Brandeis University has canceled a play after students and alumni claimed that the production sought to “vilify” members of Black Lives Matter.
The play, “Buyer Beware,” was written by Brandeis University alumnus Michael Weller and focuses on a fictional Brandeis student who plans to perform a provocative stand-up comedy routine that touches on hot-button political issues. The main character, Ron, is threatened by the Brandeis administration with academic probation in the hopes that he will cancel his performance. Ultimately, Ron performs his routine and students protest.
Students condemned Weller as a straight, able-bodied, white-man for his play. “The issue we all have with it is that [Weller] is an older, straight [sic] gendered, able-bodied and white man. It isn’t his place to be stirring the pot,” said Andrew Childs, Undergraduate Department Representative for the Theater Arts Department and a member of the season’s “play selection committee.”
After the backlash, the performance of “Buyer Beware” was canceled. “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 a statement.
Brandeis alumna Ayelet Schreck led the charge against the production but admits that she never even read the script. “I trust the people who told me about it. I don’t need to read the actual language to know what it is about,” she said in a phone interview with the Brandeis school newspaper. Schrek argued that the theater department wanted to stage “Buyer Beware for “political gain” and in a Facebook post wrote, “it is an overtly racist play and will be harmful to the student population if staged.”
“Buyer Beware” will be staged in a professional production unrelated to Brandeis University. Over the course of his career, Weller has received the NAACP Outstanding Contribution Award, a Drama Desk Award, and an Academy Award nomination for his screenwriting work on the 1981 film Ragtime. In the place of performing Weller’s “Buyer Beware,” the theatre department will offer a course in the spring “devoted to the challenging issues Michael’s work evokes.”