For those who haven't seen it yet, Dominic Papatola wrote a lively story about August Wilson, Bart Sher, and prominent black theatermakers who are a little pissed that the latter is directing the former in a new Broadway production:

"Joe Turner" is Wilson's chronicle of Herald Loomis, a recently freed slave who re-settles in Pittsburgh in 1911. The work, one installment of Wilson's 10-play cycle chronicling the black experience in 20th-century America, originally bowed on Broadway in 1988 under the direction of Lloyd Richards.

Richards, who died in 2006, was an African-American, as has been every director to direct a Broadway production of an August Wilson play. The list includes Suzan-Lori Parks, who is scheduled to direct a New York revival of Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Fences" in 2009, and St. Paul native Marion McClinton.

But to oversee "Joe Turner," New York's Lincoln Center Theater selected its newly minted resident director, Bartlett Sher. Sher, who is white, also serves as the artistic director of Seattle's Intiman Theatre. He is an accomplished Broadway director, having won the 2008 Tony Award for his revival of "South Pacific," a musical that trucks in issues of race.

St. Paul's Penumbra Theatre Company, which Wilson worked with back when,

Penumbra alumnus who directed a pair of Wilson's Broadway productions — the 2003 revival of "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" and the 2001 premiere of "King Hedley II" — said "Joe Turner" is Wilson's most Afro-centric play. He called Lincoln Center's decision one of "straight-up institutional racism."

"I am not saying a white director cannot direct a black play," McClinton said. "What I am saying is, are they coming at it with the same respect and diligence of study as they do O'Neill, Brecht, Chekhov?

I'm guessing yes.

Bart dives into Chekhov and Shakespeare and Moliere with as much confidence and audacity as he dives into opera or musicals about love among the developmentally disabled in early 20th-century Italy—meaning, he is confident working out of his socio-cultural-historical context. Which is just fine. And to say August Wilson belongs only to now or only to black Americans cabins and confines his work. I flinch a little as I type that—I realize it sounds like the talk of an callous and appropriationist honkey... but it's true. If one has faith in Wilson's work and theater audiences, one expects Beijing directors to be working with his scripts in 2687. So whey-faced Sher directing him is only a baby step in what will be Wilson's long, universal legacy.

HOWEVER! James Williams—who originated the role of Roosevelt Hicks in Radio Golf and has worked with white directors on Wilson plays—has a stronger argument:

"If this meant that everything was fair game —- if it meant that Marion (McClinton) would get to direct 'Cherry Orchard' at the Guthrie, that would be one thing," he said. "But that's not what this means. This is another way of saying that the dominant culture knows more about us than we know about ourselves."

That is the real problem—not the whiteness of Sher, but the blinding whiteness that surrounds him.