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“We See You White American Theater” Publishes Demands- Page 3

toottoot
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LarryD2 said: "Of course the provocative tone is intentional. But the call for equity in theater isn't performance art. Treating it as such only undermines the cause. The We See You folks are inviting people not to take them seriously."

Aye, in fact, I feel silly for phrasing it in a way that would make any indication that the call for equity is in any way being messaged using theatrical tactics. I'll give that some more thought as I'm now curious how I reached any conclusion that remotely suggests that. 

Also, in a previous message you asked what the next step is if institutions, etc. don't comply. That's a great question and I suspect we'll hear from them what the proposed ramifications are. I know there's been some public discourse about it already with people debating how a boycott or protest could be organized and actually be effective (not like the ones we've seen recently that sadly never made much traction, i.e. West Side Story, Tootsie, etc). But nothing official yet. We'll see! 

Broadway61004
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I'm sorry, but any list that includes white directors are never allowed to give BIPOC artists any notes immediately loses all credibility.  Which is a shame, because there are some excellent points in this (improving anti-racism training in theatres being one example), but when you start floating insanely idiotic and unrealistic ideas like directors can't give you notes, it makes the entire thing seem like a joke.

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JBroadway
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@toottoot:

Well said, regarding the education requirements (maybe a bit rambley, but we've all been there lol). If you don't mind my re-wording your points into a "TL;DR" i would sum it up as the following:

Black people have historically lacked access to education and job opportunities, so education requirements and job history create a barrier for Black artists who have the potential to be great fits for the job. And going based on past experience means that they will often hire a lot of the same (white) people over and over, without creating space for new people to come in. 

This may create some initial difficulty, because without education or experience, it's hard to know who actually has the ability to take on the challenges of a particular job. But there are ways around this I think, and in the long-run, taking down these barriers will ultimately increase the pool of qualified candidates, because it will give opportunities for people to gain experience and become reputable. And I think this will help lots of people, not just BIPOC - the classic "you need experience to get experience" is one of the great Catch-22 situations of our job market. It disproportionately impacts BIPOC, but I think removing this mindset can work in the favor of emerging artists of any race. 

 

@Broadway61004

I didn't interpret it as "no more notes," though I can see how the initial statement might make it seem that way. From the sentences that follow it, however, it seems to me that this demand refers more to notes related to racial presentation, themes, or history, etc. It's not that a white director can't tell a Black actor that they should pick up their cues in Act 2, scene 3. It's that they shouldn't be imposing their interpretation of how a Black character would think or react in a certain situation, and they shouldn't ask them to present their white perception of "Blackness" - like the classic case of a white director asking a Black actor to be "more sassy" or "more urban" etc. 

Also, I'm not totally sure what the word "binary" is being used to mean in this case. But one possibility is that they want to avoid situations where white directors don't take into account the BIPOC perspective, and instead impose a binary ultimatum for the actor (i.e "do it my way, not your way" without hearing the other side and trying to meet in the middle. 

Updated On: 7/10/20 at 12:58 PM
LarryD2
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Tonya Pinkins is not a fan of #WeSeeYouWAT

https://medium.com/@tonyapinkins/why-i-am-fed-up-with-performative-activism-from-white-and-black-theater-makers-d46564ec94fe
DigificWriter
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JBroadway said: "@toottoot:

Well said, regarding the education requirements (maybe a bit rambley, but we've all been there lol). If you don't mind my re-wording your points into a "TL;DR" i would sum it up as the following:

Black people have historically lacked access to education and job opportunities, so education requirements and job history create a barrier for Black artists who have the potential to be great fits for the job. And going based on past experience means that they willoften hire a lot of the same (white) people over and over, without creating space for new people to come in.

This may create some initial difficulty, because without education or experience, it's hard to know who actually has the ability to take on the challenges of a particular job. But there are ways around this I think, and in the long-run, taking down these barriers will ultimately increase the pool of qualified candidates, because it will give opportunities for people to gain experience and become reputable. And I think this will help lots of people, not just BIPOC - the classic "you need experience to get experience" is one of the great Catch-22 situations of our job market. It disproportionately impacts BIPOC, but I think removing this mindset can work in the favor of emerging artists of any race.



@Broadway61004

I didn't interpret it as "no more notes," though I can see how the initial statement might make it seem that way. From the sentences that follow it, however, it seems to me that this demand refers more to notes related to racial presentation, themes, or history, etc. It's not that a white director can't tell a Black actor that they should pick up their cues in Act 2, scene 3. It's that they shouldn't be imposing their interpretation of how a Black character would think or react in a certain situation, and they shouldn't ask them to present their white perception of "Blackness" - like the classic case of a white director asking a Black actor to be "more sassy" or "more urban" etc.

