Trevor Noah and The President Show Try to Laugh at Trump’s Paris Agreement Reversal

President Trump’s decision to pull out of the global Paris climate agreement sparked outrage, confusion, and alliance-shifting around the world. It was a seismic moment, and for the late-night comics on Comedy Central, at least, they could only mine humor in just how bleak things are looking right now.

Trevor Noah started by highlighting the fact that the U.S. is now among just three countries, including Nicaragua and Syria, who have rejected the agreement. This means, among other things, that “even Israel and Palestine are on the same side”—like when they agreed on “pork” and “chickpeas,” Noah quipped. Given that Nicaragua’s rationale was that the Paris argeement’s goals aren’t ambitious enough,  that means the U.S. is left in the sole company of a country with, let’s say, more pressing concerns. (“I think we can all agree that Syria gets a pass,” Noah said.) Otherwise, it’s just us—and our president’s jobs-saving justification doesn’t even really hold up to scrutiny. “We all want people to have jobs,” Noah began, “but the numbers have shown that green energy is where the work is going to be.”

Following Noah’s last show of the week, The President Show offered a sharper, nastier tone—the stiff shot to follow the cocktail. Anthony Atamanuik’s President Trump bumbled out to the podium, cracking “Is it hot in here, or did I just pull out of the Paris Accord?” before non-explaining, in a most Trumpian way, why we needed to reverse course: “Everyone says ‘Trump, Trump, what about the melting ice caps?’ Don’t worry: My environmental policy will take care of the penguins—The Pittsburgh Penguins!

But then, of course, came the real reason: Trump’s appeal to a base that doesn’t seem to care what he does, or why. “Who cares about science? That’s for nerds,” Atamunik’s Trump screeched. “I’m fighting for the forgotten man. He doesn’t read studies—he’s the man who forgot to read.”


How Is Johnny Depp’s Career Still in Such Good Shape?

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

For a movie star, Johnny Depp’s always been a bit weird. And in this case, I don’t even mean the whole getting-his-lines-through-an-earpiece rumor, or the outlandish money problems, or his messy and allegedly abusive marriage and divorce from Amber Heard, or the, uh, $5 million that he spent to shoot Hunter Thompson’s ashes out of a cannon. I mean that Depp’s been able to stay in demand despite onscreen choices that have been as weird as his life offscreen, a fact that’s only grown with the massive international success of the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Dead Men Tell No Tales, which had the 12th-largest overseas opening of all time with $208 million, even if its domestic take of $77 million for the long weekend is a little more pedestrian.

Aside from the Pirates franchise, Depp’s never been the kind of actor who rattled off hit after hit. In fact, he only really has two other unqualified smashes on his resume, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland, both part of his long partnership with director Tim Burton. And yet Depp’s still booking plum roles, and his career shows no signs of slowing down, bad press and recent flops like Transcendence and Mortdecai notwithstanding. He’s got Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express coming out later this year; he’ll be a major piece of both the Harry Potter and Universal Monsters cinematic universes; and he’s set to take the tantalizing part of John McAfee in a biopic of the bizarre software magnate. So how has Depp weathered what should’ve been a category-five hurricane of career killers, leading him to the brink of what could be a new stage in his career?

The first thing to talk about when talking about Depp’s career is Pirates of the CaribbeanPirates holds two contradictory positions of honor for Depp. On one hand, it’s by far the most lucrative thing he’s ever been a part of, having grossed $3.7 billion worldwide through its first four installments, with the newest likely to add another billion and change to that number. On the other, the role of Jack Sparrow also, unbelievably, garnered Depp his first Oscar nomination in 2003, a nod that paved the way for two more in the coming years — one for the similarly fanciful Sweeney Todd, and one for the more subdued Finding Neverland.

Depp may have been a star pre-Pirates, having come up in what now appears to be our last generation of non-superhero leading men, a group that includes Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, and Leonardo DiCaprioBut before that franchise, his filmography mostly alternated between critically acclaimed, modestly successful movies like Donnie BrascoChocolat, and Blow; weirder, more auteur-driven work like Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man, Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Roman Polanski’s The Ninth Gate; and his Burton collaborations, which included both hits like Edward Scissorhands and Sleepy Hollow, and well-regarded flops like Ed Wood. Depp didn’t have a megahit like DiCaprio did with Titanic, though Sleepy Hollow did crack the $100 million barrier, and his movies didn’t consistently perform as well as Pitt’s. (Cruise, meanwhile, was on a planet of his own, box-office-wise and otherwise.)

