object.

The protestors are correct about one thing: The Scottsboro Boys certainly ain’t no minstrel show. But thanks for the publicity, sirs.

From the Lyceum's lobby, but only before our education

Update: I read a little more about the show since writing this, and I learned that after Ebb died, John Kander finished the project by uncharacteristically writing a portion of the lyrics himself. I have to give him more credit. I’m also not satisfied with the credit I didn’t give to director Susan Stroman, whose flourishes (Haywood’s coon song affectations in “Nothin'”, the fierce group bum rush and roar at the climax of “The Scottsboro Boys” song) immeasurably enrich the show with razor-sharp double meanings. Their contributions make the intentions of the whole searingly clear. Simply listening to the cast album, which spotlights the songs divorced from their talents, proved that to me.

[I think I have a way of exploding with thoughts after seeing important Broadway musicals. I wrote this post (click here) in 90 frenzied minutes after seeing Lincoln Center’s marvelous South Pacific revival.]

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32 comments. Add a Comment:

  1. Great writing, great post!!!

  2. Ed Hummel says:

    Great story. Thanks for sharing…..

  3. Great article. In the “you don’t say” department, I am currently appearing in a musical set in the Holocaust, and it is directed and produced by people who are also producers of SCOTTSBORO BOYS. I guess the people writing the leaflets don’t read Playbill.com. (www.wppac.org)

  4. J.Thomas says:

    Hey, cast member here. Thank you for coming, and for writing about this experience. Its nice to know that this particular audiences experience was not soured by the protesters.

  5. I am so glad that you took the time to tell me that you read this. I know I zeroed in on the writing and the social aspects of your show, but I want you to know that your ensemble’s investment and skill are the reasons this work could hit us as hard as it did. Congratulations on being the cast that this show deserves. I look forward to coming again.

  6. Dee says:

    I don’t get this protest–at ALL. It just seems so pro forma, so uninformed. The Central Park 5? Look, those kids may not have raped Trisha Meili, but by their own admission, and by the testimony of their victims, were attacking people throughout the park that night–THAT’S why they were picked up in the first place. They were hardly innocents, unlike the Scottsboro kids.

    Second, this silly “where’s the musical on the Holocaust?” Um, CABARET? THE PRODUCERS? It just all seems so uninformed. Your tragedy isn’t sacred. People who aren’t black are allowed to comment on it. Yes, really. Welcome to the Free World. The Scottsboro case, like 9/11, like the Holocaust, belong to the world. We’re all allowed to tell stories. In a few years these people are going to look back and cringe at how they acted.

  7. Christina Cochrane says:

    Congratulations on your heartfelt comments. I love the way Kander and Ebb tell stories and apply healthy doses of reality to the musical form. The cast and crew of The Scottsboro Boys should be proud that they have a show that is gripping and thoroughly entertaining. Oh to have more musicals where the satire is so biting that we can have these conversations!

  8. Anita Sisk says:

    I just heard of this protest upon coming home from a 9 hour rehearsal with my high school students. I was utterly dismayed.

    I was lucky enough to see The Scottsboro Boys at last Saturday’s matinee and I couldn’t agree with every single comment you made. I was undeniabley moved, educated and in awe the entire performance. Finally, a beautiful living tribute to the men that were victims of thier time and race. I admit, I knew very little of this travesty before the production unfolded (off b’way) last year.

    I wish more theater, including musicals made “important” and meaningful experiences. Theater is MORE than entertainment, and The Scottsboro Boys is a stunning example. If only the protesters knew from whence they spoke.

    I look forward to getting to see the show again, and thank you for taking the time for your eloquent post.

  9. Jack Matter says:

    I am very anxious to share your writing with my theater students here in Miami, FL. As we constantly tell our young Thespians – one of the major goals of THEATER is to educate…and this entire situation has created a “golden teaching moment”…not only for theater educators, but our history teachers as well. To badly misquote Hal Prince, during the SHOWBOAT protests – “We didn’t create this history, but we can make sure it doesn’t happen again.” I am looking forward to seeing THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS over my Christmas break. And thank you for your post.

  10. J.Thomas says:

    Jason, i hop youll stop by the stage door and introduce yourself next time :-).

