Friday, February 12, 2016

Shuffle Along to Your Purple Colored Mormon like a Lion's Cabin in the Sky, Mr. Williams.

I'm praying for black artists.  Especially in the theater..  Here in New York City.  Wouldn't it be magical to strive to play more than ...slaves, 1920s, 30s, 40s jazz singers, AIDS-riddled Africans, or downtrodden share-cropping families...who sing?  Or even the sassy [short] dread-locked friend of the white female lead?

Go research it for yourself.  What are the stories being told about black people in the theater?  Firstly, most theater being produced [re: Allowed on Broadway in the first place] by white people, is it clear to anyone else that this is a rather sad display of what they think of us?  Are white producers of New York theater, white heads of film studios in Los Angeles, and white artistic folks in charge only happiest about the idea of people of color when they can depict them as someone who has "come up from under" or someone saved by the mere presence of a fully fleshed out white protagonist?  I think of "The Help", or that "Sandra Bullock Rescues Black Boy" film.  Or a "Hairspray", "Memphis" [those are the same show], or a "[Fill In The Blank]" as a Broadway success of a show about people of color.

What does this do to the young artist of color striving to be a part of this and to develop a career in the arts?  I think about this often.  For some clout or merit, every few years, we get to strive to be a part of a Kenny Leon-helmed version of a Tennessee Williams piece.  Is that enough?  I have always thought artists being treated like this for so long, with not much to strive for in the way of artistic betterment, makes us more apt not to better our craft through further education as well as, and more importantly, not like each other.  It creates a rather palpable form of dissension in the ranks.  Sadly, I worry more about how it will be perceived if I don't automatically run to the box office for tickets to see one of these new attempts at theatrical artistic diversity currently being thrown at me and my counterparts under the banner heading of "See...Look, we're including you..."

I do not have answers to most of these questions.  And they are questions I ask myself quite often.  I hear from my counterparts that we all have these similar queries.  Ah, that means there is room for a dialogue.  A way to come up with ideas, plans, and strategies to create more viable opportunities for every story to be told, and for every artist to create, without furthering the idea of "separate work".  By that I mean the age-old argument of creating your own opportunities.  It cannot be done alone.  Nothing can.  And separate is separate.  It is not equal.  It is alone.  It is different.  It is other.  One of the only things that I do know is this ...  If your goal is to tell everyone's story, then everyone must be in the room.  From the creative team, to the producers, to the theater owners, to the marketing team, to the performers on the stage.  A true community collaborates.  And collaboration only helps to build a community.  Working together and learning from each other is the only way. 

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