But Pirates instantly transformed Depp into an international star — the kind of rarefied actor who could carry the burden of a worldwide hit, in a part that was inseparable from himself. To put it simply, there aren’t many of these actors in Hollywood, and they certainly aren’t sprouting up like they used to. As overseas markets have developed, Hollywood has gone after foreign dollars by investing in spectacle and familiar IP more than new faces. The new stars these days are men (and it’s almost always men) who occupy the lead roles in Marvel and The Fast and the Furious movies. Guys like Depp, Cruise, and DiCaprio — stars who are recognizable in their own right, no matter the costume — are far rarer, and their high profile actually makes them more valuable in terms of the overseas market than they are domestically. Consider Matt Damon’s The Great Wall and Tom Hanks’s Inferno, two films that flopped domestically but pulled in around 85 percent of their worldwide gross overseas. Yes, the Chrises are massive thanks to their superhero work, but try putting any one of them in The RevenantThe Wolf of Wall Street, or The Great Gatsby and see if they can push those films past $200 million overseas — a feat DiCaprio managed with all three.

As long as Depp has Pirates, he’s one of those stars — even if the rest of his filmography might tell a more complicated story. The massive success of Alice in Wonderland (another Tim Burton collaboration) in 2010, which made a strong $334 million domestically but an outstanding $691 million worldwide, seemed to cement Depp as an international sensation. Last year’s sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass, burst that bubble, seeing those numbers drop to $77 million and $222 million, respectively, though it’s hard to blame that gap solely on Depp. The six years between movies, the sequel’s lower quality, and its insufficient reason to exist, to put it mildly, had far more to do with its disappointing numbers.

But Alice also hints at one of the major reasons why Depp keeps getting cast. There is a certain kind of audacious, campy, over-the-top character that Depp has a monopoly on; in fact, he’s pretty much punted on any movies that don’t require him to go to such hyperbolic lengths. And while there are parts that could conceivably be played by either DiCaprio or Pitt, Cruise or Mark Wahlberg, Matt Damon or Ben Affleck — or, for that matter, any of the Chrises — it’s hard to imagine any other middle-aged star competing with Depp for, say, the Mad Hatter. And as Jack Sparrow, Depp is the rare leading man who’s essentially immune to the threat of recasting. No other franchise is as dependent on one actor: Depp simply is the Pirates series. He can be as much of a diva as he wants, but as long as Disney wants to keep making Pirates movies — and judging by this weekend’s box-office returns, they do — they need him to come to work, no matter how late he is.

Combined with his overseas appeal, this makes Depp an alluring prospect, even as he continues to rack up yachtloads of bad press. If you have a certain type of eccentric, larger-than-life character, and you need to make him work within the constraints of a blockbuster that will play as well in China as it does Ohio — in other words, a character who’s weird, but not weird enough to be played by Joaquin Phoenix — Depp is probably your guy. And even as his movies seem to bomb more and more often, with Dark ShadowsThe Lone RangerTranscendenceMortdecai, and Alice Through the Looking Glass all underperforming since the last Pirates movie, it’s just as easy to blame their failures on the weakness of the specific material as it is to pin it on Depp. As long as Pirates still feels relevant, Depp will remain a valuable commodity, and if any of his upcoming projects manage to make an impact, it could be enough to erase the bad memories of the past five years. Earpiece or no earpiece.

See also: Let’s Talk About Johnny Depp in Fantastic Beasts


Watch Chevy Chase Pretend the President Is Stupid, Back When That Was Funny

It’s hard to believe it now, but there was a time when suggesting that the president of the United States of America was a moron was funny, instead of existentially terrifying. In 1976, as this surprising video shows, TV funnyman Chevy Chase went on Saturday Night Live and participated in a sketch that makes great sport of the idea that President Gerald Ford might not be particularly bright. And yet Chase’s Fordian gaffes—he thinks it’s the “awful” office, to start—somehow don’t have the undercurrent of shame, misery, and doom that mark Saturday Night Live’s Donald Trump sketches.

Watching the sketch now is a different experience than it was the first time it aired, naturally. We know something the original audiences didn’t: The United States survived the Ford administration. But listen to the laughter: even at the time, the studio audience found Chase’s bungling Gerald Ford to be funny in a way that doesn’t silently scream, “We’re all going to die.” It’s as though forty years ago, Americans believed that their institutions would protect them from ever giving too much power to anyone who really was as much of a buffoon as Chase pretended to be. The whole premise was hilarious.

