Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Quick Thought Before I Go To Bed

I was just posting in the comments below and I had this thought:

How often do we use the word "diversity" when what we're really talking about is "integration?" Or is there really a difference? How often does "diversity" become a codeword for "more full ghettos." Why don't we wonder why our theatres are not more "integrated" as opposed to "diverse?"

Something to sleep on...


joshcon80 said...

It's complicated, but I both want integration and isolation at the same time. I wonder how my plays would ever appeal to a "mainstream" or "straight" audience without turning my back on a more "downtown" or "queer" audience. I'm not sure that I can integrate and be queer at the same time.

99 said...

I don't think that's as complicated as you think, or as out of the ordinary. I very much understand that impulse. In a way, that's what led to think about integration more than just adding "diversity." For me, integration shouldn't mean turning your back on your core audience or toning it down for the straights. But I can see that concern.

It's pie in the sky, but I hope for the best kind of integration: where a queer, downtown audience is welcomed into a straight, mainstream "theater" to see your work, as you want it to be done. And then that same audience comes back four weeks later for the Ibsen revival or a new play by me or whatever. Which is maybe the same thing as diversity. Maybe there isn't quite the difference I thought at 2 in the morning. But it feels to me like there is.

RLewis said...

straight, mainstream "theater" -- Isn't that the minority venue?

joshcon80 said...

@RLewis Don't start with me. No, it isn't. It should be, considering the amount of gays in the industry, but it isn't. At least not in the sense that I mean. And why did you put "theater" in quotes? My spelling is fine.

RLewis said...

And why did you put "theater" in quotes?....

...Only because you put it in quotes originally. I just cutted and pasted. problem?

I just wanted to make sure we're not pretending that queer folk are some aggrieved minority in the theater world. Hardly.

99 said...

Just to clarify: I put theater in quotes, not joshcon. And I did mean it, in some ways, tongue-in-cheek.

As to whether queer theatre-makers are an aggrieved minority, I say "yes." That's like saying Hollywood can't make an anti-semitic movie because there are plenty of Jews in the business. The mainstream, even in theatre, is pretty firmly straight, male-dominated and white. We allow a certain amount of tourism on our stages, but that's about it.

RLewis said...

"The mainstream, even in theatre, is pretty firmly straight, male-dominated and white."

I call bullshit on this. Got anything factual to back it up? Seriously, I'm not trying to be mean; I just think you're wrong.

99 said...






Prove that it's not.

Seriously, RLewis, I get it: you want to believe that theatre is a great, wide open field of good vibes and warm hearts and that the poor, straight white man is being pushed out by multiculturalism, but I call bullshit on all of that. Look at the list of most produced plays, look at the featured stories, featured artists, look at the list of the most mainstream theatre we have and find me the queer content, the tons of black or Asian or Latino content, the female directors and authors. Noting flaws in our community, talking about the problems and issues we face and trying to figure out new ways of working are part of the conversation. Acting like it's all useless whining is what's useless.

RLewis said...

I know that we have to wrap this up, cuz nothing good ever comes from too much blog back and forth, but I do have to say that I think you do me a very rude disservice to put such words in my mouth as that last comment.

My point had absolutely nothing to do with multi-culturalism or gender, and to write that this is what I'm saying is beyond disagreement. It's offensive.

My only point. Only point. Is that that gays are not under-represented in our field. And I am damn proud of that. Actually, if you look at the links you offer in rebuttal, you'll find work created by tons of queer folk (both out and not).

I'd be willing to bet you that the large majority of creative jobs on broadway are held by gay men who conceive, compose, write music & lyrics, orchestrate, and write the book for most broadway musicals (all thanks to Ethel, Carol, Judy, and Liza). And I'm not even getting into the sexual orientation of broadway dancer/singers. It does make me wonder why women blame their lack of broadway representation on straight men.

TO BE CLEAR, I am just as dishearten as anyone with the lack of color and gender in our community, and do all I can with my company to address this in whatever small ways available to me.

So, I'm happy to debate anything I've said, but please do not make me stand by something I never said to begin with. Theater IS great (with work still to do), and no blogger will ever make me believe otherwise.

99 said...

"The mainstream, even in theatre, is pretty firmly straight, male-dominated and white."

