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Good NY Times article on Hall, Diamond and African American plays on B'Way

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uncageg
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A very good article. It focuses more on Ms Diamond and Ms. Hall. It only really mentions Suzi-Loran Parks contribution to "The Gershwin's Porgy & Bess". The next to the last paragraph in the article is so sad but true.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/18/theater/plays-by-katori-hall-lydia-r-diamond-and-suzan-lori-parks.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&ref=theater

Just give the world Love.
Updated On: 9/16/11 at 08:40 AM
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uncageg
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100 views and no comments?
Just give the world Love.
Blactor
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Nobody talks about race here...or when they do it is often to mock the very concept of racism.

Thanks for sharing this article.

Kenny Leon is right, especially about someone like Lynn Nottage, who has consistently written great plays that have been produced in NY, but somehow she has yet to break onto Broadway.

I really think we just need more producers like Oprah, Will Smith, Jada, Alicia Keys, Jay-Z, etc., to put up the capital to make these shows happen. And the fact of the matter is, if the work is GOOD, it will appeal to EVERYONE, not just black people. We've seen it time and again, yet producers (and, I venture, some theater-goers) seem to forget that.

Regional theater is extremely frustrating, as many theaters seem either indifferent to or inept at reaching out to more diverse audiences, as Ms. Diamond alluded to in the article. And Katori, who is a colleague of mine, is also correct in stating that many regional theaters seem to have some sort of quota, a "black" show they must do every once in a while to show how progressive and "bold" they are, as if they are doing artists of color a favor in producing these works.
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Regional theater is extremely frustrating, as many theaters seem either indifferent to or inept at reaching out to more diverse audiences, as Ms. Diamond alluded to in the article.

Had Kate Whoriskey been able to follow through on her plans for Intiman, I have no doubt it would have become a bastion for young playwrights of color and for reinterpretations of classic plays through a racialized lens. Too bad she didn't really get to achieve what she set out to do there.

Unfortunately, neither Hall's nor Davis's plays sound particularly interesting, and STICK FLY sounds extremely derivative.
"You travel alone because other people are only there to remind you how much that hook hurts that we all bit down on. Wait for that one day we can bite free and get back out there in space where we belong, sail back over water, over skies, into space, the hook finally out of our mouths and we wander back out there in space spawning to other planets never to return hurrah to earth and we'll look back and can't even see these lives here anymore. Only the taste of blood to remind us we ever existed. The earth is small. We're gone. We're dead. We're safe." -John Guare, Landscape of the Body
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theatreguy
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Women writers in general are under-represented on Broadway (only 3 have won the Tony for Best Play, 4 for Best Book of a Musical and 4 for Best Score - for example) but black (or any non-white) women especially so. Have there been any black women playwrights on Broadway between this year and 2002 when Suzan Lori-Parks had Topdog/Underdog?

The playwriting profession was dominated by straight white men for so long that anything written by someone who isn't straight and/or white and/or male is automatically considered a "niche" play. Things are certainly improving, though of course some niches are joining the mainstream faster than others. It's up to producers to continue to give audiences plays from all kinds of writers, but the ticket buyers have to step up too.
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Have there been any black women playwrights on Broadway between this year and 2002 when Suzan Lori-Parks had Topdog/Underdog?

Regina Taylor's DROWNING CROW in 2004 is the only one I can think of before Hall and Davis this season. Anybody know?

The playwriting profession was dominated by straight white men for so long that anything written by someone who isn't straight and/or white and/or male is automatically considered a "niche" play.

Williams, McNally, Albee, and Kushner are all pretty gay (though male and white), but their plays have never been embraced by a purely gay niche audience only.
"You travel alone because other people are only there to remind you how much that hook hurts that we all bit down on. Wait for that one day we can bite free and get back out there in space where we belong, sail back over water, over skies, into space, the hook finally out of our mouths and we wander back out there in space spawning to other planets never to return hurrah to earth and we'll look back and can't even see these lives here anymore. Only the taste of blood to remind us we ever existed. The earth is small. We're gone. We're dead. We're safe." -John Guare, Landscape of the Body
Updated On: 9/16/11 at 09:03 PM
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I thought of them, AC, but I think my point still works though I admit it's not something I'd been deeply contemplating prior to writing that message.

I know McNally at least wrote a lot in the 70's and 80's, but he didn't really break through in a big way until the early 90's, right? And Kushner become widely produced after Angels in America, also in the early 90's. In a similar time period (80's to early 90's) you also have August Wilson getting his plays out there. So I would consider them some of the first to break out of the niche label.

Williams we could say is the exception that proves the rule . . . or maybe the gay stuff was subtle enough in some plays that straight audiences could overlook it if they wanted to. And did the general public know he was gay? More research for me, I guess. As for Albee, most of his plays deal with white, middle-class straight people and, like Williams, I don't know if he was known to be gay back in the 60's.

