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University cancels play accused of criticizing Black Lives Matter

Brandeis University received complaints over its content

Following a flood of complaints, Brandeis University has scrapped plans for the performance of a controversial play on its campus accused of being critical of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The private university announced recently that it had cancelled plans to present the play “Buyer Beware” on its campus after students and alumni complained the production “seeks to vilify” black voices and issued concerns because its script includes a white protagonist who uses the n-word as part of a comedy routine.

Complaints over its content have pushed the play off campus, with an alumnus calling the play “overtly racist” and an outspoken student saying it elevated “the already privileged voice of a white man on the matter of Black Lives Matter protests.”

Instead, the university said it will offer a course this spring that “will engage directly with a variety of controversial works of art” and “address difficult topics.”

The play, a work of fiction, chronicles the pushback stemming from a student’s plan to perform a controversial comedy bit on the Brandeis campus. It was written by famous playwright and Brandeis alumnus Michael Weller. The playwright researched and drafted the play’s script during a residency appointment at Brandeis in 2016.

The play is now slated to be performed at a yet-to-be-announced professional venue, according to the university.

In a statement provided to The College Fix, Brandeis said the production’s cancellation was a “mutual and amicable decision.”

“Following open and productive conversations between [Weller] and faculty from the Theater department and the Division of Creative arts, together we decided to engage with the play through a rigorous, team-taught course next semester, while [Weller] will premiere the play in a professional venue,” the university said in its statement.

According to The Brandeis Hoot, “Buyer Beware” “deals with the modern atmosphere of college protest movements” and its plot revolves around a white Brandeis student named Ron who plans to perform a stand-up routine on campus “in the style of Lenny Bruce.” Bruce was a famous 20th-century comedian and satirist known for his provocative style and use of obscenities.

“In the play, a white college student wants to use the n-word in a comedy routine, which spurs on a national movement for Black Lives Matter,” according to The Hoot.

Ron, the main character, also faces the ire of a university administration that says it’ll punish the student “with academic probation in hopes he will cancel his performance so that student protests do not fall on the same night that a wealthy alum” makes a trip to campus.

“At the climax of the play Ron performs and students protest,” according to The Hoot.

Students and alumni rallied against the play, reaching out to administrators and faculty members to express their anger over its content.

Ayelet Schrek, a recent graduate of Brandeis, organized an email and phone call campaign protesting the play’s performance on campus.

A description for a Facebook page promoting the campaign argued the play “positions a white man as the brave protagonist and a black man (and [Black Lives Matter]) as the over-reacting, violent antagonist.”

In an email to theater professor Bob Walsh, Schrek said the university was promoting the story of “a white man justifying racism.”

“This play must not happen at Brandeis (or anywhere). I will personally do everything I can to make sure it doesn’t,” Schrek said in the email, which was provided to The College Fix.

Another outspoken critic of the play included Brandeis student Andrew Child, an undergraduate departmental representative for the theater department. Child sent multiple letters to the Brandeis administration regarding his concerns over “Buyer Beware” and its planned presentation on campus.

In one letter, which Child posted on Facebook, he said the play “seeks to vilify the voices of black students expressing dissent.”

“In choosing to elevate the already privileged voice of a white man on the matter of Black Lives Matter protests, we, as a university, are taking up space in a way that invites unnecessary and unproductive backlash,” he said in the letter.

In an email to The College Fix, Child said he’s glad the university has ditched the play and described it as “an old man’s diagnosis and attack of young people and how we engage with each other and interact with unjust situations.”

He said calls for Brandeis to cancel the play weren’t calls for censorship.

“There was constant fear about being accused of censorship, which is difficult,” he said. “However, saying that it may be unwise to present a particular piece of art at a certain time in a certain place is not censorship.”

Weller has yet to respond to an email sent Tuesday from The College Fix to weigh in on the matter.

MORE: Three in four Brandeis conservatives are in the political closet

MORE: Brandeis threatens student journalists for invading ‘safe space’

IMAGE: Teacher_Dude/Shutterstock

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About the Author
Nathan Rubbelke is a staff reporter for The College Fix with a specialty on investigative and enterprise reporting. He has also held editorial positions at The Commercial Review daily newspaper in Portland, Indiana, as well as at The Washington Examiner, Red Alert Politics and St. Louis Public Radio. Rubbelke graduated from Saint Louis University, where he majored in political science and sociology.