Also, I'm not totally sure what the word "binary" is being used to mean in this case. But one possibility is that they want to avoid situations where white directors don't take into account the BIPOC perspective, and instead impose a binary ultimatum for the actor (i.e "do it my way, not your way" without hearing the other side and trying to meet in the middle.
"

Stop trying to downplay the lunacy of this manifesto.

 

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JBroadway
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DigificWriter said: "Stop trying to downplay the lunacyof this manifesto."

 

Thank you for the suggestion. I have a suggestion for you in return:

If your goal is to convince me to stop defending this document, and to convince others of this document's "lunacy," you will have much better results by responding specifically to the points being made: poke holes in my logic, raise counterpoints, dissect what I said and show me why you think it's wrong.

Simply telling me to "stop" means nothing to me. Why should it? It doesn't mean anything. It's not an argument, it's just a jab. If you want to change my mind, change my mind. 

Updated On: 7/10/20 at 06:27 PM
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JBroadway
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I just finished reading Pinkins' article. She raises some very good points, and in general the whole piece has a lot of insight to offer about her experience in the industry. I value her opinion as Black woman, and i think this is a great example of how not all PIBOC agree about the best way to be activists. 

I would encourage my fellow white people to read and respect what Pinkins has to say, but not to weaponize her words to suit your vendetta against this document. Just because 2 Black people have voiced dissent (Pinkins and Michael R. Jackson) doesn't outweigh the dozens/hundreds of people who stand by this tactic and this document. There is no perfect way to fight racism, so the best we as white people can do is listen to what a majority of non-white people are saying. 

Below are some specific points that Pinkins made that I disagree with, but I'm not doing this to tear Pinkins down or invalidate her perspective. It's not my place as a white person to tell her how to fight racism. Several of the following points I'm about to make are based on things I've already heard other BIPOC say on the topic of racism, and I'm just applying them to this situation. 

--She asks PIBOC to use avenues of activism with more risk. But I have to wonder, haven't Black people risked enough? Don't Black people put themselves in enough risk every day? 

--She argues against the use of committees because it discourages individual action. Personally, I don't see why both can't happen. Maybe she is suggesting that it often doesn't work for this reason, in which case her words might act as an inspiration to Black people to continue speaking out against racism as individuals while simultaneously enacting change through committee. 

--She puts the responsibility of solving racism squarely on the shoulders of Black people. One argument I've heard from a lot of Black people on social media is: "the responsibility for fixing racism should belong to white people; white people invented racism, it's their problem, they have the power to fix it, so it should be up to them." 

--Pinkins also doesn't address the systemic side of racism in the theatre. Not every barrier can be broken by speaking out in the moment, because often these things aren't isolated to a tangible, visible moment of wrongdoing. Speaking out in the moment doesn't change the systems in place. In order to change the systems, one has to speak out against the systems in a more broad, public way. And that's exactly what this document does. 

--She says that one of the issues with addressing the community in general, as opposed to naming names, is that everyone will now read this document and say "that wasn't me." Maybe. But the list of demands isn't just about happened in the past, it's about what to do going forward. This document could still prevent wrongdoers from making those same mistakes in the future, even if they don't realize that they've made these mistakes in the past. 

Updated On: 7/10/20 at 06:29 PM
LarryD2
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What I hope everyone (especially white people) will take away from Tonya’s essay is that people of color are not a monolith, and no one organization speaks for us.
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HogansHero
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I'd love for you folks to ponder "demands" and "lunacy" from a different perspective. For whatever reason, reading some of what's been put up here, I saw an analogy to something very unexpected. (Not in some deep technical way, but in terms of dynamic. And while I am adding caveats, no I am not a Protestant, nor am I a [good] Catholic.) 

When Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door, he was deemed a lunatic (in so many words; the Church proffered a different "-tic"“We See You White American Theater” Publishes Demands. Did every one of those theses become foundational? Nope. Did Luther end up where he was headed that day? Nope. Did the Catholic Church learn anything from what Luther did? Yep. 

I'll leave you all to ponder the analogy. I hope it encourages engagement rather than the need to draw a line at every word, and I hope it discourages facile labels that evince a very unhealthy disengagement. 

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Synecdoche2
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These demands are seemingly dependent on the destruction of capitalism. Which, hey, I'm all for, but it seems like we're at least 50 years away from that.

DigificWriter
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The reason I think this whole thing is lunacy is because whomever drafted this manifesto went so over the top with the contents and conditions of said manifesto that nobody is going to actually take anything in said manifesto seriously.

If the person responsible for creating this whole thing actually wanted people to pay attention to it, essentially calling for the suppression of white theatre at the expense and promotion of POC theatre was not the right move to make, and is therefore nonsensical lunacy that is not actually meant to be taken seriously and should not be taken seriously.

