An Open Letter Concerning "Busker's Opera"

From Dr. Geoffrey Newman
Dean of the School of Arts

One thing never controllable about art is how people react to it. "The Busker's Opera," a broad, satirical reinvention of John Gay's master work, "The Beggar's Opera," which exposes the degradation and exploitation of individuals in an unforgiving 18th century society, is no exception.

"The Busker's Opera," presented at Montclair State's Kasser Theater, has been interpreted by some as containing racist material. MSU's leadership and School of the Arts would like to offer our sincere apology to anyone who may find any part of this piece to be offensive -- especially members of the African-American community at MSU. Internationally acclaimed director Robert Lepage is celebrated not only for his artistic vision, but for his commitment to fostering understanding and respect for all cultures.

Director Robert Lepage's piece examines elements of our society that people don't often have the courage or willingness to talk about. He takes aim at the degradation, the ugliness, and the narrow-mindedness of some members of our society -- not to celebrate them but to vilify them.

During my recent conversation with Lepage, he offered his regrets over the misinterpretation of certain scenes saying, "Anyone who has seen the show can clearly see that the black man is not meant to be the target of any criticism or disparagement. I certainly apologize if anyone has interpreted it in this way."

While I join Mr. Lepage in extending our regrets to anyone who might be offended by any aspect of the "The Busker's Opera," please know that at the heart of MSU's arts and cultural programming is the conviction that the academic community is the ideal place to move culture forward and to test the boundaries of conventional wisdom.

I considered this an evocative expression of one aspect of American culture. Although I personally was not offended, mine is but a single opinion. I strongly encourage members of the MSU community to attend a performance and form their own opinion about this provocative work of art.