CMU School of Drama

Friday, September 23, 2016

How “N*W*C” Became Drama Non Grata On A California State Campus

Arts Integrity Initiative: To start at the end, or at least where we are today: Michele Roberge, executive director of the Carpenter Performing Arts Center on the campus of California State University, has resigned, effective yesterday. Why? Because the school’s president, Jane Close Conoley, insisted upon the cancelation of Roberge’s booking of the comedy N*gger Wetb*ck Ch*nk, a show that has toured extensively for more than a decade to performing arts centers on and off college campuses. In fact, it played to a sold out house of more than 1,000 seats last year at the Carpenter Center. When Conoley raised a red flag earlier this year, Roberge made it known that if Conoley forced the cancelation, she would resign on principle. And so when the axe fell, she did.


Kelly Simons said...

I’m glad this article was posted on the green page this week. We talked about it so briefly in class, and it really piqued my interest. I wanted to know more about this play, since we didn’t even say the play’s entire name in class. They don’t even spell the entire name in the article itself. I’m not sure if the name of the play has the asterisks in it, or the article just didn’t write the entire name. I’m glad that Michele Roberge stuck to their principles and followed through on their threat to resign if N*W*C* was canceled. Yes, this show is potentially offensive but it’s important that young people who will shape the future of society see shows like this. Being challenged is the only way you can grow, both intellectually as well as socially. If your ideals aren’t challenged and discussed you will never have the potential to expand your world view.

Aubrey Sirtautas said...

The article claims that Conoley issued a statement saying that it wasn’t the Carpenter Center’s role to ask questions about race and launch discussions about race in the greater scheme. I would argue that it is every artists and every venues responsibility to ask the hard questions of the community for change. We should expect to see shows like this, and I am glad to see someone standing up for an atrocious instance of censorship in a public institution. It seems as though Conoley did no research into the public reviews of the show, and in another statement, she actually said she has never seen the show. How could she make an informed decision about “appropriate” programming for a show she knows very little about besides the title?
In addition, if Conoley was truly worried about the impact of the show being ineffective (and used this as reason for cancelling the show), the Carpenter Center’s decision to postpone the show and hold forums and panel discussions talking about race should have addressed the president’s concerns. I hope that whomever Conoley reports to takes these accusations seriously and evaluates her position at the university once her contract is up.