At least Trump can’t ruin the Bass-O-Matic.


Idris Elba and Kate Winslet Are Very Cold in the Trailer for The Mountain Between Us

Idris Elba and Kate Winslet have a really unpleasant air travel experience in the trailer for The Mountain Between Us, director Hany Abu-Assad’s adaptation of Charles Martin’s novel, from a screenplay by Chris Weitz and J. Mills Goodloe. The main takeaway from the trailer: things are going to be very, very cold. Elba plays a doctor due to perform surgery, Winslet is a bride-to-be, and both of their characters are just desperate enough to get home that they ignore the primary rule of air travel: never take a private plane over snow-covered mountains unless you’re looking for an excuse to resort to cannibalism.

Which, on the evidence of the trailer, neither Elba nor Winslet are. There’s lots of wilderness-survival footage, but no shots of, say, Elba’s gaze lingering over the frozen body of the pilot until Winslet catches him looking. The voiceover explains why neither Elba nor Winslet’s cell phones are working, but there’s no explanation for these two characters seemingly passing up the once-in-a-lifetime chance to go full cannibal without facing any social stigma. Still, despite this plot hole, The Mountain Between Us looks like it will deliver solid incredibly-attractive-people-vs.-nature thrills. For the other stuff, there’s always Alive.


James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal Are Transformed in This Teaser for David Simon’s Porn Drama The Deuce

Following in the footsteps of recent TV converts Ewan McGregor (Fargo) and Zach Galifianakis (Baskets), James Franco plays two roles—siblings, to be exact—in the upcoming HBO drama The Deuce. The show marks his first regular role on a continuing series since his breakout, Freaks and Geeks, and his return to the small screen couldn’t come with a better pedigree: The Deuce is the newest project from HBO powerhouse David Simon, of The Wire fame, co-created by novelist George Pelecanos and co-starring Oscar nominee Maggie Gyllenhaal. Oh, and the subject matter is pretty rich, too: It’s a period piece set in the porn industry of ’70s New York, with Franco playing Vincent and Frankie Martino—twins who operated a front for mob control of the volatile sex industry—and Gyllenhaal starring as a Times Square sex worker drawn into the business side of porn.

This marks Simon’s second straight period drama after his acclaimed miniseries Show Me a Hero, and in his focus on a booming underground economy and inequality, appears to be a return to familiar themes. HBO’s first teaser for The Deuce, energetically but also tellingly scored to Curtis Mayfield’s “Move on Up,” highlights Franco, Gyllenhaal, and an excellent supporting cast while capturing the seedy Times Square vibe of decades past. A-listers headline the new production, but the ensemble is rounded out by Simon favorites—among them, Wire standouts Lawrence Gilliard Jr. (D’Angelo Barksdale), Gbenga Akinnagbe (Chris Partlow), and Chris Bauer (Frank Sobotka), and Show Me a Hero scene-stealer Dominique Fishback.

HBO will launch the eight-episode season of The Deuce on Sept. 10, in the prime fall time-slot which previously marked the debuts of such network hits as True Blood, Boardwalk Empire, and last year’s Westworld. Whether Simon’s latest can live up to his very impressive TV resume remains to be seen, but there’s an awful lot to be excited by here.

The Deuce will world premiere this Friday at the inaugural Split Screens TV Festival in New York, with Gyllenhaal, Pelecanos, and Emmy-nominated director Michelle MacLaren (Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones) in attendance. Tickets can be purchased here.


George Takei Reminds Internet Trolls That Diversity Has Always Been at the Heart of Star Trek

The arrival of the first trailer for Star Trek: Discovery, was an exciting one for fans of the franchise; this is, after all, the first Star Trek television series since Enterprise ended in 2005. But of course, this being the internet, the trailer also attracted quite a few trolls, who flocked like tribbles to a buffet to criticize the casting of Sonequa Martin-Green and Michelle Yeoh as First Officer Michael Burnham and Captain Philippa Georgiou, respectively. NextShark has rounded up a few of these complaints, but to spare you the effort of actually reading their ilk, here’s an overview: They hate how “politically correct” it is that two women of color are the leads in a sci-fi show. Some of them don’t like Michelle Yeoh’s accent. Some use racial slurs to refer to Martin-Green. Some use a single line from the original Star Trek to explain why it’s simply impossible for a woman to be the captain of a starship. At least one called the show “white genocide in space.”

