Portland producer denied rights to stage play over actor’s race - KPTV - FOX 12

Portland producer denied rights to stage play over actor’s race

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

A local producer said he wanted to bring the famed play "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" to Portland but was told he had to recast a black actor or he couldn't get the rights to the show.

That decision, made by the estate of playwright Edward Albee, is getting a lot of attention all around the world.

Michael Streeter wanted to produce the show, and he told FOX 12 he was in the process of getting the rights to it, with one of the requirements being head shots of the cast submitted to the Albee estate.

Streeter said it was not until he sent in the photos that he learned there was a problem.

"The crux of the matter is they said I would need to replace him with a white actor or I wouldn't gain the rights to do the play,” he explained. “I was shocked, I was angry, I was dumbfounded."

Streeter said he wanted local actor Damien Geter to play Nick, a character in the play who is described as blonde and blue-eyed. In response to the estate's decision, Streeter decided to cancel the show at the Shoe Box Theater altogether rather than replace Geter with someone else.

The producer said he believed the estate's decision is wrong yet said he doesn't think it's coming from a place of blatant racism but rather an allegiance to what Albee himself would have wanted for this particular character.

Still, the news isn't sitting well with Streeter or with Geter.

"I can see both sides of the story, to be honest with you,” the actor said. “But if we look at the textbook definition of racism, which is the systematic oppression and control of a minority group, then them saying a black person cannot be in your play - that's racism."

FOX 12 reached out to the Albee estate for a response. The estate noted that they are “eager” to see diverse casting in Albee’s works, stating that, "the vast majority of roles in Edward Albee's almost 30 plays can and should be cast diversely.”

In this particular role, though, the estate is standing firm on the casting, stating, “it is important to note that Mr. 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."

Streeter and Geter said that at this point, even if the estate changed its mind, they still wouldn't do this show. They haven't chosen what they'll do instead, but whatever it is, they hope to include a talk-back with the audience to continue the conversation around this issue.

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