Bay Street Theatre artistic director Scott Schwartz has written a lengthy Facebook post detailing why the previously announced outdoor concert staging of The Prince of Egypt was canceled earlier this week.
On July 28 Bay Street announced that it was canceling its concert staging of Egypt, a co-production with DreamWorks Theatricals. The news came in the wake of controversy surrounding the recently announced cast, with members of the theatre community expressing their disappointment at the lack of diversity.
The concert staging was planned for August 13, marking the first time the new musical would be heard in its entirety. The outdoor concert was set to star Tony winner Shuler Hensley, Marin Mazzie, John Cariani and Stark Sands, among others.
Following outcries from the community that the cast lacked actors of color, the show’s director, Schwartz, released a statement via the theatre’s website addressing these concerns. “Your concern about the need for diversity and authenticity in this project is something we hear and take seriously,“ read his statement. “All of us on the creative and producing team hope to continue this conversation.“
Schwartz's new Facebook post, which details the reasons for the cancellation, follows:
To the Bay Street Community,
As you are aware, Bay Street recently announced that we have cancelled the upcoming free concert reading of The Prince of Egypt that had been scheduled for August 13 at Mashashimuet Park in Sag Harbor. I want to clarify how and why this decision was made.
Bay Street was excited to present this free opportunity for our community, to give a peek at the development of a new musical in progress. Over the past three years, Bay Street has made a strong commitment to the development and production of new works, having produced four world premiere productions in three years and also having started the now thriving Bay Street New Works Festival that we present every spring. The partnership with DreamWorks Theatricals to present a concert reading of The Prince of Egypt was born out of our ongoing commitment to helping develop new works for the stage, and Bay Street as an organization had no ongoing involvement with the project beyond this concert. The casting for the concert and now also the decision to cancel the event was made by the creative team, including composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz, book writer Philip LaZebnik, and me as director, and also by our producers Bill Damaschke and Dori Berinstein. Bay Street Theater supports the team in their decision to cancel this event, though we deeply regret any disappointment or inconvenience that this cancellation has caused to our loyal supporters and audience.
All of the team working on The Prince of Egypt strongly feels the discussion that arose around the casting of this concert is an important one and we appreciate the constructive feedback we have received from many of our friends and colleagues. While we have had diverse casts in each and every step of our process so far, we will continue these discussions and consider them fully as we develop specific approaches to casting as we move forward.
But, there 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 canceling the concert and will continue the development of this new musical in private for now. The team feels strongly that social media harassment and bullying of artists is not acceptable nor is it a positive or constructive way to continue this important discussion about diversity and racial authenticity in casting. The talented actors who were to be involved in this concert were being paid very little and were only committed to helping develop this show for one night, for free, in our local park. The creative and producing team certainly could not ask them to endure online harassment for a one-night concert reading. Finally, the creative team and producers at DreamWorks Theatricals all believe that the story of Moses is one that is embraced and owned by millions and millions of people from every country, race and culture—and we hope that the project we are developing will honor the passion of those who love it. It has always been our aim to create the piece in a way that people of all races and cultures can one day tell the story.…
The Prince of Egypt received a concert staging of the first act at Bay Street last summer. Based on the film in which an Egyptian prince learns of his true identity, the new musical features a book by Philip LaZebnik and music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz.