Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Emperor Jones

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  1. This is BEYOND racist! This doesnot spark discussion on race; it ridicules the history of oppression and injustice suffered by Black people in America. Whites in blackface can NEVER be anything but racist. Let me put in terms you can understand: What would be the reaction of Shakesperes play Merchant of Venice if it had the (already racist)character of Shylock (the Jew) played by an actor/actress dressed as HITLER! You need not reply because we all know the answer to that. The Goodman Theatre has just lost another patron.

  2. Is this suppose to be a minstrel show, complete with black face and big red lip? Is this mean to offend people of color? If not, it certainly does seem that way to me... Kevin Watson

  3. Elizabeth Lecompte masters the controversy of The Emperor Jones by channeling the main character through a white woman. Lecompte deals with the racism inherent in Jones head on by demonstrating the performative nature of the stereotypes inherent in the script. This show works because Lecompte has created a space between character and actor, and in that space an entry point for the audience. I (the audience) must acknowledge that the black man onstage is a white woman, I then question; what is a black man? a white woman? an Emperor Jones? to the Wooster group? To the Goodman audience? To Eugene O'Neil? To Lecompte? To Valk? To me? And if Emperor Jones is not a black man but a patchwork of stereotypes and mysticism, then what happens to his character and story? The most captivating part of the play was Kate Valk's ability to simultaneously play and comment on a character. Through Valk's artistry we see not only these questions but her representation of and loyalty to a fascinating character.

  4. The Wooster Group’s production of Eugene O’Neill’s THE EMPEROR JONES has been performed nationally and internationally since 1993, to overwhelming acclaim. O’Neill’s play has sparked controversy since its premiere in 1921, and this production and its use of a variety of theatrical devices (including some that are typically associated with such racist “entertainments” as the minstrel show), does indeed seek to continue the discussion which the play has continually sparked about, among many other things, the continuing pervasion of racism in America. Obviously, this is a dialogue that has become only more relevant in the light of recent political events, and it is a dialogue in which the vast majority of the audiences who have seen THE EMPEROR JONES have passionately participated, in post-performance discussions at the Goodman and in discussions with our staff outside of that forum.

    -Steve Scott
    Associate Producer, Goodman Theatre

  5. "Anonymous" says he or she will no longer be a Goodman patron. But the entire run of "The Emperor Jones" is sold out. What does that imply? That Chicago theater goers are eager to see black people demeaned? Might there be more to explore in this production? For example, what is the relationship between the black face tradition and the white face tradition of kabuki?

  6. This really saddens me that The Goodman is ushering in a return of minstrelsy. This is offensive not progressive. What does the art achieve? What does the show achieve by having the main character a white women? I don't understand the choice of the Wooster Group or The Goodman.