RVCBard reacts here. Tony Adams here. From the comments below, Scott chimes in, in part:
So here's my question: what is best for the art? Integration or separation? Wilson, who was a Garvey-ite, thought separation -- "The Ground on Which I Stand" calls for more funding for African-American theatres. Others -- you, it seems -- are for integration. So: if black theatres were funded at the same level as the major white theatres, would that be a good thing or a bad thing? Or is this a both thing: we want well-funded African-American theatres AND we want to work in well-funded White theatres. Right now, it seems like an ethnic version of "Whack a Mole"...For me, personally, Scott is absolutely right: I'm an integrationist. I think our art, our country and our world would be best served by having a vibrant theatre that is really neither black nor white (nor Latino nor Asian), but a combination of all. That's the dream, right? To more specifically answer Scott's query: I want to see a world where there are black theatres, white theatres, Latin theatres, all existing along with multicultural theatres and institutions, and the door are truly open to those with the skills and talents. Our current world isn't all that far away from that, I don't think. But we do have some pernicious, lingering remnants of the former world, and we still have to contend with a society that hasn't even really come to terms with its own race issues. (Or sexism issues, or sexuality issues, or really any issues of any kind that aren't Us Weekly).
And, believe you me, I know that probably won't happen in my lifetime, but I have to keep working for it. Then again, I honestly thought that the first black president probably wouldn't happen in the first part of my life (and I thought he'd be a Republican, so what do I know?).
Okay, on the question of how, a couple of things:
- Yes, it will take some segregation to get us there. Ultimately, we need black administrators, black funders, black fundraisers in larger numbers than we have. Like it or not, those are the things that drive our industry. To see change in the work, we have to change how it gets made and paid for. Since white institutions are notoriously hard to get a foothold in, we're going to need more, stronger and bigger black institutions.
- It will take courage from white administrators. Period. Major League Baseball didn't have a rule or a condition that all players be white. Jackie Robinson didn't have to sue or have a law passed so he could play for the Dodgers. He needed a courageous white man, who held all the power, to open a door. And then he needed a ton of courage to walk through and survive it. We're going to need both kinds of people.
When people talk about standards and requirements and all the like, I think, honestly, about myself. People get jobs in theatre all the time without having the right CV or resume or experience. Because we're so catch-as-catch-can, often the person who shows up gets the gig. And I'm no exception. I got my first theatre gig because Chris Smith at E.S.T. took a chance. Well, actually, because he asked for a volunteer to produce a Fringe show and I didn't know what I was getting into. But once I line-produced the show, he looked at me and thought, "Let's give this kid a chance." And changed my life. I didn't realize at the time how rare I would be, how rare that experience was, and how much it could have cost him. Or how much it could have cost Curt Dempster when he gave me a promotion, three years later. I didn't have the background. They could have passed over me without an explanation. But they didn't. And because they didn't, I now have the experience and I've built on it. It's a slow process, but it works.
There are some smart, passionate, talented black folk out there in this world, eager to bust in the door. If all of us open those doors, man...you'll see some shit. And that will be good for us all.