The Dramatists Guild of America and the Dramatists Legal Defense Fund (DLDF) issued a statement on Wednesday objecting in “the strongest possible terms” to “Brandeis University’s decision to cancel Buyer Beware.”
The statement criticizes the university’s decision to “buckle to student pressure by cancelling its scheduled production of Michael Weller’s ’65 play, Buyer Beware, due to objections over its content,” and argues that Brandeis “has compromised core principles of academic freedom and abdicated its educational responsibility to offer students a wide range of viewpoints regardless of how controversial they may be.”
The guild and DLDF have asked “the Theater Arts department to present a clear explanation for their actions in opposition to this basic principle of higher education,” and to present guidelines which will outline “what viewpoints are permitted to be expressed in a dramatic work produced at Brandeis University.”
According the university’s most recent statement, “Mr. Weller made the decision to produce [“Buyer Beware”] elsewhere in a professional venue, rather than at Brandeis.” The decision to withdraw the play came after suggestions by faculty to move the play to an off-campus theater in Watertown, according to Weller and Sam Weisman ’73, who was supposed to direct the play.
The Brandeis statement, which can be found on the university’s website, cast the decisions made by theater department faculty as normal and not dissimilar to decisions “made by faculty at universities every day.”
The statement by the Dramatists Guild and DLDF recognizes that “no school has an obligation to produce a play” but insists that it is a “universitY’s duty to expose its students to a range of views which challenge and discomfort them.”
The statement calls the play “a critique of recent events where college students have demanded the silencing of controversial or unpopular points of view.” “Buyer Beware” tells the story of a fictional Brandeis student who wants to put on a Lenny Bruce inspired comedy performance despite student protests and attempts by Brandeis faculty to stop him.
The guild, which serves more than 7,000 playwrights, lyricists, composers and librettists, “believes that a vibrant, vital and provocative theatre is an essential element of the ongoing cultural debate which informs the citizens of a free society,” according to their website.
The Dramatists Legal Defense Fund is a legal extension of the Dramatist Guild which was created to provide a “resource in defense of the First Amendment and on behalf of a robust public domain.”
Weller is a council member of the Dramatists Guild, according to the guild’s website.