BWW Blog: Till We Reach That Day...
"Give the people
A day of peace.
A day of pride.
A day of justice
We have been denied.
Let the new day dawn,
Oh, Lord, I pray...
We'll never get to heaven
Till we reach that day."
The reality of the world we are living in right now is something we all need to recognize and speak out on. As a young theatre artist, I feel it is vital to stay educated and ignite change. For my very first post on BroadwayWorld, I knew it was only right to lift up other melanted voices instead of mine.
Being a white woman, I am not naive to the privilege I have had my entire life. The color of my skin has continued to aid me. I have never worried about not being able to do a show based on how I looked. I have never been afraid to walk into a theatre because I was nervous how I would be perceived. I never have to worry about a lack of roles available for me. The opportunities I have as a white female theatre artist never cease.
However, for my Black brothers and sisters the same cannot be said. I have been alive for almost 19 years, and it has taken me this long to truly realize how underrepresented the theatre industry is. To say I am ashamed is an understatement. For example, during the 2016-2017 Broadway season Minority actors as a collective group had 29% representation, with only 18.6% of that representation being African American. White performers held the highest representation with 71%. During this same Broadway season, it was recorded that 86.8% of all plays directed and written for that season were predominantly led by white people.
It is now 2020, and things have yet to change.
Today, Broadway only has around 33% Minority representation, and still only around 18.6% for African Americans. A study conducted by Plowshares Theatre Co. in 2017 showed that out of a
pool of 70 Black actors interviewed, only 35% of African American performers get hired at equity theatres, while 45% get hired at non-equity theatres.
Across America, Black voices are continuously silenced and overshadowed. In order to illuminate the artistry, it is our job as white artists, and allies, to speak out against this injustice. From directors, to producers, to stagehands, to actors, there is simply not enough representation.
Here are some ways we can do better:
Black actors, playwrights, stagehands, and directors deserve to be heard. Be present, not deaf. It is easy to turn a blind, white eye to the world around you. Instead, actively hear the stories that are eager to be told. Hone in on the desire for collaboration, and togetherness. Theatre is an ensemble. ENSEMBLE. We cannot preach about unity if we continue to neglect the opportunity to give a theatrical voice to ALL members of society.
In order to better educate ourselves, it is our job to submerge our minds into places we don't often go. There are many plays written by African American Playwrights that deserve to be explored and studied. I know there are plenty of others, but to jumpstart your education here are just a few plays and musicals:
Choir Boy by Tarell Alvin McCarney
Fences by August Wilson
Ruined by Lynn Nottage
Fairview by Jackie Sibblies
Drury Dot by Colman Domingo
Porgy and Bess
3. HIRE DIVERSELY.
It is imperative we involve People of Color in the entire theatre making process. We need to fuel collective collaboration instead of one sided interpretation.
4. SPEAK OUT.
This is not the time to be complacent. It is important to hold local, community and regional theatres, as well as college theatre programs accountable to start to change the narrative on a smaller scale. We must begin to stand up for the injustice that resides right in our own communities. Speak up for your fellow classmates, castmates, and crew members. Don't be afraid to question the lack of diversity in your own theatre program, cast, or production team. We stand united, or we fall divided.
I vow to continue to educate and grow my knowledge as an ally. I will continue to use the privilege I have to stand up for racial injustice, and speak up when prejudice takes hold. It is not enough to stay silent. It is not enough to just post stories on Instagram, or only sign a petition. We need change. We need to have the conversations that make us uncomfortable. We need to actively seek to better not only the theatre community, but our own communities, as well. We need to do better. And we will.
Places have been called for Act 2...are you prepared to take the stage?