Like I said, I probably should have worked through that theory a little more . . . but I think in general it applies.
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i think that one of the larger issues at play is one can't get around the fact that non-whites, as a general trend in the population, don't feel comfortable talking about race. the issue is so fraught (or perceived to be so) that in my experience it seems that most would just rather avoid the whole situation.
it's easy for a resident company to say, "oh we already produced a play by an african american writer this season." and by easy, i mean, by making the conversation economic, it takes the larger racial issue off the table.

vijay prashad has been a proponent of polyculturalism vs. multiculturalism. the idea is that multiculturalism serves to make the white patriarchy comfortable with other cultures. differences are safely categorized as eccentric quirks, fascinating anomalies. but at least here in the u.s (although many, myself included would begin to make a global argument) the reality is that these populations were evolving together throughout history. the white populations wouldn't be what they are if not for the influence of the african american populations. we wouldn't be who we are.

minority artists are almost consistently asked, 'do you think you're work will appeal to a wider audience?" but we generally don't ask that to white authors, even gay white authors/creators/artists.
so when i hear artists making statements like, 'oh i think my work speaks to this community but is accessible to everyone." to me the argument should be, we are all of this culture. the same culture. we exist in sub-cultures simultaneously, but we are all a part of a meta-culture.

this idea of ethnic implies that there is a non-ethnic population. we are then supporting a status quo that embraces racial divisions.

i was having a conversation with a friend, who was having a hard time getting past the race of an actor, in a play about a family where the other actors were white. and the truth is, one cannot defend color blind casting (or affirmative action) without conceding that it's really a stop gap in lieu of actual equality.

(in the interest of full disclosure, i'm a 30y/o, gay, asian american.)
Namaste
Updated On: 9/16/11 at 09:29 PM
Blactor
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"Had Kate Whoriskey been able to follow through on her plans for Intiman, I have no doubt it would have become a bastion for young playwrights of color and for reinterpretations of classic plays through a racialized lens. Too bad she didn't really get to achieve what she set out to do there."

AC,

Who knows what she really wanted to do, but my strong inclination is to flatly disagree with you. There's no basis at all, it's just a big ol' fat hunch, LOL.

Side note--do we really need reinterpretations of classic plays through a racialized lens? I often find that it adds nothing to the plays unless the director and actors are able to impose some sort of concept...but then I think you run the risk of skewing what the piece is ultimately about...but that's a whole different thread.

"Unfortunately, neither Hall's nor Davis's plays sound particularly interesting, and STICK FLY sounds extremely derivative."

I hope the theater-goers in NY don't share your opinion...I fear the majority of them might.

And 3blue,

Did you mean to write that non-whites don't want to talk about race? I find that to be completely false.

As far as color-blind casting, it's rarely truly colorblind, if we're talking about regional theater. Oftentimes actors of color are hired because the director has some sort of concept in mind, or wants to impose some type of cultural bells and whistles on a play (because they think it'll look/sound cool), and uses brown/yellow/red actors to serve that vision. It has nothing to do with what the actor brought to the role.

Great example was The Shakespeare Theatre production of "Love's Labors Lost" some years ago, which called for Indian or Middle-Eastern actors in its breakdowns. I was infuriated because these talented, highly-trained Indian actors would NEVER have gotten jobs at that prestigious theater if it weren't for the director's desire to use Indian imagery and music in the show. And the leads were still WHITE, lol.

3bluenight
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haha, no i meant to write the white population.

i readily agree that in regional houses, color blind casting is considerably more rare.
but again, the larger issue to me is restricting access.
when we talk about distribution of product, i would argue that the left side of the ideological spectrum, upholds the racial status quo as much as the right. by limiting the number of minority writers that are produced, regional houses mete out to the public and to artists the impression that the company is embracing diversity without actually wading in too deeply into the cultural quagmire of racial politics.

i would also assert that some minority writers to some extant react to this by tempering their work to the tastes and views of artistic directors - so that the work we do see tends to be less adventurous than it may have been.

one need only look to the cosby show to see an example of this hegemony. i would agree with those who argue that the show didn't really reflect african american life. yet is hailed as a landmark in television history for it's depiction of the african american family. when really, i would assert, it doesn't challenge african american stereotypes as much as it presents a vision for what african americans should grow to be, virtually indistinguishable from white american families. at least as presented on prime time television.

Reena Mistry argues that the influx of african american sitcoms, but the lack of dramas is another example of the white population conceding the african american middle class as a reality, yet still perpetuating the 'black clown' stereotype.

on the other hand, to use Bell Hooks' example of Crooklyn, which is a Spike Lee film about a dying black mother, it was slammed in the media and was a 'box office failure.' when some would argue it's just another instance of a solid minority craftsperson/artist hitting the glass ceiling.

this is all by way of saying that media representations are not only the responsibility of the artists who create, but those who distribute the work; in the theater this means productions. this means building audiences who are receptive to works outside their 'cultural comfort zones.'

lately when i read something about the role of the artist, i am often confronted with a line from aaron sorkin's the west wing, about how an artist only wants to capture the audiences attention for a moment.
i actually believe and have written elsewhere that in reality the job of the artist is to reflect the state of the culture. the work allows us as a community or society to examine aspects of our culture in an objective metaphoric way as what we're experiencing isn't necessarily real. so we can critique it from an emotionally safe distance. psychologically safe.
Namaste
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"The Mountaintop" is a very strange play. It's hard to visualize it as written, so I'm very interested to see how it looks on stage.
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