I love the internet. The amount of material you can find out there is endless. I also love how many people proudly post pictures and videos of past theatre productions. It's a great way to etch those moments in eternity.
But every now and then they expose gross errors in judgment when it comes to theatre. Take for instance the article we published earlier this week about an Indonesian college(I mistakingly called them a high school first) who performed Hamilton with asking permission to do so.
That article opened up the floodgates in my inbox of other theatres who have done the same. While some were more egregious than others, the Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro, better known as UNIRIO, took it to another level with an unauthorized production of The Book of Mormon. Beyond the copyright infringement, the show also featured many of the African characters performed in blackface.
Here are some photos from the 2014 production:
And here is a video from their Youtube channel...because that was a smart idea...
And in case you wanted to see it. Here is the entire show which was posted by the University.
The show received positive reviews, with one person stating:
"I had the opportunity to watch it on the premiere and what I saw was incredible! Costume, lighting, choreography, performances, adaptations, sound, everything very well done and produced, in a structure that owes nothing to the great musicals exhibited in the national circuit. Merit of a team with a lot of experienced people who dedicated more than 6 months to the execution of the musical."
The person responsible for this is director Rubens Lima Jr. In the past, this group has performed productions of Spamalot, Young Frankenstein and Songs for a New World. Whether they had permission for those productions is unknown.
Did they do the entire show? No. They apparently did an hour-long abridged version. However, that would still qualify as an unauthorized reproduction which would count as copyright infringement. While this show was produced in 2014, the producers of BOM would be within their right to take action. Since Brazil is a member of the World Trade Organization, that means they are likely subject to U.S. copyright. Since UNIRIO is a government funded school, that means technically, the country of Brazil funded an illegal production of American property. So this could mean a lot of issues for Mr. Lima and UNIRIO.
While MTI has secured the rights to BOM, they have not yet been made public which is why it's 99.99% unlikely that a university in Brazil would be granted them. I am also 100% sure that the rights holders would also never approve a production that included blackface. Mr. Lima addresses this in an interview where he felt the darkness of the skin of his students was dark enough where the addition of blackface wouldn't be an issue. My question is, if the students' skin was dark enough already, why then do blackface? Then again, why are you doing Book of Mormon without permission in the first place?!?!
Once again, this production is another example of an ego-driven director producing illegal work at the students' expense. For all they knew, they were performing a beloved show and had the permission to do so.
I have sent an email to UNIRIO regarding this and will update this article with any response I get from them. In case they try to remove the videos from Youtube, I have also gone ahead and downloaded them.