A Cut Nude Scene in Chicago's Little Dog Laughed Rankles Beane and Prompts an Apology | Playbill

News A Cut Nude Scene in Chicago's Little Dog Laughed Rankles Beane and Prompts an Apology
Eric Rosen, artistic director of Chicago's major gay theatre, About Face Theatre, sent a letter to Chicago area theatre critics admitting that his staging of Douglas Carter Beane's The Little Dog Laughed did not adhere to the author's wishes as written in the script.

Douglas Carter Beane
Douglas Carter Beane Photo by Gregory Kalafatas

Beane attended the Chicago production's Jan. 16 opening performance and found that a nude scene he said is important to the plot had been altered (the actors remain in their underwear) and that lines were slightly changed to accommodate the trim, the author told Playbill.com.

Rosen told Playbill.com that he's not aware of line changes, but added he would not refute what Beane said was his memory of the experience.

Beane said the theatre had made the request to cut the nudity as early as Jan. 7, but the playwright said no at the time. Nevertheless, Rosen went ahead and changed it.

The playwright addressed his concerns at intermission Jan. 16 and said he was told that the nudity would be added back into the production at the next performance.

After the change was not made, Beane's representatives (and Dramatists Play Service, which licenses the script) told About Face the play was being pulled and the well-reviewed production would have to shut down. Beane said the nude scene is important to the play — and that there are later dialogue references to it. "It's the shock of two characters who have been denying that they're gay undeniably in a moment of homosexuality," Beane told Playbill.com.

Because a potential cancellation of the show meant financially bruising the company "and the negation of the actors' hard work," Beane said that he decided to allow the production to go on as is, as long as Rosen contacted members of the theatre press with a letter about the situation.

Rosen wrote in his letter: "It has become clear that a directorial choice I made for the production of The Little Dog Laughed did not fully realize the stage directions Mr. Beane indicated in the printed edition of the play on page 23, specifically that the characters Alex and Mitchell appear in the nude. I had made the directorial decision to stage the scene without nudity, and members of Actors' Equity were therefore not notified that they would be required to appear nude when we auditioned the play.

"Though Mr. Beane requested after seeing the production that the staging occur with nudity, we are unfortunately not able to do so. Sensitive to this difficult situation, and not wanting to disrupt the production, Mr. Beane has graciously agreed to withhold his objection to this change in stage direction, although he wanted it brought to your attention. I deeply apologize for the situation."

Beane said, "If he had come to me and said, 'I made a huge mistake and didn't tell the actors at the audition [about the nude scene],' I think we could have worked something out."

Beane said there are many ways to address that moment in the show. "In the Boston production," he said, "it's handled really discreetly."

Rosen, About Face Theatre's founding artistic director, was recently named artistic director of Kansas City Repertory Theatre in Kansas City, MO. He'll continue as artistic director of About Face through the end of the season as a national search is conducted for a replacement. He officially starts in Kansas City in late spring.

The Rep's 2008-09 season will be announced in the coming weeks. Rosen said that he's looking forward to starting a new-plays initiative there.

The Little Dog Laughed will make its Kansas City premiere in March at the city's alternative stage, Unicorn Theatre.

About Face Theatre's production of The Little Dog Laughed ends its schedued run Feb. 17.

Visit www.AboutFaceTheatre.com.

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