Drury Lane Theatre removes controversial image from play publicity after outcry

Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace issued an apology on Facebook after an image of a noose included in publicity materials for the theater's upcoming revival of the murder mystery "And Then There Were None" sparked complaints on social media and other outlets.

Described as offensive and racially insensitive, the imagery - which critics pointed out evokes lynching - sparked impassioned outcries from members of the Chicago area theater community.

The play is adapted from Agatha Christie's 1939 thriller, which was originally inspired by a minstrel song and featured a title so offensive its U.S. publisher substituted "And Then There Were None."

Drury Lane's publicity materials - which included a noose in place of the "o" - imitated similar images featured on dust jackets, book covers and in advertisements from other professional and nonprofessional U.S. companies. The image refers to a suicide in the book.

Drury Lane responded Wednesday afternoon with an apology on Facebook for its "insensitivity" that read in part: "We sincerely apologize for failing to recognize the harm that such a symbol causes. We are working to remove the image from all Drury Lane materials and recognize our larger need for improvement but believe it is important to address this issue immediately."

Writing in response for the arts publication, theater artist/writer/designer Sheri L. Flanders noted: "part of any design discipline from fashion to graphics is being acutely aware of the power of imagery. When you choose an image for advertising, your job is to have a deep understanding of all permutations of that image. What feelings does it evoke? What associations does it create? What do I want to say on behalf of the company that I am designing for?"

Flanders also called for equity and inclusion, expanding diversity among theater company leadership and ensuring "people from marginalized communities hold high-level, decision-making power" within the organization.

"A theater needs to have the bravery to ask 'What do you see?' at every step of the creative process, as well as a diverse staff to see a variety of perspectives," Flanders wrote.

Agatha Christie Associated Press, 1963
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