  11. J.Thomas says:

    hope

  12. Gigi says:

    The Freedom Party is the creation of City Councilman Charles Barron. He is a former Black Panther and has also run unsuccessfully for mayor, Congress, and governor. He supports reparations for African-Americans and hosted an event for Robert Mugabe at City Hall in 2002. His view of racial politics is about as nuanced as that of a pot roast.

  13. Susan says:

    I, too, attended this matinee and was deeply moved by all aspects of the play – both political and theatrical. First, it is fabulous theatre! Kudos to all cast, crew, and musicians. Beyond that, the message is certainly one that any group of self-proclaimed Freedom fighters should endorse. How sad that the Freedom Party hasn’t seen the show. We spoke to a few protesters before the show and none had seen the show nor had they any concrete idea of how the show’s story unfolded nor what the theme of the play was -especially the brilliant final scene.
    The Freedom protesters were also unaware that this is the same story Harper Lee loosely based her novel To Kill A Mockingbird on. That is another work of art that, although written by a white person, gets to the heart of racial and social injustice at work “then” as well as “now” – whatever year you happen to be standing in when you read the book. That book has exposed generations of people to the ugly side of our judicial system – and helped to educate (and therefore reduce) racial predjudice. Oh, but wait, I forgot … “Freedom” advocates continue to try to ban that book as well. Sigh.
    Guess I’ll go cook a pot roast and watch Fox news to learn more “truth.”
    PS … that last bit was sarcasm. Another brilliant part of the show that some of the sidewalk “educated” folks are taking at face value. Sigh.

  14. […] Read the rest of the flyer…there’s too much insanity to even mention here…more info at this guy’s first hand experience with the protesters. […]

  15. Rick says:

    Jason, thank you for your intelligent comments. If the protesters took the time to see the show, talk with the cast or listen to Mr Kander or Ms Stroman they would perhaps understand what the show is all about. This is a marvellous show which is both tremendously entertaining and thought provoking. It was powerful when done Off-Broadway at the Vineyard and, to the producers’ credit, remains so on the Broadway stage. Thank you again. Rick

  16. Mary Lynne says:

    Gigi, Our Rotary Exchange student was born and raised in Zimbabwe. Her family has sent her to a free country because of what Robert Mugabe has done to freedom in his country.

  17. Michael says:

    I am an African-American and saw The Scottsboro Boys. I thought the cast was wonderful and that is was brilliantly directed by Susan Stroman. In fact, the anti-Semitic number you refer to worked because Stroman had the smarts to construct the number so that you applauded the performer, not the song. However, I did have a problem with the show. When you walk the tightrope that his show presents, you must have a number or moment where the heart of the performer is illuminated to the audience. I thought that the music ever rose to those heights. As a result, I squirmed in my seat several times because the feeling that was left was of creative people using the performers as puppets to put across something that required so much more. John Culllum (a favorite of mine) and the cast were wonderful. But I do think there are problems in the concept and it is not fair to treat all negative comments as having no merit because of the assertion that some the protesters have not seen the show. If the show had more real moments like the moment at the end (I had tears in my eyes) it would hve worked better for me. EVERYONE should see the show, if for no other reason than to promote the race dialogue that is so lacking these days.

  18. I agree with you that there are problems with the construction — Kander and Ebb steal from what works in many of their old shows, including Cabaret‘s Emcee, Chicago‘s Billy Flynn, and the prison theme of Spider Woman. I also agree that the actors are puppets to the minstrel material — but I think that’s inherent in racism and minstrelsy in general as dehumanizing phenomena. That’s also the idiom that the writers work in: Looking at the body of Kander and Ebb’s work, the main characters are almost always puppets to the musical form — Chicago‘s Roxie and Velma were locked into the pastiche, too, and I think Hayward Patterson gets a lot more human moments than they ever did. I also squirmed in my seat — there’s some bloodcurdling moments, and I think there’s a strong case to be made that this show is written to challenge establishment whites more than deliver a biography of historical African-Americans. (The number “Southern Days,” for one, which amends an old plantation-type hymn with the ugly truth about Southern hatred, is clearly pointed at Southern Whites.) Do you know what I mean?

    But I can’t say I agree with the idea that it’s not fair to discount negative comments as having no merit because they are lodged by people who haven’t seen the show. I don’t think anyone has a duty to brook prejudice of any kind. These protestors haven’t educated themselves about the work by seeing it, yet they’re doing damage by talking as if they did. If, once they have seen the show (as you have), they have criticisms, then I think we’d have a really productive discussion on our hands. I don’t think all negative comments are without merit. I just think that if we’re going to learn anything at all about the sins of racism, we first have to learn about the sins of ignorance, and not having seen the show before attacking it is a form of prejudice.