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JBroadway
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DigificWriter said: "The reason I think this whole thing is lunacy is because whomever drafted this manifesto went so over the top with the contents and conditions of said manifesto that nobody is going to actually take anything in said manifesto seriously.

If the person responsible for creating this whole thing actually wanted people to pay attention to it, essentially calling for the suppression of white theatre at the expense and promotion of POC theatre was not the right move to make, and is therefore nonsensical lunacy that is not actually meant to be taken seriously and should not be taken seriously.
"

 

Thanks for your perspective! Assuming your goal is still to get me to stop defending the document, I'm afraid I still have to disappoint you. As I've demonstrated in my many posts, I don't consider the demands as over-the-top as you do. I explained why I feel that way in my earlier posts. If you'd like to argue with the reasons I gave, you're welcome to go back through my posts and argue with each of my points one by one. But again, a broad-strokes dismissal won't do anything to change my mind. 

I would also add that just because you are predicting that no one will take it seriously doesn't make it so. Perhaps the heads of these theatre companies are more willing to listen than you are. And even if they are completely unsympathetic and closed-minded, they may still take the demands seriously, even if it's only because they don't want to appear unsympathetic and closed-minded in the eyes of the public. Obviously people on an anonymous message don't have to worry about making their closed-mindedness public, but prominent figures in the industry do have to worry about that. 

And even if I'm wrong, and these demands get completely ignored, I would argue that it's the theatres' fault, not the document-writer's fault. If they want to ignore the needs of BIPOC in the industry, that's their choice. If you don't agree that these are, in fact, the steps that are needed, then I'll refer you back to my first paragraph in this post. 

Updated On: 7/10/20 at 08:29 PM
DigificWriter
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How, exactly, does calling for the suppression of white theatre address the 'needs' of black theatre?

 

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DigificWriter said: "How, exactly, does calling for the suppression of white theatre address the 'needs' of black theatre?"

 

BIPOC are excluded from, and mistreated in, the most prominent theatres in the US, which are run by white people. In order to allow BIPOC to have equal opportunities and treatment within those theatres, SOME of the power, influence, and resources currently held by white people have to be diverted to BIPOC. The document may seem like they want too much of the power, influence and resources, but I would argue that the reason it seems that way is because most people don't realize just how disproportionate the power imbalance currently is. Extreme problems call for extreme solutions. But if you don't realize how extreme the problem is, the extreme solutions seem excessive. And if you don't even understand what all of the problems are, you won't understand the purpose of the proposed solutions. 

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OlBlueEyes
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Black people have historically lacked access to education and job opportunities, so education requirements and job history create a barrier for Black artists who have the potential to be great fits for the job. And going based on past experience means that they will often hire a lot of the same (white) people over and over, without creating space for new people to come in.

Since education was brought up, I think that attending a four year college and getting a degree is one of the most important ways for a culture to assimilate one of those from a different background. Having lived through the bitter conflicts that arose after the Supreme Court decision that mandated school integration in Brown v. Board of Education. -- forced busing of white children  to distant schools for the purpose of integration with Blacks and others -- I thought that this was at least behind us and we had paid for it.

In recognition of the 65th anniversary of Brown, The UCLA Civil Rights Project, a civil rights watchdog organization, revisited the current status of school integration and found it stuck in reverse. In may places segregation worse than before the Court decision. 

Why would progressive and wealthy New York City have the most racially segregated schools in the country? Draw open the curtains to see outside and you'll find that the same clouds are still obscuring racial peace and respect.

Related and worse news is the declining rate of male black high school graduates going on to enroll in four year college. For well over a decade males have enrolled at a rate ten or eleven percent less than females. And of those that enroll, only sixty percent graduate compared with the women. Over the course of a decade that's ten million more black men, frustrated and angry, without the education. Not a good demographic to be hanging around a democracy.

Decades of social research have shown segregated educational systems have negative social impacts. Segregation is linked to systematically unequal education opportunities and outcomes.

https://dailybruin.com/2019/06/06/ucla-study-finds-schools-across-the-country-are-becoming-increasingly-segregated

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DigificWriter said: "How, exactly, does calling for the suppression of white theatre address the 'needs' of black theatre?"

How do the suppression of cancer cells address the needs of healthy cells?

Let me ask you this question: how do you propose to end systemic racism in the theatre? Or do you? This is not going to happen by reupholstering seat fabric. 

spidernight
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Nice to see so many white saviors here but the group’s demands are objectively ridiculous and in some cases illegal, not to mention the question of is there actually a diversity problem on Broadway? A NY Times article that I link below has 35 percent of roles on Broadway going to minority actors. That doesn’t seem discriminatory.

