BWW Blog: An Eager Wish - A New Kind of Representation for Broadway
I came across a study detailing the representation of racial minorities in the Broadway industry and to the say the numbers are saddening is a gross understatement. With the growing support for the Black Lives Matter movement, actors and actresses have taken to their platforms to share vital resources and stories to shed light on the systemic problems at hand. From the viral thread outlining the crazy expensive college audition process to Griffin Matthews' account of mounting his new musical, these resources all speak to an imperative thought: What is it like to see yourself reflected in your industry?
In March of 2017, after a year of waiting, I had the opportunity to see Hamilton in New York City. Not only is the show a breathtaking piece of art, but the stage was filled with a diverse set of storytellers. In my prior theatrical experiences, it would have been a feat in itself to see one BIPOC artist onstage. As an Asian-American, being able to see yourself on stage was a rare experience and would typically be exclusive to shows to the likes of Allegiance, Miss Saigon, and The King and I. My experience in the Richard Rodgers Theater was different though because a story I have been told since elementary school became a new type of palatable. For me, the show redefined what was possible.
I like to believe that the 2016 Tony Awards celebration answers the imperative question in mind for many aspiring storytellers who felt different. From Deaf West's revival of Spring Awakening to The Color Purple to Hamilton, the performances, speeches, and nominees that filled that broadcast not only looked different than the typical awards ceremony, but they were ready to share their stories and triumphs to a new and hungry audience.
After Broadway's longer than expected intermission, I look forward to seeing more diverse stories and storytellers onstage. Not just a Flower Drum Song helmed by an Asian director, but a new kind of Cabaret or She Loves Me that looks like and illuminates the current questions, dilemmas, and preponderances that these classic shows can answer. What if Hamilton was not just an exclusive phenomenon, but rather a transition into reimagining what is possible?
That cannot happen though unless the opportunity is granted to these up and coming artists. The Fund for College Auditions helps answer this opportunity gap as described on its website:
"The Fund for College Auditions is a New York City-based 501(c)(3) non-profit that offers financial support and college guidance to acting and musical theatre students with limited resources who want to audition for post-high school training programs, focusing on but not limited to those who identify with groups that are historically and currently underrepresented in theatre, film, and television. These groups include students who self-identify as any of the following: BIPOC, trans, nonbinary, disabled, neurodiverse, and weight diverse."
If we want to see another Hamilton, we need to groom the next generation of artists and prepare them for an industry that does not yet exist. For many, this starts at prestigious colleges, conservatories, and universities, but with prescreen fees, application fees, traveling expenses, and hotel accommodations, the bill for high school of senior year adds up quickly.
In order to create the systemic change we yearn for, it is our jobs to continue to learn, listen, and support. The work is just beginning and it starts with ourselves.