Add to the Discussion

  • Larry Moran

    Certainly wouldn’t want anything ‘controversial’ on an American university campus. Don’t worry, We’ll keep it away. There, there…just breathe into this paper bag. Emergency puppy patrol will be here in a minute, there, there…

  • I am of the Chinese minority in Canada, and I am sick of the self-righteousness of the diversity ideologues and their identity politics. You virtue signalling, white liberals why do you speak on behalf of a racial minority. Are we so victimized that we have no voice of our own? What hubris! I say let the play go on. Trash it in a review, or critique and debate its merits. That is your right to free speech. Bad mouth the play if you so desire. But to stop someone from expressing their views, however repugnant, is a sure road toward a police state.

    • MONAD

      This is what the left has become and why I’ve divorced myself from it. As a white man, I will ALWAYS be an evil racist in their eyes. As a bisexual man that prefers men, I’m a bigot because I criticize Islam (a religion that wants me dead). I’m honestly through caring. I’m done. Guess I’m a racist bigot. *Shrug*.

    • ahad_ha_amoratsim

      The protestors don’t think that a police state is a bad thing — so long as they get to be the police, and get to call it progressive enclave rather than a police state. As far as they are concerned, a police state by another name would smell much more fair.

    • utvolj

      ALL THIS! Very well put! Ideas must not be regulated. Words are not violence. We can choose to control our actions in response to words and ideas we don’t agree with in a rational non-violent way. Censorship of thought and speech is the most dangerous tool of tyranny.

    • Hebrewhelena

      Yes!!

    • Jeffrey Davidson

      I totally agree. You are hypocrites if your policy is one of freedom of speech and nonviolent expression,but then say a specific piece of expression is not permitted.

      This hypocrisy reminds me of George Orwell’s Animal Farm where animals revolted against humans. Their motto was “All animals are equal”.
      They later added a subscript, “but some animals are more equal than others.”

  • OpossumSaladSandwich

    This portrayal seems pretty tame compared to the things that actually happened at Yale, Middlebury, Evergreen, and other Unis. If black identarians don’t want people discussing this behavior, why are they engaging in it?

  • 1st Amend.

    Apparently some things are not allowed to be criticized.

  • david smith

    “and a black man (and [Black Lives Matter]) as the over-reacting, violent antagonist.”

    Oh, so in other words, it is true and tells a story like what actually happened in Ferguson where Mike Brown, a thief and attempted cop killer, was justifiable and deservedly killed and BLM was created. Then, the black witnesses all lied about what happened, then his broken family parents told everyone to burn down their own city. And all the “over-reacting, violent antagonist” blacks obliged.

    • OpossumSaladSandwich

      Yeah, this is the point I was trying to get at below. It is the same thing over and over:

      1) Do something violent, rude, and destructive
      2) Equivocate and refuse to apologize, use identity politics to monopolize the conversation
      3) Demand that people actually witnessed something other than what they saw, or you’ll call them “racist”.

      It’s a full-on war on reality. Lefties really need to stop demanding that people ignore obvious problems.

      • ahad_ha_amoratsim

        And use threats of violence to intimidate witnesses not to reveal what they actually witnessed.

    • ahad_ha_amoratsim

      In fairness, it seems that it is white students who are doing the overreacting at Brandeis.

      • Michael Lorton

        Yeah, anyone who actually believes that viciousness and stupidity are confined to any one ethnic group is going to be bitterly disappointed.

    • henrybowman_az

      Actually, it is true, and tells the story of what actually happens when you try to perform the play itself. Life IMMEDIATELY imitates art.

  • Walter Festoon

    Brandeis is a hot bed of Black Victim Theology.

  • StormsWx

    The university cannot limit expression just because any listener, or even the majority of a community, is offended by its content. In the context of art and entertainment, this means tolerating some works that we might find offensive, insulting, outrageous — or just plain bad.

    • henrybowman_az

      What it means to take rights seriously is that one will honor them even when there is significant social cost in doing so.
      –SANFORD LEVINSON

  • Char Sal

    Another entitled lemming diploma-mill to which I will not send my child; thank you for helping me narrow my choices.

