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BWW Exclusive: Jenny Laroche Speaks Up About Racism on Broadway

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BWW Exclusive: Jenny Laroche Speaks Up About Racism on Broadway

As BroadwayWorld previously reported, our team is committed to to being a substantial part of a collective industry-wide effort to help address racism and white supremacy in the theatre in as many ways as possible; including a number of specific steps of action that we are already at work to implement.

If you are a Black artist or an artist of color and would like to share your stories, your work, and your experiences, or to recommend someone else that we should get in touch with for one of our initiatives, please feel free to email us at contact@broadwayworld.com.

Below, read a piece from Broadway veteran Jenny Laroche, who last appeared on stage as the Dance Captain of Summer: The Donna Summer Musical. Jenny writes:


The following has been said to me over the span of my career as an actress, dancer and singer by directors, choreographers, producers, wardrobe designers, and casting directors that I admire and will probably work with again in the future.

"Oh wow you're a dark one! Let me play with the lighting some more"
"Jen, *^%^%, asked if you can tone down the flavor a bit"
"The people that created this type of movement aren't coming to see this show."
"Wardrobe doesn't want to dress you. They don't like you or your look"
"I want this moment to feel like you're a slave in the fields and your hot!"
(A demonstration was given with this comment)
"I need to stop creating hip-hop shows. That's not where the money is"
"It's pretty obvious what we're doing. I'm known now as *^%* who hires too many black performers. I have to be international."
(This audition was then segregated and groups were created based on skin hue. I.e Asian American, blonde women, red headed women, light skinned women, curly haired women, Latin women, dark skinned women.
All dark women were cut.)
#shadesofblack
"Oh , they made Jenny center girl because she's black."
"You're the token!"
"Oh you got the token spot!"
"The token spot is filled."
"How many tokens are they casting?"
"You're so articulate."
"I don't get it, what's so wrong if I do black face for Halloween?"
My own accountability in these instances.
No longer being desensitized and as exhausting as it may be, continue to educate & advocate.
Everyone can fix structural issues in the foundation of their house, lending tools to their neighbors once their own structures are fixed, resulting in a new reformed neighborhood done by the community.
My proposal for change in our industry is this.
• Require a private company HR department in each production NOT affiliated with the producing team if said production or creative team of said production.
•Mandatory education on skin color bias, appropriation & sexual harassment meeting & test for ALL creative teams members & casting members held by an outside private company, tacking unconscious biases & integration.
•BAN 'token' casting in ALL medias. Period. Casting based on skin color when he has no merit or involve on plot moving the plot forward is a form of colorism. Hiring based on skin shade, light-skinned vs dark skinned is discriminatory and has a history of being sexually exploitive in black culture.
Currently this exists in Hamilton.
•Casting educational licensing on topics listed above.
Sincerely,
Jenny Laroche
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