For fear of “the n-word,” a Connecticut superintendent has banned a play by a leading black playwright, reports the New York Times. August Wilson’s “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” was selected by drama teacher Nina Smith at the Waterbury Arts Magnet School. In addition to going through the normal channels for approval, she read the play to parents of the mostly black cast and discussed its language with the principal and with a former president of the Waterbury NAACP.
“Joe Turner,” about the big dreams and tumultuous lives of the residents of a Pittsburgh boarding house, drew critical acclaim for both its first Broadway run, in 1988, and a revival there in 2009. It is widely considered one of the best plays in Wilson’s cycle of 10 works about the African-American experience in each decade of the 20th century; Wilson died in 2005.
Smith “prepared a study guide for classes to talk about the play, and was organizing post-performance talkbacks so the cast and audience members could discuss the work,” according to the Times.
“Joe Turner” was chosen for performance in February to celebrate black history month. After seven years, the magnet school has students with the maturity to do the play, Smith said. There are enough black actors to fill the roles.
Superintendent David Snead, who’s black, banned the play. However, the Waterbury school board will consider a new policy for school plays on Tuesday, according to the Republican-American.