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07.22.09

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Racial blurs

It is with great concern that I read David Templeton's review of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at Summer Repertory Theatre ("'Cat' Nip," July 1). While Mr. Templeton is entitled to his opinion about the interpretation of the play, his comments about the casting are troubling. I am a longtime subscriber to SRT, and one of the things I like best about the last few years is the commitment to color-blind casting. Last season, we saw an African-American play Leo Bloom in The Producers, and the season before had actors of color sprinkled throughout.

Mr. Templeton says he supports color-blind casting, but then spends most of his remarks disparaging the choice to have an actor of color play the iconic role of Maggie the Cat. Again, he is welcome to criticize the interpretation of the play, but it is unjust to criticize the casting of an individual based on the color of his or her skin. Summer Repertory Theatre brings in a talented young actress from the Cayman Islands (which makes her Afro-Caribbean, not African-American), but Mr. Templeton insists she is not talented enough to justify having a black actress play the role. I cannot be the only one who thinks that his remarks are racist! Haven't we moved beyond this? Is President Obama talented enough to justify having a black person in his position? Mr. Templeton claims himself to be "normally a proponent of color-blind casting," but focuses his attention on finding a justification for casting this beautiful young woman.

He completely omits the fact that there are other actors of color in this production. The Rev. Tooker is played by a black actor; is this justified, or is the actor simply talented enough to make it work? One of the "no-neck-monsters" is an Asian girl—how could she be a member of this predominantly white family? You cannot have it both ways, Mr. Templeton; either you support using the best person for the job, regardless of skin color, or you don't! Furthermore, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is not a play about race. I have seen the play a few times, and while it is set in Mississippi in the mid 1950s, Tennessee Williams is not discussing racial hatred or division. Why Mr. Templeton brings this into it is a mystery to me. His review was shameful—you should be ashamed of yourselves for promoting the racial divide.

Marcus White

Santa Rosa

David Templeton responds: My years of reviewing demonstrate my commitment to color-blind casting, with my positive review of last year's 'The Producers,' which you mention, as one recent example. I wish there were more of it in this county. Still, I believe my comments on the casting of black actors in this specific production of 'Cat' (and this includes those actors of color I simply had no space to mention in my original review) is supportable. It is simply not true that color-blind casting works in all instances. My all-time favorite American playwright, the late great August Wilson, would never have allowed, on a whim, a white actress to play Aunt Esther or any other member of his beautifully crafted African-American families. It would have made no sense. While I agree that in the majority of shows, color-blind casting is important and laudable—and I applaud director James Newman for trying something new—there are times when it simply doesn't work and ultimately detracts from the show. I believe this production of 'Cat' is one of those instances.


Ain't nuthin' like the real thing

Re "411 on PSO" (Letters, July 15): While this letter is so absurd it does not justify a serious response, it does deserve derisive mocking. Unfortunately, due to budget cutbacks, I won't take the time. Instead, I'll just quote him, if merely for my own laughs: "He . . . looked at porn on a computer and got hooked for life." Do people really take this guy seriously?

Nat Spegalman

San Rafael


Gorgeous 'wretch'

David Templeton's "Wretch Like Me" (July 15) was very simply and beautifully told, showing why people are drawn to certain types of religion without the judgment and polarities often evoked about evangelical Christianity; about how there was a spiritual growth and revelation and how that revelation created beauty and love in life. The ending was so tender and full of heart, it brought me to tears. That's what real religion is about.

Christina O'Reilly

via email


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