Actor George Takei, who played Hikaru Sulu on the original Star Trek, spoke about the dissatisfaction of these few but vocal critics with MSNBC’s Joy-Ann Reid: “Today in this society we have alien lifeforms that we call trolls. These trolls carry on without knowing what they’re talking about and knowing even less about the history of what they’re talking about—and some of them go on to be presidents of nations.”

Takei went on to explain why acting as though the diversity of this show is some kind of 21st-century social justice experiment is ridiculous, invoking the guiding principle of Star Trek as established in the 1960s: Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. “Gene Roddenberry created this with the idea of finding strength in our diversity.” The original Star Trek, of course, was groundbreaking for featuring an Asian helmsman, a Russian navigator (during the Cold War, no less), and a black woman serving as communications officer. Later iterations of the franchise would give us the first black and female captains, while the new film reboots, as regressive as they are in some other ways, made Takei’s character, now played by John Cho, the first openly gay crewmember, another landmark for the franchise.

But as Takei points out, even setting the franchise’s radical history of casting aside, Star Trek itself is fundamentally about navigating and accepting differences, imagining a future where humankind’s mission is literally to meet and learn about other races. “We boldly went where we hadn’t gone before because we were curious about what’s out there. When you go out into space, you’re going to have even greater diversity.” Which makes it even more of a head-scratcher to figure out what, exactly, attracted these trolls to such a fundamentally progressive franchise in the first place.


Blair Witch’s Adam Wingard Will Direct Monster Epic Godzilla vs. Kong

Another indie talent has been scooped up by the Hollywood franchise machine. As first reported by the Hollywood Reporter, Adam Wingard—directed of such critical hits as You’re Next and The Guest—has signed on to direct Godzilla vs. Kong, Legendary Entertainment and Warner Bros.’ latest entrant in their burgeoning cinematic MonsterVerse. (They jointly released the recent reboots Godzilla and Kong: Skull Island.) Wingard’s addition comes months after Legendary convened a writers’ room helmed by Terry Rossio (Pirates of the Caribbean) to put together a script for the project.

Wingard last directed the sequel Blair Witch and has reportedly been on studios’ minds for some time now, having previously been in the mix for Venom. He’s being welcomed into a new franchise that executives hope can rival the commercially successful empires that Marvel and DC have built by loosely interconnecting a set of blockbusters with iconic movie beasts. Godzilla vs. Kong is set to follow a different Godzilla sequel, King of the Monsters, which is currently in production with Kyle Chandler, Vera Farmiga, and Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown heading up the cast.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Wingard is a huge “creature-feature fan,” rendering Godzilla vs. Kong a natural fit and likely easing the transition from micro-budgeted horror to blockbuster spectacle. Still, one doesn’t need to look too far to see how the shift toward Hollywood has blunted the edge of many great filmmakers. Here’s to hoping Wingard bucks the trend.

Godzilla vs. Kong is scheduled for release in 2020.


Trevor Noah on the Places President Trump’s Tiny Little Hands Went During His European Trip

President Trump’s hands were an unusually consistent topic of discussion during his recent international trip, Trevor Noah observed on Tuesday night’s Daily Show. From already-iconic images—that orb photo, the multiple instances of apparent Melania swatting—to endless handshakes, much about the trip’s ostensible successes and undeniable failures could, ultimately, be whittled down to what our president did with his pair of tiny hands.

Noah also took time to recap Trump’s time abroad, highlighting his staggering hypocrisy in Saudi Arabia and his remark that “We just got back from the Middle East” delivered in Israel—which, as it happens, is part of the Middle East. Further, he appeared genuinely disturbed by Trump’s destabilizing NATO speech. “In one day, Trump may have done what Russia had been trying to do for 50 years,” he began: “break the alliance between the alliance between the United States and Europe, which would make it easier for Russia to extend its powers to places like the Ukraine.”

So, no, regardless of Trump’s tweets to the contrary, the trip ended up doing lasting damage and not a whole lot of immediate good. And as Angela Merkel acknowledged a future without American leadership to her own country, Noah keyed into the real underlying factor behind her speech. As he quipped, channeling Merkel’s comments from last week, “All right, our fate is in our own hands—because his clearly ruin everything they touch.”


