Royal Court Theater Changes Character Name After Anti-Semitism Charges

A theater in London apologized for the “unconscious bias” that led a playwright to give a greedy billionaire character a Jewish-sounding name in a play opening this week.

The Royal Court Theater issued the apology Saturday for Hershel Fink’s name, which was applied to the character of a high-tech executive in Al Smith’s “Rare Earth Mettle.” The character, who closely resembles Tesla founder Elon Musk, is not Jewish and the play makes no reference to any Jewish identity, the theater said.

“We recognize that this is an example of unconscious bias and we will reflect deeply on how this has happened in the coming days,” the theater, which is part of the English Stage Company, a prominent non-profit organization, wrote on Instagram on Saturday. “We and the writer deeply regret the damage caused. In response to our knowledge, the writer changed the name, effective last night. “

The character will be renamed Henry Finn and the play’s programs will be reprinted, according to a statement by the theater on Saturday.
The apology followed criticism on social media from UK entertainment industry professionals. the Guardian reported, including director Adam Lenson and comedian David Baddiel. Both Baddiel and Lenson are Jewish.

In a tweet, Lenson blamed Smith and the Royal Court Theater for creating “a character so clearly based on Elon Musk” and then giving him “an obviously Jewish name.” This “perpetuates anti-Semitic stereotypes and will cause ideological damage,” Lenson wrote.

This is not the first time that a character’s Jewish-sounding name has raised questions about anti-Semitism. Last year, a character named Hiram Epstein on HBO’s “Lovecraft Country” was trafficking in children, an anti-Semitic trope. In that case, the creators of the show did not respond to questions about the choice of the name and it was not changed.

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