Playwright responds to media regarding play's cancellation
The University recently opted to cancel a production of Michael Weller’s ’65 controversial play “Buyer Beware,” a decision administrators said was reached following discussions between faculty and the playwright himself. Contrary to that narrative, however, Weller claimed in a Nov. 2 WBUR interview that he has not heard from the Theater Department since delivering the play.
The play was originally slated to premiere on campus this academic year. However, “the challenging issues that the play raises prompted a reconsideration of that scheduling,” Senior Vice President of Communications and External Relations Ira Jackson wrote in a Nov. 2 email to students, faculty and staff.
In the last several months, students and alumni took to social media to protest the play, which featured a white character repeatedly using the N-word.
However, Weller told WBUR that the protestors “just don’t know how to read a play,” adding that in “Buyer Beware,” he was trying to show a broad cross-section of people under a lot of pressure.” Weller did not respond to request for comment as of press time.
In his email, Jackson wrote that the decision to premiere the play off campus and instead “engage with the play and the issues it raises within the context of a rigorous, team-taught course next semester” was made following conversations between Weller and creative arts faculty. Theater faculty also discussed the decision with some students, according to Jackson.
Theater faculty received a draft script of the play in early July, with faculty and Weller meeting in September to discuss possible dates in February for a production, according to a Nov. 6 University statement posted on BrandeisNOW. Weller was informed at this time of the faculty’s decision to hold a course on provocative works of art, according to the statement.
Jackson emphasized that the decision was left up to the faculty, “our community’s educational and pedagogical experts,” rather than the University administration.
However, the Nov. 6 University statement claimed that Weller is the one who made the decision to produce the play off campus in a professional venue. “It was the playwright’s sense, in his own words, ‘that rehearsals of the play, and growing sentiment among some students in the theater department, might not be conducive to the creative atmosphere desired for a premiere presentation of a new work,’” the statement read.
Still, Weller told WBUR that he is disappointed with how the discussion was handled, saying that it was “a dangerous and corrosive way” to deal with the creation of a play, according to the article.
Next semester’s course will “engage in challenging educational work” by “devoting a full semester to analyzing and openly discussing provocative works of art that may cause discomfort,” Jackson wrote. The University will also honor Weller with the Creative Arts Award next semester as planned, according to the email.
Yet Weller said in the WBUR article that he is upset the play will not be performed on campus. “I just hope that there is a chance for the kids who haven’t seen the play at Brandeis to see it,” he said in the interview, adding, “I wanted to give it to the school. I’m personally heartbroken.”