The August Wilson/Robert Brustein Discussion

When: March 15, 2017 – 6:00pm – 9:00pm

On Cultural Power: The August Wilson/Robert Brustein Discussion, Re-enacted!

Experience the famous and controversial 1997 debate that took New York by storm – “The intellectual equivalent of extreme fighting” – Frank Rich

Brock alumnus Marcel Stewart, (Soulpepper Academy) will play August Wilson, countering Dr. David Fancy, (Department of Dramatic Arts, Brock Un.) who plays Robert Brustein, with Lena Hall as the Moderator, Anna Deavere Smith. An audience Talk Back will be moderated by Shannon Kitchings. This free community event will be held in the Marilyn I. Walker Theatre, at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.

Deavere Smith finally persuaded the two cultural Titans, Wilson and Brustein, to meet in person to hash out their disagreements in a star-studded evening sponsored by the Theatre Communications Group. August Wilson’s keynote speech at a previous Theatre Communications Group conference had ignited fierce discussion about funding, racial equality, and casting. This speech catalyzed a debate with Brustein that raged in the pages of American Theatre Magazine, The New York Times, and elsewhere for a year. It proved to be a cultural touchstone in the United States and the theatre history of the Americas.

We continue to debate the same issues today on both sides of the border. Kelly J. Nestruck of The Globe and Mail, and celebrated playwright Djanet Sears, have both pointed out that access to cultural capital has not shifted significantly to increase equality in Canada over the last twenty years.

By re-enacting this historic debate, the Department of Dramatic Arts invites audiences to wrestle afresh with the ever-present, ever-complex question of “whose culture – for whom”?

  • How can we achieve the difference-positive casting (with regard to race, gender, ability, age, and related minoritizations) that many called for in response to the debate, without defaulting to a “melting pot” version of mainstream culture?
  • Are Realism and Naturalism used as “code words for racial exclusion” as distinguished playwright Andrew Moodie has suggested?
  • How can Canada’s increasingly diverse population be adequately represented in the performing arts when the high competition and poor re-numerations create the appearance of a risky career?
  • Doesn’t their status as public-funded, nonprofit organizations give theatres and universities a civic and collective responsibility to raise the bar for diversity and inclusion from recruitment to scholarship and curriculum?

Our Re-enactment and Talk Back offer free, stimulating debate where spontaneous blurting, gaffes, faux pas, frustrations, and even tomatoes will be allowed and welcomed. It also provides a rare chance to welcome back Marcel Stewart, an actor in the Soulpepper Academy, to see the maverick David Fancy on stage, and Lena Hall facing the massive challenge of moderating the Titans!

Isaac Butler describes the debate as “the moment when presumed certainties – such as the value of “colorblindness” or Benetton-style “multiculturalism” – fractured.”

This is a free community event. To attend, please secure your ticket on Eventbrite:

For more information or for assistance arranging interviews, contact: Marie Balsom, Communications Coordinator, Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA), Brock University, 905.688.5550, ext. 4765 or 905.964.7646

Cost: $0.00
Sponsor: Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, Humanities Research Institute, and Social Justice Research Institute

Categories: Events