I call bullshit on this

Those were your words, out of your mouth (well, off your fingertips). And that's what I was responding to. And my point is that it's not about the people involved; it's about the actual work that's happening on stage. Irving Berlin wrote White Christmas. Does that make White Christmas a piece of Jewish theatre? This isn't just identity politics or political correctness. What joshcon and I are saying is that there isn't a lot of space, if any, in the mainstream for minority voices. There should be more. And we're all doing what we can to further that. I'm not trying to make you dislike theatre or give up the ghost or admit that you're a closet racist. You said that it's bullshit to say that mainstream theatre is dominated by straight, white male voices, stories and images. I gave you a sampling of mainstream theatre and said prove that it isn't. A few performers does not a queer play make. Finian's Rainbow has some great roles for black actors and even deals with race issues; it's not a black musical. Neither is Ragtime. Next Fall will be the only queer voice on Broadway when it gets there. Being blind to these failings does none of us any good.

RLewis, I'm not trying to offend you or make you mad. But if you're going to call an argument bullshit and then ask for evidence, don't be upset when the evidence proves you wrong.

RLewis said...

"Those were your words, out of your mouth (well, off your fingertips)."

Again, Dude, those were Your words, not mine -> "The mainstream, even in theatre, is pretty firmly straight, male-dominated and white." <- Your words. I just cutted and pasted agained, and said that when it comes to gays in the theater, I think you're very wrong. That's all.

If you wanna talk about "the actual work", great, but you've now added, "stories and images", and that's not the conversation as you started it.

99 said...

Really, RLewis? You want to do this? This is the entire text of your comment, which includes a quote from me:

"The mainstream, even in theatre, is pretty firmly straight, male-dominated and white."

I call bullshit on this. Got anything factual to back it up? Seriously, I'm not trying to be mean; I just think you're wrong.

Where do you say you're ONLY talking about gay/queer theatre? If you're going to move the goalposts, you have to let us know.

joshcon and I have always been talking about the work. We're not talking about parity in casting or representation; we're talking about the kind of work that he does, which is queer-themed. Not just created by a gay man, but about queer identity. That's what started this. Mainstream audiences aren't presented with queer theatre often. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but it's not a regular occurrence for the mainstream (i.e. B'way and big Off-B'way houses) audience.

Don't ask people to engage your argument, then bug out if they disagree or point out flaws. Please defend it! Is Billy Elliot gay theatre? If a gay man stars in Oleanna, does that make it gay theatre? Discuss!

RLewis said...

"straight, mainstream "theater" -- Isn't that the minority venue?" -- Me.

"I just wanted to make sure we're not pretending that queer folk are some aggrieved minority in the theater world." -- Me.

That is "Where do you say you're ONLY talking about gay/queer theatre?"

"As to whether queer theatre-makers are an aggrieved minority, I say "yes."" -- You.

Notice that you were speaking about "theatre-makers", not the work. But along they way you changed your tune to make me look bad.

All else in your previous comment I do not disagree with. Done?

99 said...


"Queer theatre-makers" probably should have been "queer-theatre makers." As opposed to mainstream-theatre makers. joshcon and I were talking about the work.

Please don't assign motives to me. We were both a little sloppy in our constructions. Which happens honestly.

To be clear: which previous comment do you disagree with? All of them? Do you have an opinion on whether Nathan Lane being gay makes The Addams Family gay theatre?

joshcon80 said...

@RLewis To clarify my own points, when I talk about the lack of queer theater, I'm talking about the work. Honestly, you're correct in that there are lots of gay men in the theater. If anything, the sheer number of gay people in theater only makes the lack of queer representation in the work more heinous.

Further, your insinuation that there is a lack of female work because of gay men is offensive. Even further than that, telling a genuinely marginalized group of second-class citizens who are have become used to having their civil rights removed by popular vote that they have enough representation anywhere in pop culture- effectively telling them to stfu- is hurtful and extremely gross.

Don't be a dick.

joshcon80 said...

I almost forgot to get back to my original point, which was about integration!

What I meant was that it is a double edged sword. Our communities isolate us, but they also protect us and give us unique perspectives.

In other words, oppression sucks, but at least we have jazz, disco, ballroom, rock n' roll, etc. I just wonder if you can have full equality and you're community sometimes.

99 said...

That question is the actual point: when you're making work that's intended for a certain audience, does integrating mean having to abandon them? It shouldn't, I don't think. I think there should always be space for the specific amid the wide-ranging. In a perfect world, an artist would be able to flip between them both. Since this isn't a perfect world, though, unfortunately, as things stand, you might have to choose. But it should be a choice by the artist (I want my work to play for these people) and not forced on them by the "powers that be."