On opening night, Nov. 8, protesters shut down former Country Day coach Nick Domich’s play, “What in the World?,” at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
More than a dozen protesters marched up to the stage, chanting until the play was stopped.
One of Domich’s crew members called the Black Student Union to stop the play, according to Domich.
Domich, who coached high school track and field (2008-18) and cross (2011-17) at Country Day, met with three members of the Black Student Union on Nov. 14 to discuss the protest and the reason behind it.
“The crew member told me that there was this one line in the play where the white cop is talking to his partner, who is, in the original script, a younger black cop,” Domich said. “We had to change it to another white cop due to casting issues, but we kept the lines the same. (That) was also another thing the protesters didn’t like: the fact that the play only had one black actor, even though there were so many roles for black actors. But I explained that I couldn’t find any more actors to audition.”
That line was the main reason the Black Student Union wanted to shut down the play, according to Domich. In it, the white cop states, “My dad says black people have the murder gene,” and the originally black cop (then white) replies, “White people have the serial killer gene.” Domich said he wanted it to be a conversation about racism.
“The crew member didn’t want people to hear that due to white supremacist activity on campus, which I wasn’t aware of,” Domich said. “She was afraid that one of those people would see the line ‘Black people have the murder gene,’ and that would make their situation much worse considering they are regularly threatened.”
According to Domich, because the white cop symbolizes white supremacy in America, he wanted to have a conversation about race between police officers.
“I explained to the protesters the history and why I put the line in,” Domich said. “There’s this black pianist in Maryland who single-handedly shut down the (Ku Klux Klan) there, and many members gave him their robes. Some members were police officers who gave him their uniforms as a symbol of disavowing their racism and their connection to white supremacy.”
Domich said he would have changed the line before the show if he had known that it could hurt people.
“I was cut out of the whole process when I should’ve been involved,” Domich said. “Now the (theater arts) department put out a notice blaming it on the development of the play. The crew member I talked to said the stage manager told the cast and crew not to talk to me, and I think that order came from the head of the department.”
Domich received a one-line email from the head of the department stating the play would not be produced since the cast and crew were affected by the protests and didn’t want to continue.
“I don’t think that’s the reason since even the Black Student Union was fine with the play as long as I took the one line out,” Domich said. “The crew member told me she thought it was a story worth telling.”
Efforts to reach David Lee Cuthbert, chair of the UC Santa Cruz Theater Arts Department, and Elias Tadesse, chair of Black Student Union Programs, were unsuccessful.
Domich has been in contact with the Dramatists Guild of America and the National Coalition Against Censorship, who have agreed to defend his rights. Domich said he hopes he can tell the story again with the cast he originally envisioned.
—By Arikta Trivedi