    (By the way, Michael, I took two words out of your comment as not to give away the power of the ending for people who haven’t seen it yet. But I didn’t change anything else.)

  19. J. Kane says:

    Jason,

    I didn’t see this mentioned above, but there IS a musical coming down the pike based on the Japanese-American internment camps. George Takei is involved. More info can be found here: http://www.facebook.com/allegiancemusical

    Great blog. Kudos…

    Another Jason

  20. John says:

    Well said, Jason. I, too, attended the Saturday matinee and when I witnessed the protesters outside, I knew it was a group of people who had not seen the show. I saw this incredible show last spring at the Vineyard and knew if these people had seen it, they would be encouraging people to see it after having experienced its powerful message. The minstrel show here is used as a metaphor for the racial injustice that happened to these men and countless others like them.
    I also want to second Susan’s comments. Any English teacher who uses TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD in his/her classroom, or any teacher of black literature or black history should find a way to organize a field trip for his/her students to see this show. What a great way to celebrate Black History Month in February! This live performance can bring home the message of racial injustice to students better than anything done in the classroom. The students will also be exposed to the most incredibly talented group of men (and woman) it has ever been my privilege to witness (theatre teachers, also take note). Everyone connected with this show is to be congratulated for having the courage to bring this story to the attention of this generation and to do it with such inspiration. I took a theatre party of 51 to the Lyceum last Saturday afternoon and they left having had an emotionally wonderful, exceptionally thought-provoking experience.

  21. Eric Grunin says:

    Kander and Ebb themselves were forced to change a lyric in Cabaret

    Yes, it was Hal Prince’s decision, which he still feels was the right one; but he’s also glad that it was reverted for the movie. See “Colored Lights” by Kander, Ebb, and Lawrence (pg.66-67).

  22. Justine says:

    What the response be if a group of Germans did a musical about the Death Camps at Austwitz and called it the Death Campsof Austwitz. This is about a real incident and sometimes and in some ways not everything is up for grabs. Especially in these times when this country is becoming more and more polarzied around race. Why could there not have been a serious dramatization of this issue instead of the usual Black men laughing and dancing and shuffling.

  23. Susan says:

    Justine – this play IS a serious dramatization of the issue. There are many heart stopping serious scenes. Everything that happens to those 9 boys is played seriously and with profound dignity. The shuffling and laughing is only done when the black men are playing the parts of the white men they are making fun of. It is the racism of the whites who committed so many appaling unjust actions that is mocked. It is absolutely one of the most serious things I’ve seen and gave me a lot to think about. Listen to what Whoopi Goldberg said about the show on The View the other day. Maybe you will understand the show if you listen to that segment.

  24. BK says:

    Charles Barron speaks for the next and the present Scottsboro Boys. People who you probably pass everyday in NYC and look down on. It is always convenient to dismiss the messenger when he is alive and celebrate his courage after he is gone. As I walk the halls of corporate America in NYC I am pretty clear on what the effect of these conditions have been. No black men need apply. Jim Crow 2010. American apartheid. So it is easy to dismiss Mr. Barron because he speaks for the voiceless but how many of you have the courage to do anything except for to go to a play and pretend that this is history. Would you do any real work or make any sacrifice to fight against present day racism and injustice?

  25. Gwyn Osnos says:

    Thanks, Jason, for this very thoughtful piece on The Scottsboro Boys, and the wrongheadedness of the Freedom Party’s protests. I’m still reeling at the tragedy/absurdity of the show closing on the 12th. Something. Is. Not. Right.

    Do you know if the producers have offered free tix to the protesters? If the producers are concerned about the Freedom Party disrupting the show, have the they offered the protesters a private viewing, including an intro (e.g., by one of the cast members – say, the brilliant Colman Domingo – or, a well respected African American historian), and a post-show talkback?

    By protesting the show, and effectively forcing The Scottsboro Boys to close, the Freedom Party is destroying a show that (in addition to being an artistic gem) is a potentially powerful tool for inspiring important conversations about a terrible, much-too-recent time in our history. White Americans (of which I am one) cannot help but feel extremely uncomfortable with the story this show tells us. It makes us – even us self-congratulatory “progressives” – think hard about whether we aren’t still guilty (even if in a more discreet, subtle way than in the past) of racist thoughts, tendencies and behaviors.