The Americans’ Matthew Rhys Explains How a False Mustache Is Like Botox

Each week on Slate‘s Americans podcast, June Thomas sits down with the creators, cast, and crew of The Americans as they reveal behind-the-scenes details about the making of the FX drama’s fifth season.

As the penultimate season comes to a close, Thomas talks with stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys about how their characters have changed over the course of the season, the tricks they played on Ivan Mok (Tuan Eckert), and their favorite disguises of the year. Then co-showrunners Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields reflect on the season and director Chris Long talks about the challenges of starting an episode with an intense—and bloody—scene.

Note: This podcast contains spoilers and is meant to be enjoyed after you watch the episode.

Podcast production by June Thomas.


Why Is the Edward Albee Estate Afraid of a Black Virginia Woolf?

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

You have to give Edward Albee credit: 55 years after its Broadway debut, and less than a year after its author’s death, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? has once again become the most controversial play of the season, thanks to a production nobody will ever see. The 35-seat Shoebox Theater in Portland, Oregon, doesn’t feel like the natural epicenter of a flare-up involving artists’ rights, race, and intellectual property. But earlier this month, when the Albee estate denied producer Michael Streeter the rights to Woolf over his decision to cast a black actor, Streeter, “furious and dumbfounded,” took to Facebook, arguing that “the Edward Albee estate needs to join the 21st century.”

I agree, but first, a brief recap of the 20th may be in order. When I reposted Streeter’s comments on Twitter, the reaction from many people was, “They can’t do this, can they?” Yes, they can, and the reasons are rooted in copyright law. Unlike screenwriters or television writers, playwrights own their plays and can dictate the terms under which rights to them are leased to producers. That ownership is one of the things that makes theater special; it’s the only collaborative scripted medium in which writers aren’t on the bottom rung, a principle worth honoring and protecting. Writers are every bit as capable as producers or directors of making terrible decisions; at least in theater, they get the chance to make them.

Virginia Woolf takes place throughout one night in the campus home of George and Martha, a professor and his wife, during which they rip apart themselves, each other, and their younger guests Nick—the character at issue here—and his wife Honey. For many, it’s an adaptable play about marriage, intimacy, cruelty, and self-deception, brimming with indications that it’s up to more than simple mid-century naturalism. Albee himself once described it as a portrait of two intelligent people colluding on the creation of a symbol, and said plainly that he had built his play upon an “unnaturalistic base.” (I mean, it’s America, and the father and mother are named George and Martha, and their “baby” isn’t real. Need I go on?)

But as time passed, Albee came to view his own work as a piece of social realism firmly rooted in 1962. Perhaps because when it first opened, Woolf was the subject of some glib and homophobic assertions that a gay playwright had written an encoded drama about a homosexual sham marriage, Albee’s insistence that the play was exactly and only what it purported to be eventually stiffened into a kind of dogmatism—and into prickliness about casting. An African-American Nick was impossible, because an interracial marriage, he contended, would surely have sparked commentary from George or Martha, and also because the play contains a couple of baiting references to Nick’s golden-boy Aryan qualities. (Theoretically, depending on the direction and performances, those lines, aimed at a black actor, might play as just another savage and destabilizing attempt on George’s part to “get the guests.” Or a director might choose not to call attention to them at all. Either way, they’re hardly enough to threaten the comprehensibility of the play, any more than the 1966 movie was made confusing because George Segal, an actor of Jewish heritage, played Nick, a Welsh actor played George, and a 33-year-old actress played 52-year-old Martha.)

Albee did not, it’s important to note, have a blanket rule against casting non-white actors in his plays (Sophie Okonedo is currently starring in a London production of his 2002 The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? in a role played by white actresses on Broadway). But regarding Nick, he stood firm. The part would not be open to non-white actors during his lifetime or after his death.

And death is, I’d argue, the point at which this aspect of copyright law should cede to a greater social and artistic good. A playwright’s copyright should certainly prevent directors from making unauthorized cuts or changes to the text or stage directions. And playwrights who insist on casting approval—not all do—should have it for as long as they’re alive to exercise it. But after they’re gone, should their idiosyncratic casting preferences really be treated as part of copyright-protected text? In the character list that precedes Woolf, Nick is described as “28 … Blond, well put-together, good-looking.” In dialogue, it’s suggested that he weighs between 185 and 190 pounds. Are Nick’s weight and hair color always honored in casting, and if they are not, what argument can an estate make that certain physical attributes the playwright specified are negotiable, but race is not?

