When Nilo Cruz Met The Shoe Bomber

No press is bad press, I suppose, but what happens when Townhall.com’s Diana West connects the cast of Anna in the Tropics to British terror suspects?

…What could acting in “Anna in the Tropics,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning play, have to do with debating the arrest of a local bloke suspected of Al Qaeda links? The stories are without parallels.

Or are they? Both stories are deeply marked by their subjects’ ethno-vision, the tightly blinkered perspective that makes for rigid groupthink and cumbersome apologetics. On Broadway, it allows actors, who are as lucky as they are deserving, to rise to the peak of their careers and see only a view dominated by the bogeymen of identity politics.

The one story she refers to is a Anna cast interview with The New York Times. I found it impossible to read scare-ifying ethno-vision into the casts’ comments, simply because they seemed to be answering with variations on the same casting problems that actors face in every situation. It is all identity politics, yes, but this includes the politics of fat/thin, tall/short, scary/sexy, and so on. On stage, race will never not be a factor. (Though, what factor it plays will vary wildly from play to play and year to year. When was the last time you saw an Athenian guy playing Oedipus?) And like so many actors, the cast seemed only to express their frustrations when they felt like they were only being permitted to play one type of character. Every actor wants to play every part—even if your name begins with Stephen and ends with Seagal.

As for the IslamoBritish, it may look foolish for a community to rally around someone who seems pretty darn guilty, but if the sequence of events is accurately portrayed in West’s article (A: Police arrest suspected terrorist. B: Police increase their prescence in his neighborhood.), it seems as though the police are giving the initial impression that this community is “on trial”—so why wouldn’t neighbors respond as a community?

The next incarnation you might see of Anna may have an entirely white cast. Or, maybe it will have a cast that includes actual Cuban-Americans—dark-skinned Cubans at that. Or maybe it will just have John Stamos.

Ms. West is right to be concerned with the subversion of the individual (though she apparently works for, uh, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Washington Times), but I don’t see a numbing collective at work onstage in the Royale. I see actors.

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