Letter to the Editor

Ralph Hammann

April 2, 2019 

From what I have read in The Record, it is clear that two participants in Williams’ Performative Ethics lecture series, Shadi Ghaheri and Catherine Rodriguez, are in need of a lecturing in ethics, themselves.

Gharheri directed and Rodriguez served as dramatist for Williams’ recent production of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” in which they and the student cast made significant changes to the text. This was done without the author’s participation or permission. Not only was it unethical to revise Guirgis’ words to suit the multiple needs, desires, aesthetics and politics of the cast, but it was also a violation of copyright law. Moreover, they are doing a disservice to the education of students by granting them an entitlement, which raises them to a level authorship equal to the actual author. 

Given Professor Omar Sangare’s 2013 evisceration of and amendation to (he scripted an epilogue) Arthur Miller’s text of “The Crucible” and Professor David Eppel’s 2018 hashing of Richard Wilbur’s meticulous verse translation of Tartuffe, this latest disrespect for the author is as unsurprising as it is unsettling. Oversight is needed in any theater department when directors’ egos and inappropriate leadership don’t prepare students for the real world of theater or the rights, legal or ethical, of authors to have their original visions faithfully represented. 

Full disclosure, I once cut an expletive from a high school production of a play by Christopher Durang. It was a very minor change to which Durang, grateful to be asked, gave his permission.

Ralph Hammann

Williamstown, Mass.