  • MONAD

    It’s only censorship when it’s us. Yeah. We get it.

  • Man_in_PA

    “Oh, what have we here? …a resume from a Brandeis University graduate. That goes in the circular file.”

  • dhughes609

    Instead of producing the play on campus, a reporter can just do reality TV and film the real life version “Buyer Beware”

  • Lisa

    Will anyone be surprised if there is violence at the off-campus performance? Will anyone be surprised when that violence is excused by academia and the media?

  • ahad_ha_amoratsim

    Life mirrors art.

    But I particularly enjoyed the interplay between the quotes from two students:

    “This play must not happen at Brandeis (or anywhere). I will
    personally do everything I can to make sure it doesn’t,” Schrek said.

    “Another outspoken critic of the play included Brandeis student Andrew
    Child, . . . said calls for Brandeis to cancel the play weren’t calls for censorship.”

    “ ‘There was constant fear about being accused of censorship, which is
    difficult,’ he said. ‘[S}ying that it may be unwise to present a
    particular piece of art at a certain time in a certain place is not
    censorship.’ ”

    • henrybowman_az

      One is not to have the exercise of his liberty of expression in appropriate places abridged on the plea that it may be exercised in some other place.
      —SUPREME COURT OF THE US, SCHNEIDER V. STATE, 308 U.S. 147, 163 (1939).

      • DaBkr

        Excellent

  • Tricia

    Well, Brandeis is a private university, but does it receive any public funding?

  • CurmudgeonNYC

    The protesters are retarded. Simple as that.

  • Loco

    Many of these so called SJWs believe in the 1st Amendment only when it applies to their speech.

  • PhysicsWon

    Maybe someone should write a play about a play that is about a play that is cancelled because it portrays BLM in a bad light. I suspect that that new play would be cancelled so that one could write a play about a play about a play thetis about a play that…..

    It is turtles all the way down.

    • OpossumSaladSandwich

      Racist turtles.

  • Bandit

    There’ll be no criticism of our dogma – let the Inquisistion begin

  • chris_zzz

    The play sounds a little bit too much on-the-nose, but throwing it off campus because it is “pro-white privilege” or not sufficiently reverential to BLM is cowardice. Brandeis Univ, which is mostly Jewish and named after a free speech advocate (see, e.g., Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 (1927)), ought not be so afraid. Given that the university’s president established a free expression task force last year to support free speech, this is an embarrassing episode for Brandeis. Did a few SJW students and progressive fascist alums intimidate and bully the poor university president? The response should have been: don’t go see the play if you are fearful that it’ll offend you, but you don’t have the right to control the speech and artistic expression of others. Case closed!

  • Comhaghn

    When you tell a group that speech on its behalf isn’t permitted due to threats of violence, then that group learns the lesson that it’s not speech but violence that is effective. So, that group turns to violence. Is that what you want? Because that’s what you are getting, and will get more of. The world has done this experiment many times across Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America. It won’t be any different in North America. God help us.

    Yes, I hear the argument that the group here — “bourgeois white society” — is already violent, and especially that its “speech is violence.” OK, let’s assume that’s true. Then you should assume that they are prone to more yet more violence, and supposedly they are already “dominant.” And yet you are giving them an excuse to feel justified? How’s that an intelligent strategy?

    This creates a powder keg. Far from teaching “bourgeois white society” that it needs to be more sensitive, you are teaching it that it’s the victim and it has a real grievance. This will not end well.

  • henrybowman_az

    So then, this is some sort of a recursive reality play, right?

    Andy? Andy Kaufman? You’re not really dead, Andy, are you.

    • Michael Lorton

      Now, Andy did you hear about this one?
      Tell me, are you locked in the punch?
      Andy are you goofing on Elvis? Hey, baby
      Are we losing touch?

  • SarahKentucky

    The progressive Left is actually paying the USA a compliment. There’s really nothing to complain about, so they complain about everything

  • SarahKentucky

    Andrew Child has decided to alter Supreme Court decisions decades ago, that free speech is a two-way street, and our constitution confirms it. What a self-centered elitist authoritarian bully. No wonder people like him are such fans of communism. I’m offended. I’ve been triggered. Where’s my safe space? Oh, that’s right, I live in the US, I no longer attend college. That’s my safe space.

  • Michael Lorton

    Saying that it may be unwise to present a particular piece of art at a certain time in a certain place is in fact censorship. What else would censorship be?

  • If any of these hypersensitive, “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!” individuals who spend their days in the graves (not “groves”) of academe trembling in self-abnegating guilt over simply having been born white were ever to hear some of the recordings of the late, great, Lenny Bruce (of blessed memory!), I think they’d faint dead away. (And, upon regaining consciousness, demand his immediate execution.) Bruce was so edgy, so out there, so unexpected, and so completely original that half the people who heard him lacked both the sharpness and the quickness necessary to get what he was doing– and the half who never heard him at all, but had heard OF him, were only interested in closing him down, shutting him up, and locking him away. (Rabid efforts to censor the provocative, the inflammatory, and the dangerous did not begin in 21st century Brandeis– but the school seems intent on following a long and sadly predictable tradition.) Bruce died far too young, more than 50 years ago, but it was he who made it possible for the “groundbreaking” comics who followed– to the great applause of the Left– to do and say everything they’ve done and said. But none of them has ever done it– or said it– as well as he did. It’s a shame those on the Left have lost their sense of humor, and their ability to see, understand, and appreciate what’s happening when a true master takes an angled knife with multiple facets to a population’s most sacred of sacred cows. I suggest they begin by listening to “Religions Incorporated”, “Father Flotsky’s Triumph”, and “How To Relax Your Colored Friends At Parties”. (Snowflakes among them should have a “safe space” and a therapist waiting.)

  • Here’s irony for you: At the conclusion of a comment I wrote last night I suggested, by title, three very well known (and delightfully infamous) Lenny Bruce routines to which an enlightening listen might be of benefit to the fragile flowers of Brandeis. However, upon posting it, I soon saw that it had been rejected as “spam”! I can only conclude that (a) a particular word (no, not THAT one!) in one of the titles offended the delicate sensibilities of whomever/whatever has power over comment-approval on this site, and that (b) censorship is alive and well not just at Brandeis, but at The College Fix!

  • Dr.Tickles

    HA!!! I criticize this laughable movement every chance I get.

  • Old Soldier

    So now old people are not entitled to opinions about young people…..because? . I wonder if this Childs understands that his statements reveal his prejudices and preference for suppression of voices he doesn’t like. As for the comment about “taking up space” I think Childs fits that better than he realizes.
    Frankly this is insanity.

  • TLYG

    BLM is based on a widely discredited lie – why would anyone care what opinion any work of art takes in regard to their position?

  • Johnny Thorne

    Black Lives Matter is a vile movement based on a lie. More affirmative action will not help an evil idea.

  • gdnctr

    Criticism?
    Awwwwwwwwwww, poor little soot-flakes.
    Drop dead, dirtbags.

  • gmartinz

    Lenny Bruce, who was adored on campuses in the 60s, would be banned from them now.

  • Joe Blow

    #BlackLiesMatter

  • Obliged Friend

    Was Barack Obama born the same natural kind? Is naturalization a kind? Did the Founders limit Congress to keep USA the same natural kind via a uniform rule of naturalization.
    Did Congress unnaturalize the country after WBTS? Can Congress legally naturalize the negro race in 1870?

    “The kindly fruits of the earth” “yearnings to be with her own natural kind” and “were all thy children kind and natural” are your clues.

    The Founders were clever placing naturalization and natural born in the Constitution.

  • Obliged Friend

    Are so called naturalization laws after 1865 really UnNaturalization laws? Congress must keep USA the same natural kind. The same kindred blood. That’s what naturalization means. Why hasn’t Harvard figured out what natural meant in 1787?

    Gecynde>Natural

  • demsaredelusional

    “The play, a work of fiction, chronicles the pushback stemming from a student’s plan to perform a controversial comedy bit on the Brandeis campus.” It would seem that there isn’t much fiction to this.

  • Krolll

    A play within a play, within a play, within… All in all, it’s a manifestation of the Droste Effect.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Droste_effect