Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
The Schmooze

‘Indecent’ Playwright Paula Vogel Calls David Mamet’s Talkback Ban ‘Censorship’

2Pac vs. Biggie. Elizabeth I. vs. Mary, Queen of Scots. The Jets vs. The Sharks.

Add to the list: Jewish American playwright David Mamet vs. Jewish American playwright Paula Vogel. There will be blood. And there will also be strongly worded New York Times quotes.

How did the grudge between these two great households, both alike in dignity and Pulitzer prizes, begin?

It was discovered recently that David Mamet, known for clipped dialogue in works like “Oleana”, has instituted a clause through his licensing company which prohibits theaters producing his work from sponsoring post-show talks within 2 hours of performances. The penalty? A cool $25,000 fine. In other words, theaters would have to throw around a significant amount of their operating budgets to hear questions like, “How did the actors memorize all those lines?”

Mamet’s given reasoning is that he “wanted the impact of his play not to be emotionally truncated by a structured discussion between the actors and their audience”. This is not a surprising sentiment—in my experience David Mamet’s plays, which range from blundersome to scorchingly brilliant, all give off a vibe of a creepy uncle who lives to monologue to young women. But is this prohibition censorship?

Yes, according to firebrand playwright and professor Paula Vogel, who would know, since she literally wrote the play on censorship. The acclaimed “Indecent”, a meditation on Jewish art, history, and censorship, which was resuscitated by enthusiastic audiences after poor ticket sales threatened its shuttering, is currently running on Broadway. Vogel told the New York Times that she enjoys talk backs for her own and others’ plays, and that they can range from “painful” to “Dr. Ruth dancing in the aisles.” Of Mamet’s ban she said:

In my opinion it is censorship. I believe that artists are public servants and the play belongs to the audience. If we are not in a place to have the conversation, we playwrights can let the discussion continue without us. Hopefully it will continue without us after we’ve left this Earth, right?

The gauntlet, it seems, has been thrown. When will Mamet and Vogel meet for a gentlemen’s duel? When will we be privy to a Pulitzer-worthy rap battle? Is there any chance of a dance-off, or perhaps, a one-act-off?

As we wait for Mamet to respond to Vogel’s diss, we issue a challenge of our own: the theater that produces a David Mamet play, throws a two-hour-and-one-minute happy hour, and then opens the floor to a raucous, drunken talkback is the theater that may save the American arts establishment from itself.

If you are a theater with a plan like this, please call us. And more importantly, invite us.

Jenny Singer is a writer for the Forward. You can reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny.

Engage

  • Events

    Haart to Haart

    Virtual

    Dec 7, 2022

    7 pm ET · 

    A conversation with Julia Haart and her son Shlomo, stars of Netflix's 'My Unorthodox Life,' about the new season and much more.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.