 

As far as audience goes, there are certain groups that like Broadway more than others. And that’s Ok. Broadway audiences are 68% female. That doesn’t mean that men are being stopped from going to the theater. They’re just less into it, maybe they’d rather watch a sports game, and that’s fine. The LGBTQ population is statistically over-represented. And that’s great. And 74% percent of theater goers are white. And that’s ok also. To say it’s because “black people are poor and/or uneducated” is ridiculous. I go to NBA games (or used to go pre-corona), the lower level seats are more expensive than Broadway and tons of black people fill the seats. I go to concerts/shows. Go to a Beyonce show or a similar artist with a big black following and the tickets will be super expensive and full of a black audience. Maybe black people as a group are less into broadway and white saviors should stop assuming it’s because of supposed poverty and/or stupidity?

 

Here’s the article I mentioned above regarding diversity:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/15/theater/study-finds-increasing-diversity-on-broadway.html

 

candydog2
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Thank you spidernight for your post! It seems to have exactly what most arguments are missing in this thread: facts and statistics and studies. They certainly are interesting.

It would be interesting to find out why less people of color go to the theatre than white people. I really don't know. You can claim poverty caused by systemic racism, but is that enough to stop people from being actively interested in theatre? Theatres have huge audiences of people who are not rich by any means but use what little they have to buy theatre tickets because, well, it's what they love.

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ErikJ972
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HogansHero said: "DigificWriter said: "How, exactly, does calling for the suppression of white theatre address the 'needs' of black theatre?"

How do the suppression of cancer cells address the needs of healthy cells?

Let me ask you this question: how do you propose to end systemic racism in the theatre? Or do you? This is not going to happen by reupholstering seat fabric.
"

Well said.

 

DigificWriter
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HogansHero said: "DigificWriter said: "How, exactly, does calling for the suppression of white theatre address the 'needs' of black theatre?"

How do the suppression of cancer cells address the needs of healthy cells?

Let me ask you this question: how do you propose to end systemic racism in the theatre? Or do you? This is not going to happen by reupholstering seat fabric.
"

Countering racism and discrimination with more racism and discrimination isn't a solution... which is how I know that this whole thing isn't actually meant to be taken seriously and is, for lack of a better analogy, the equivalent of a child throwing a tantrum.

You don't take a child's tantrums seriously, and this tantrum by adults shouldn't be taken seriously either.

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While Broadway’s onstage diversity has certainly improved a great deal, the overwhelming majority of backstage and creative roles are usually white. Directors, writers, designers, producers, etc. The people who make the decisions and control the budgets. And look at every major casting office and you will rarely see someone who isn’t white working there.
"...everyone finally shut up, and the audience could enjoy the beginning of the Anatevka Pogram in peace."
LarryD2
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Kad said: "While Broadway’s onstage diversity has certainly improved a great deal, the overwhelming majority of backstage and creative roles are usually white. Directors, writers, designers, producers, etc. The people who make the decisions and control the budgets. And look at every major casting office and you will rarely see someone who isn’t white working there."

I would add to this the overwhelming whiteness of the theatrical public relations industry. Given that these artists are very fixated on press coverage, they should be looking at that more than at journalists and editors. It's the PR shops that really control how shows are covered, and by whom.

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"As far as audience goes, there are certain groups that like Broadway more than others. And that’s Ok"

This reminds me of the racist trope that black people don't like to swim.

Many of the responses on this thread just go to show why this document is needed.

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DigificWriter said: "Countering racism and discrimination with more racism and discrimination isn't a solution... which is how I know that this whole thing isn't actually meant to be taken seriously and is, for lack of a better analogy, the equivalent of a child throwing a tantrum.

You don't take a child's tantrums seriously, and this tantrum by adults shouldn't be taken seriously either.
"

You don't answer my first question (how you would end systemic racism" but you do implicit answer the second (would you end it) with a big fat "no." To you, BLM et al is just some child's tantrum. I see you as a part of the problem that is being addressed by the demands, so it would be silly to think you are going to offer a path to tearing down the house you clearly live in. 

Updated On: 7/11/20 at 09:28 AM
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LarryD2 said: "I would add to this the overwhelming whiteness of the theatrical public relations industry. Given that these artists are very fixated on press coverage, they should be looking at that more than at journalists and editors. It's the PR shops that really control how shows are covered, and by whom."

This is a very good point, and one that dovetails with the response to the nonwhites-are-just-not-interested claim. It also speaks to the nature of systemic racism: PR shops (and this of course extends to advertising and marketing agencies as well) are doing what they are engaged to do: make sure that the word gets out to target audiences (i.e., the ones known to be buyers of tickets for what is being presented).