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Hamptons Life

Aug 1, 2016 1:03 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Bay Street Theater Releases Statement On 'Prince Of Egypt' Cancellation

Aug 1, 2016 1:17 PM

Bay Street Theater artistic director Scott Schwartz issued a statement Friday concerning the theater’s cancellation of a planned concert reading of “The Prince of Egypt,” a stage adaptation of the DreamWorks animated film of the same name about the life of the biblical figure Moses.

After the cast was announced, criticism arose online: Some were upset that, while the story was set in an African country, the cast was predominantly white.

Mr. Schwartz acknowledged the concerns in an open letter posted on Bay Street’s website on Monday, July 25. Then the decision to cancel the event was revealed Wednesday, July 27. Initially, Bay Street did not offer further comment, but then the statement below was issued two days later:

To the Bay Street Community,

As you are aware, Bay Street recently announced that we have cancelled the upcoming free concert reading of The Prince of Egypt that had been scheduled for August 13 at Mashashimuet Park in Sag Harbor. I want to clarify how and why this decision was made.

Bay Street was excited to present this free opportunity for our community, to give a peek at the development of a new musical in progress. Over the past three years, Bay Street has made a strong commitment to the development and production of new works, having produced four world premiere productions in three years and also having started the now thriving Bay Street New Works Festival that we present every spring. The partnership with DreamWorks Theatricals to present a concert reading of The Prince of Egypt was born out of our ongoing commitment to helping develop new works for the stage, and Bay Street as an organization had no ongoing involvement with the project beyond this concert. The casting for the concert and now also the decision to cancel the event was made by the creative team, including composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz, book writer Philip LaZebnik, and me as director, and also by our producers Bill Damaschke and Dori Berinstein. Bay Street Theater supports the team in their decision to cancel this event, though we deeply regret any disappointment or inconvenience that this cancellation has caused to our loyal supporters and audience.

All of the team working on The Prince of Egypt strongly feels the discussion that arose around the casting of this concert is an important one and we appreciate the constructive feedback we have received from many of our friends and colleagues.

While we have had diverse casts in each and every step of our process so far, we will continue these discussions and consider them fully as we develop specific approaches to casting as we move forward.

But, there were also personal attacks and comments online and in social media against our actors and creative team that were unproductive. This is the specific reason why the creative team and the producers are cancelling the concert and will continue the development of this new musical in private for now. The team feels strongly that social media harassment and bullying of artists is not acceptable nor is it a positive or constructive way to continue this important discussion about diversity and racial authenticity in casting. The talented actors who were to be involved in this concert were being paid very little and were only committed to helping develop this show for one night, for free, in our local park. The creative and producing team certainly could not ask them to endure online harassment for a one-night concert reading.

Finally, the creative team and producers at DreamWorks Theatricals all believe that the story of Moses is one that is embraced and owned by millions and millions of people from every country, race and culture—and we hope that the project we are developing will honor the passion of those who love it. It has always been our aim to create the piece in a way that people of all races and cultures can one day tell the story.

Bay Street is excited to announce that we will replace this concert with a different free event for our community on August 13 in partnership with Mashashimuet Park.

We will present a free concert of songs from our upcoming production of “My Fair Lady” featuring members of the Bay Street cast and including a sing along for the whole audience. The concert will happen at the Grandstand at 5:30 pm on August 13th, and will be a part of a community barbecue being thrown by the Park. We hope you’ll join us for this joyful free celebration of our community and of Bay Street’s 25th Anniversary Season!

Sincerely,

Scott Schwartz

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I'm a very liberal person but this just seems a bit too much. It could have been a wonderful play and now we have lost community theater and local arts to political correctness. This is wrong.
By CleanWaters (79), Southampton on Aug 1, 16 2:22 PM
4 members liked this comment
Political correctness is just plain ridiculous!!
By bigfresh (4381), north sea on Aug 1, 16 2:47 PM
2 members liked this comment
Studies show that 100% of those entities that buckle to political correctness have an explanation.

Let's see what happens when the feminists find out that they are doing ''My Fair Lady'' in which men teach women how to be ''the perfect lady''.
By even flow (841), East Hampton on Aug 1, 16 6:34 PM
A few peoples ideas are pushed on others... Not political or correct.
By knitter (1725), Southampton on Aug 1, 16 8:42 PM
Yet, where is the outcry that Jesus is depicted as white?

Too funny...
By Mr. Z (11376), North Sea on Aug 2, 16 4:04 AM
8k run & 3 mile walk, Agawam Park, Southampton Rotary Club fundraiser