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Jul 28, 2016 12:32 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

'Prince Of Egypt' Concert, Which Stirred Controversy Online, Is Canceled

Jul 28, 2016 12:57 PM

Without explanation—but after a spate of online criticism about the predominantly white cast—Bay Street Theater has canceled the premiere concert reading of “The Prince of Egypt” that was slated for August 13.

The stage musical is based on the 1998 DreamWorks animated film of the same name, which tells the biblical story of Moses and Exodus. When the concert and the cast members were announced on Friday, users of Twitter and other social media channels expressed disappointment that most of the Egyptian characters would be played by white actors. Some accused the production of “whitewashing.”

The Sag Harbor theater and arts center had planned to offer the full concert reading—with no costuming, makeup or design—for free at a local park during a one-night-only event. Last year, at its annual benefit gala, Bay Street presented just the first act of “The Prince of Egypt,” which is written by Stephen Schwartz, the famed lyricist who also wrote the songs for the film and whose Broadway credits include “Godspell,” “Pippin” and “Wicked.” He is the father of Bay Street’s artistic director, Scott Schwartz.

In an open letter posted on Bay Street’s website on Monday, July 25, addressed to “The members of the online community,” Scott Schwartz addressed the concerns raised on Twitter. He wrote that the conversation is “both timely and of great importance” and said, “The need for diversity and authenticity in this project is something we hear and take seriously.”

He went on to write: “Let me first say that I hear you, and I take the concerns raised about racial authenticity and diversity in casting very seriously. I always have, and am known for directing and producing shows with highly diverse casts. The other creators of ‘The Prince of Egypt,’ from composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz and book writer Philip LaZebnik to the producers and team at DreamWorks Theatricals, all have a long history of diversity in casting. We all care deeply about making theater and art that is reflective of the multicultural society in which we live. Bay Street Theater as well is committed to hiring artists of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.”

Scott Schwartz said past readings, which have not been public, had diverse casts, and he responded to critics who stated that the public concert reading would be “all white”: “In fact, we have an Equity [union] cast of fifteen actors, and five of them are people of color.”

Bay Street revealed Wednesday that the show was being canceled, and issued an official statement Thursday on its Facebook page: “DreamWorks and Bay Street today announced that the planned free concert reading of ‘The Prince of Egypt’ has been canceled. We regret any inconvenience or disappointment this may cause the audience that was planning to attend this free one-night community event.”

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I wasn't aware that there was a large Egyptian acting community on the East End
By johnj (1024), Westhampton on Jul 28, 16 1:24 PM
I wasn't aware Alexander Hamilton was Hispanic or many of the founding fathers were African-American. Where is the outrage?
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jul 28, 16 1:54 PM
1 member liked this comment
Lib Logic:

We must cancel this show because African Americans are upset.

Cancel the Roger Waters show because Jews are upset? Hell no!?

From the November 2, 2015 article about Bay Street's refusal to cancel the show:

"Nevertheless, two people did ask for refunds, an offer that the theater made last week after receiving word about the impending protest. The theater reiterated that it was committed to the right to free speech...."

Jews- committed to ...more
By even flow (1023), East Hampton on Jul 28, 16 2:34 PM
1 member liked this comment
I am a liberal and even I find this perplexing.
By johnj (1024), Westhampton on Jul 28, 16 4:16 PM
Soooo black liberal actor is outraged by people...acting? Well, thank you very much political correctness.
By Preliator Lives (437), Obamavillie on Jul 28, 16 3:37 PM
1 member liked this comment
Black ANNIE???
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Jul 28, 16 5:41 PM
Give me a break. This PC crap is going to be the death of this country. Don't like it? Don't attend.

For F**ks sake, stop your whiny sniveling bullsh*t.

By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Jul 28, 16 10:47 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By SlimeAlive (1181), Southampton on Aug 1, 16 6:23 AM
The Bay Street Theatre posted the actual reason for canceling the show on its Facebook page. It was being bullied by critics and wished to spare the actors anxiety. As follows:

"[T]here 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 ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Aug 1, 16 9:50 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By SlimeAlive (1181), Southampton on Aug 1, 16 10:47 AM