Down the road, perhaps a judge will have to decide what happens when the rights of a property holder collide with laws protecting equal employment opportunities. But maybe it isn’t too much to hope that this could be adjudicated by common sense and broadmindedness rather than in a courtroom. Color-blind casting (casting a part without regard to an actor’s race) and color-conscious casting (casting a part with an actor of a different race in order to make a point or shed new light on a character or text) are not new approaches. Sometimes those choices work and sometimes they don’t, but they’re an essential part of keeping a theatrical repertory —especially an American theatrical repertory—vital. Charles S. Dutton has played Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman; James Earl Jones was Big Daddy—the greatest I’ve seen —in Tennessee Williams’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; and Audra McDonald won her first Tony Award in a 1994 revival of Carousel, playing a role originated by a white actress 49 years earlier. Some theatergoers can’t see past race, some can see past race, some see race but find it a fascinating prism through which to discover new aspects of a text they thought they knew, which is one of the reasons we go to revivals in the first place. It’s the same reason that Londoners recently flocked to see Glenda Jackson play King Lear and New Yorkers can now watch Elizabeth Marvel play Marc Antony at the Delacorte. To foreclose on any of those possibilities—to decide preemptively that an African-American Nick could illuminate nothing for anyone and would, in fact, risk shattering the spell cast by Woolf—is to fail to trust the work and its potential audience in a way that ultimately threatens its longevity.

What would Albee himself make of all this? Might a playwright who once stipulated that his work could not be licensed to segregated theaters approach the topic of nontraditional casting with fresh eyes today—or 10 years hence? We have no idea, and therein lies the problem. Though he once referred to himself as a “control freak,” I’m quite sure he wasn’t available to consult on this latest decision. Since copyrights survive their authors, decisions about Albee’s plays are now in the hands of an estate, the job of which is to honor the author’s intent while making decisions on how best to preserve the value and integrity of the work itself. Many estates are loose-reined about casting, but Albee’s, so far, is adhering to the artistic equivalent of right-wing constitutional originalism. (The estate is known to have required headshots of actors before licensing a production, which is presumably why the Signature Theatre’s upcoming staging of Albee’s Homelife and The Zoo Story, scheduled for next January, is still listed on the theater’s website as “rights pending.”)

Even the phrase “posthumous casting approval” reveals the idea’s absurdity—in practical terms, there can be no such thing, and in any case, as Albee himself said dryly toward the end of his life, “I’m not going to care much” about what happens after he dies.

So perhaps that one protection deserves to fall by the wayside. While an author lives, that author’s word should be decisive; nobody would want to see playwright Katori Hall lose her standing to insist, as she did in 2015, that a white actor cannot play Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in her play The Mountaintop. But the slippery-slope argument—that the eradication of casting approval would lead to, say, all-white productions of Porgy and Bess and A Raisin in the Sun—seems fatuous to me. The answer is, yes, it probably would at some point, but these things are not mirror images. A black Virginia Woolf broadens opportunities for minority actors; a white Fences narrows them. There is no point in pretending that theater currently lives on a level playing field, or that an estate’s iron fist regarding casting helps level it. If someone decides to try a white production of an August Wilson play, which I think is a horrific idea, it will get the reception it deserves, whatever that is.

Albee’s position on casting was a product of its time—and subject to his own occasional exceptions. On at least one occasion, he appears to have permitted a black actress play Martha. But in the hands of his estate, what was fluid becomes rigid; desire becomes fiat. Because Albee copyrighted a slight revision of the play in 2005, under current law, the estate will have the right to bar a black man from playing Nick 20, even 50 years from now—in fact, until 2086, when the play will be 124 years old. That means black actors whose parents are yet unborn could be denied this opportunity. Over those decades, how many theaters will decide that, rather than have their choices second-guessed by an intellectual-property custodian glancing at a headshot, they’ll just move on to a different playwright?

It is the job of the Albee estate to protect his property. But barring an African-American actor from playing Nick inevitably leads to the question: Protect it from what? Misinterpretation? Changing times and mores? The future? It’s hard to imagine a playwright’s work long surviving him if it’s shackled to the unexamined enforcement of questionable decisions from another era, or constrained by the terror that it might be mishandled. Who’s afraid of a new idea? Nobody who truly believes in their work, or wants it to last.

See also: The Hamilton-Pence Incident Was More Than Just a Distraction