White actors asked to ‘self-identify’ as African American to perform PORGY AND BESS
According to an article posted on index.hu, the Hungarian State Opera House, have been staging a controversial production of George and Ira Gershwin’s English-language Opera, Porgy and Bess – a story of African-American struggles in the slums of South Carolina.
The Gershwin Estate insist that black performers should portray the characters in this show, in order to convey the authenticity of the message and these rules must be adhered by any company staging it.
To get around this issue, the Hungarian State Opera House have reportedly asked cast members to sign a document, to say that they ‘self-identify’ as African Americans. “I, the undersigned, declare that African-American origin and consciousness are an integral part of my identity. That’s why I am especially pleased to be able to play George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.”
When asked about the letter, Anikó Bakonyi, playing Serena apparently said “We did not lie, we did not say our genetic ancestry is black: there was nothing like that in the statement. The paper we signed states that it is the Afro-American consciousness that is a part of our own identity, and that statement is true. Gershwin’s music, jazz, and Afro-American culture is a part of the world’s, humanity’s cultural heritage, a part of our everyday moments, as we enjoy this culture, this music every day, and as such, it is an integral part of our identity. There is nothing in this that should offend anybody.”
When index.hu approached Szilveszter Ókovács (Director General of the Hungarian State Opera House) about the letter, they say he did not deny it but instead answered with his own questions such as “What are only black characters?”, Is Black a Color?, and how many years do you have to live in an African-American community so that you can play Porgy and don’t question what you’re holding?”
Photo: Mónus Márton
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