David Mamet at UT Austin: The Backlash

Hey Peeps.

I’ve been trying to find that worklife-bloglife balance, y’all dig? So this week was very much focused on the work, and not on the blog.

Today I’d like to donate The Deportee’s Wife blogspace to a guest writer. She is a friend, and fellow writer-activist-in-arms. Her support and incisive analysis made a tremendous difference with my one-woman show.

What she is speaking out about today is something that really hits home for me as a writer, artist, activist, and as a woman. The experience that Diana speaks about here is something that I’ve personally witnessed with other writers.

And it is time to call them on it.

Thank you for her bravery, as well as the bravery of the others mentioned in her statement.

We want this to go viral. Please do everything you can to get the word out. Gracias!

(Note: This statement was updated 3/10)

Dear Fellow Artists and Educators,

Stuff is happening in the Lone Star State. Bad stuff. Infuriating stuff. David Mamet is descending upon the University of Texas at Austin, and many of us are angry. Real angry. A bit of history: Last year, Mamet came to UT to conduct a writing seminar for several graduate and undergraduate playwrights and screenwriters. During the seminar, Mamet called Muslims terrorists and Arabs pedophiles. He also, unsurprisingly, spewed misogynist rhetoric in addition to his racist diatribe. Several students were shocked and appalled and took Mamet to task for his bigoted remarks. He countered with, “Why shouldn’t we pick on Arabs? They blew up New York City.” No really. He said that. After the seminar, these students took their concerns to the Ransom Center (the division of UT that invited him), in the hopes that Mr. Mamet and his hate speech would no longer be welcome at UT.

But a year has passed, and Mamet is coming back.

When the students found out about Mamet: Round 2, fellow MFA playwright Ben Snyder sent an email to Greg Curtis at the Ransom Center, wondering why this type of hate speech is allowed at UT. This sparked a long series of emails from students, echoing Ben’s concerns and imploring Curtis to address the situation. Curtis spoke to the Dean of UT and a professor from the Department of Theatre and Dance, but the problem is far from solved. Curtis decided that “there seemed to be no reason why the visit shouldn’t proceed as planned.” He goes on to belittle students’ concerns by skewing the discussion completely. He skirts the issue, inexplicably launching into accolades for the popularity of Mamet’s upcoming seminar : “In fact,” Curtis says, “the student response has been overwhelming, and we regret that we can accommodate only one student for every ten who applied.” Thanks, Mr. Curtis, for…responding to us?

We’d like the greater theatre community to know what’s up. Critics of Mamet’s plays and books often chalk up the playwright’s incendiary remarks to a bad boy desire to get a rise out of people. I’d like to take it upon myself to excise the euphemisms. David Mamet is a racist and a misogynist, both in his work and his life. Many have forgiven Mamet because of his talent, but his skills as a dramatist have let him get away with murder–literally, if you take into account that hate speech leads to the normalization of bigotry which leads to the waging of foreign wars.

Please forward this email to anyone and everyone. It’s time for the American Theatre to put its foot down. Today’s emerging theatre artists, like myself and several of my colleagues at UT, reject the notion that hateful language can pervade theatres and classrooms as long as it’s from the mouth of a legend. Mr. Mamet, we’re tired of listening. You can shut up now.

In solidarity,

Diana Grisanti
MFA Playwright
University of Texas at Austin

UPDATE 3/9 from Diana: On Wednesday, March 10th, at 2:00, we’re organizing a brown bag lunch in the Atrium of the Winship Drama Building. We will be addressing Mamet’s visit in particular, and then expanding the conversation to issues surrounding race and racism at UT and the greater community.


7 thoughts on “David Mamet at UT Austin: The Backlash

  1. I’ve seen some of his work and could see clearly that it was misogynistic. I am surprised that others can’t see it.

    It’s dismaying that universities seem to welcome anyone to speak, as long as they’re famous. They seem more concerned with the kudos of getting a celebrity to talk at their university than of the content of the talk itself. This damages universities’ credibility in the long term.

    The problem seems to be the political leaning of those who are in power in universities. Those who decide who is invited to talk and who isn’t.

    It would be so refreshing to see a university have the backbone and morality to not allow hate merchants a platform to speak at their university, regardless of fame.


  2. I read the beginning of this post and started to skim it and was like…hey, I read this today on fb from Diana. Scrolled back up to fully read the intro! 🙂


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