So, I've thought about this a bit more and, I've gotta say, as a black playwright, yeah, I'm a bit offended. I hate to pick a fight with a critic, even being anonymous writer, but...uh, yeah, I'm offended. Because the basic subtext is "A bunch of you are doing well, so what the hell are you bitching about?"
Well, what am I bitching about? To start with, I wasn't bitching. Read the post again. I'm not bitching that there's discrimination or whatever. I know that Lynn won the Pulitzer. And, yeah, Adam's right: I've missed some shows lately. But I know Thomas Bradshaw is black. And I haven't missed the press Broke-ology got. I'm pretty sure that my brother-in-anonymity Jack Worthing knows that, too. Did I ask where the black playwrights are? No. I asked what's the state of the scene. And I'm still wondering.
The thing that I love about Roy Williams' piece is that, that's what he's saying about English theatre: it's flourishing and diversified, but he's wondering what is it about. I'm wondering the same thing: what is it all about? Who are the black people we're seeing on stage? I'd even expand it further and ask are we seeing black people in ONLY the plays by black playwrights? What's wrong with asking the questions?
I find it mildly disturbing that a critic at a major magazine in one of the "centers of American theatre"* doesn't think there's any sort of story to any of this. And I find it even more disturbing that the full extent of his response is four paragraphs and no apparent attempt to contact any of the playwrights he mentions (or any others, for that matter) to ask if they feel the same way.
And maybe they do. I'm honestly wondering. I'll be honest with you, and, for once, risk outing myself: I contacted a number of black playwrights I know, under my real world name, to ask them about this last week when the 4th anniversary of August Wilson's death rolled around. (If any of you are reading this, I do intend to follow up, though now it's a bit complicated.) Because I know what my issues are as a black playwright in this city and this community, but I don't know if those feelings are shared. I think it's worth more than a list of titles. And I do think it's worth asking what the state of minority theatre is in general. Given the coverage and responses to the whole Emily Glassberg Sands study, does saying that Lynn Nottage, a woman, won the Pulitzer eliminate the problem? Or Sarah Ruhl has one of the most produced plays of next season make it all go away? Or are those outliers? Isn't worth it to try to find out? It's a glib, easy answer, particularly coming from a critic.
I know I'm just a blogger, and an anonymous one at that, so glib and facile is my stock in trade, but I expect more from Adam and from Time Out. I think we should expect more from ourselves and each other.
*I pretty much just threw that in there to make Scott mad, like the good old days.