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Cultural understanding

September 06, 2009

From the point of view of this black freelance theater director, the choice of Bart Sher's crossover to the world of August Wilson was an act of misguided diversity. ("Should White Directors Be Given Black Plays?" Aug. 30)

After 400+ years of Shakespeare productions, it's easy to understand the desire for a look at his stories from a different cultural perspective. But mainstream American theater has yet to be exhausted by a glut of black stories told by black people. I believe this disparity is why August Wilson insisted on black directors for his plays.

In principle I am not at all against cross-cultural directing, and I fully defend Sher's artistic choices on his celebrated Broadway revival of "Joe Turner's Come and Gone," but because of his lack of sensitivity to the depth of the play's inherent African mysticism, the production resulted in an erroneous distortion of basic plot points.

I consider myself as qualified to direct Shakespeare as my esteemed colleague by virtue of the fact that I benefited from the same model of classical theater training.

I consider myself qualified to direct Wilson because I am a product of the world he wrote about.

Timothy Douglas

Brooklyn, N.Y.

Douglas has directed off-Broadway, nationally and internationally, including the world premiere of August Wilson's "Radio Golf" for Yale Rep.

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