After a Long, Starring Run, Will Racism at Last Get the Hook?

We can no longer ignore the theater’s systemic inequities. But leaving them behind may remake the industry in unexpected ways.

By Jesse Green

“This summer I’ve been thinking about what that change will look like. In earlier parts of this series I’ve argued for ridding the art form of its “great man” inheritance, weighed the costs of fair pay and explored the physical and emotional dangers theater workers face as part of their jobs. And though these are all important, they are really just aspects of the bigger picture of inequity that begins, in the American theater as in the country at large, with racism. Previously swept under the rug of supposedly immutable traditions and rules, it is now revealed everywhere, in casting, funding, leadership, programming.

Yet many of the people I’ve spoken to about it feel hopeful. They are not deluded; they know it will not be a smooth ride. Though the running of some regional companies has, for the first time, been taken out of white hands, their inheritors immediately faced a public health disaster. Efforts to improve diversity onstage and backstage have too often come without the support necessary to help new hires succeed. Culturally specific theaters may face an existential crisis if their function gets co-opted by change. And as new ways of thinking about the purpose of theater have led to new ways of producing it, traditional audiences, feeling disoriented, sometimes resist.

I understand that; it’s hard to let go of what you grew up loving enough to make room for what others might love. But sometimes the first step in fixing a bad foundation is to get out of the house.”

Source: New York Times