    I sincerely hope that the producers of the show will make extraordinary efforts to reverse the Freedom Party’s and the public’s perception of what is an exquisite, important, ground-breaking, original musical.

  26. Thanks, Gwyn, for your comment. I think the closing of the show is a real loss, too. But I don’t give the Freedom Party the glory of credit for it. Even “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” which was accompanied by no controversy, is closing. I really think it’s a matter of current tastes on Broadway. If a new musical isn’t what I call “pre-reviewed” — meaning based on something that audiences already thoroughly know, like a movie or a popular band — then it’s really hard to find an audience. And American history is a hard sell these days. I honestly don’t think the protests had much heft. I don’t know a single person who took them seriously. Which is gratifying, even if the show’s closing is disgraceful.

  27. Lynne Schuepbach says:

    Tell all the high school kids who’s first and deepest experience of the Haulocaust is acting in or watching “Diary of Anne Frank” that they aren’t allowed to participate unless they are Jewish or lost family in the gas chambers. The best way to look at the past, learn from it, is to experience the pathos and passion of it. Theatre is a great way to bring attention to the truth of humankind…heroic or horrible. And sometimes a jest is more effective than a sermon. The protesters should come on in, fill the seats and watch the play before condemning it. Art often is the best vehicle for change for the better.
    Blind condemnation is alway wrong, wheather of people of a different skin hue or different ways of discussing human experience.
    Say, Shakespeare was never actually IN Padua! He was never a lovesick teenager who committed suicide. He was not a black man living in white feudal society. He was never a King. We shouldn’t watch HIS plays???????

  28. Esther says:

    The first Kander and Ebb musical I saw was the movie of Cabaret. There were certainly parts that as a Jew, made me uncomfortable. But it also made me realize that musical theatre could tackle serious subjects in a way that was powerful, tuneful and entertaining in the best sense of the word.

    And I felt the same way when I saw The Scottsboro Boys a couple weeks ago. It’s a powerful, moving American story. I thought the minstrel framework was used very effectively to illuminate the era’s racism and anti-Semitism. It’s not used to ridicule black people. In fact, it’s the white characters who are lampooned.

    There were things that made me feel uncomfortable. I didn’t quite know what to do during the first big ensemble number. Should I applaud at the way these young black men were being forced to “put on a show,” as entertaining as they were? And that was the point – to demonstrate how black men were viewed, as objects of entertainment for white audiences.

    Likewise, the reference to “Jewish money” was a completely accurate representation of how Southern whites viewed Jews – all the way through the civil rights movement. And Forest McClendon made me laugh in “That’s Not the Way We Do Things.”

    I think David Thompson, who wrote the book, makes a very careful distinction between how the nine are depicted when they’re “performing” and how we see them when they’re by themselves, in jail. He treats them with compassion and dignity and we learn about their hopes and fears.

    And Joshua Henry was spellbinding. It took my breath away when he sang “Go Back Home.”

    I’m so sorry this show is closing. It really deserved a wider audience. It has some interesting and provocative things to say about race that I think are still valid today. It’s a story about young black men told by young black men – and that’s pretty rare.

  29. Thank you for your comment. I agree on so many levels, especially about your point about it being the whites who are being lampooned. A friend noted how bizarre Bones and Tambo’s accents were. It made sense to me: White people were being shown through the same dishonest funhouse mirror that black people suffered in coon songs for so many generations. The more I think about this show, the more I’m convinced it’s a modern classic, and I’m proud to have been able to see it three times during its run.

  30. Chuck Moss says:

    Mr. Barron is absolutely correct….boycott this play.

  31. white critic of African american protestors of a white-conceived, white-implemented. @jason” doesn’t have the integrity to acknowledge that production would have had some substance with some – any – African americans on the writing, music, directorial team.

  32. I don’t see much point in addressing the racism inherent in your comment. The ideas that white people are somehow not qualified to comment on the racism in which their ancestors engaged, that minstrelsy wasn’t partially a white construct to begin with, that artistic commentary on the curse of racism can only be owned by the descendents of the oppressed–well, it’s a distorted view of a history we all share.

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